Downtown Lodi usually isn’t a crowded place on Sundays. Aside from the movie theater and restaurants, business owners often take the day off after what they hope was a busy Saturday.
But Downtown looked a lot different this weekend. It was filled with Lodi residents and out-of-towners alike participating in the third annual Lodi Cycle Fest, a figure-eight course that exposes people to the trees and historical buildings that Downtown offers.
“We always like downtown courses. There are more crowds,” said Mike Egan, of West Sacramento, who raced Sunday morning. “A lot of races we do are in business parks, which are boring.”
The Cycle Fest is getting bigger and bigger each year, said David Phillips, one of the owners of Michael-David Winery, the largest sponsor of the Lodi event. Bicyclists blog and write positive notes in Facebook about how nice Cycle Fest is, Phillips said.
Phillips’ goal is to show outsiders that Lodi is a bicycle-friendly town, so much that Lodi becomes added to the prestigious Tour of California.
“People who like bicycles like wine, so there is a connection,” Phillips said.
Michael-David Winery is the event’s major sponsor, in part, because the winery actually has a bicycle racing team — Delta Velo.
Michael Cockrell, whose day job is to watch out for flooding and chemical spills for the San Joaquin County Office of Emergency Services, spent Sunday on School Street helping set up the race. Arriving at 4:10 a.m., Cockrell set up safety cones, garbage cans and hay bales, and he organized participants’ parking.
During the race itself, Cockrell went door to door, asking merchants if they were getting enough recognition from race announcer Michael Hernandez. Cockrell would run out to the announcer’s booth and tell Hernandez about any specials that merchants had for the race, and Hernandez announced them.
“It was good to help out the city of Lodi and the bicyclists,” Cockrell said. “You want to bring people Downtown. You want to put their name on the map.”
One new aspect of Sunday’s race was “hand cycling” for people in wheelchairs.
“You lay on your back and row with your arms,” said Rodger “Rocky” Robinson, a Lodi resident who races throughout the world despite being in a wheelchair. “It’s all upper body.”
Robinson was happy that Michael-David Winery officials agreed to have a hand cycling event, which drew 14 participants. And there was a $1,200 payout overall.
“I placed fourth in my division,” Robinson said. “I won $80 and a bottle of 7 Deadly Zins (Michael-David’s signature wine).”
The hand cycling race attracted someone from as far away as Holland, though Thea Rosa now lives in the rural El Dorado County community of Cool. The bubbly bicyclist was paralyzed from the hips down seven years ago, when a horse fell on her and broke her back.
Rosa learned about hand cycling in 2006, when she was in Michigan for physical therapy treatments. She learned about the Lodi Cycle Fest through Robinson, whom she met at an event in Reno, Nev.
Tony Vice, who owns Fleet Feet in Stockton but lives only three blocks from the Lodi Cycle Fest, was also thrilled about Sunday’s event.
“This is the best event Lodi has of all its events,” Vice said.
His ultimate goal is to have a three-pronged event at Lodi Lake — swim across the lake, run through the nature area and bicycle on Lower Sacramento Road to and from Galt. The only obstacle with starting such an event could be working with the California Highway Patrol for traffic control on Lower Sacramento Road and finding out how much it would cost Vice.
That would bring yet another racing event to expose Lodi to the outside world.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.