The 43rd Annual Manhattan Beach Grand Prix
The Manhattan Beach Grand Prix is an annual tradition for
this sleepy upscale beach town on the Southern California coast. Started in
1961 by “Local Angel” Ted Ernst the founder of the local bike club the South Bay
Wheelmen it has grown to be the second oldest one-day bike race in the USA.
Visiting with Ted last year during the race one could see the pride and delight
in his eyes in how the race has grown in prestige and attendance. He turned to
me and he reminded me of the day of the first race those four decades ago, “do
you remember the first race, the handful of riders, and now we have a field of
200 Pro riders?” It was easy to recall as I was one of the six Jr. Novice riders
at the start line for my first real bike race. The race held riders who are
legendary in my memory Bob Tetzlaff and Dave Sharp with local track and road
The Grand Prix has grown to be a must race event drawing
the top pros in the USA and the spectators have grown to 10,000, “Not bad, not
bad at all,” said Ted with a smile.
Ted Ernst started the club a year and Manhattan Beach Grand
Prix after returning to the states after a pro career racing in Europe, he was
always generous with advice to novices and his passion for the sport was
contagious to all who met him. The Manhattan Beach Grand Prix is a living
monument to Ted Ernst and his love for the sport.
The race course is challenging and fast, with two180 degree
hairpin turns on either end of two long straight-aways. The first years of the
race the turns crossed railroad tracks of a local spur which added to the
challenge as one raced the course, now removed the broad turns still lead to a
crash or two with a large Peloton squeezing through on the lead in to 200 meters
to the finish line.
The second turn is preceded by a steep but short climb that
wears on a riders legs with each lap, and backs up the pack making it torture
for riders who weren’t in the first group going through. The rolling backstretch
is known for its headwinds produced by the prevailing winds off the Pacific.
With 150 feet of climbing each lap, driving speed of the riders on the long
straights and the headwinds it is rare that a break away can stick to win the
race; but that doesn’t mean that some riders won’t try it this year as they
always do. Likely the race will come down to position coming out of the last
turn and a hard on sprint in the last 200 meters surrounded by screaming
Weather for tomorrow is forecast as a perfect Southern
California day with mostly sunny after the morning fog breaks up, with
temperatures in the mid 70's.
Jonas Carney (Jelly Belly) who has won this race twice in
the past will be on the start line with his leadout man the quick Alex
Candelario will be in the hunt to add this race to his extensive palmares. Dave
McCook (McGuire Realty) once a team mate of Jonas Carney on Prime Alliance also
a top sprinter in his own right fresh off wins on the Eastern NRC circuit will
be sure to be in the mix.
Robbie Ventura (USPS) a criterium specialist is one to
watch along with Eric Saunders (Ofoto/Lombardi) who can count So. Cal as his
home turf and a win would be particularly sweet.
Health Net is bringing the guns minus the riders who went
to the Olympics, this race is custom made for the sprinting speed of Dan
Schmatz and young Tyler Farrar who in the past has been compared with his mentor
Add in the Meza brothers, Miguel and Rigoberto (Team Dare)
and other local Elite teams looking for a hometown win and you can see the race
will not lack for excitement with many preems are gathered from the eager
It will be a fast race as usual and the cycling gods will
sort them at the line.
Start list Men Pro (not complete at time of
Jelly Belly: Caleb Manion, Jonas Carney, Ernie Lechuga, Alex Candelario,
Monex: Greg Mendanilla, Peter Knudsen, Kyle Gritter,
Ofoto Lombardi: Eric Saunders, Jason Bausch
McGuire ProCycling: Dave McCook, Devon Vigus, Nathan Miller, Roman Kilun,
obert Kampilla, Pat Dunaway, Jamiel Danesh,
Webcor Builders: Bernard Van Ulden, Ben Stafford, Justin England, Imanol
Team Seasilver: Shirley Neil, Daniel Ramsey, Jakob Erker,
Health Net: Tyler Farrar, Chris Wherry, Mike Sayer, Dan Schmatz,
USPS: Robbie Ventura
Miguel and Rigoberto Meza of Team Dare, Harm Jansen of Velo RPM
and other local Elite teams.
As the beautiful women hit this course there will be no
mercy shown and the womens race on this circuit is fast and usually produces a
few daring breaks of charming road warrioresses who would rather not wait for
the sprinters to take the show at the finish.
If you aren’t getting out watching the women race this is
one race you don’t want to miss. I mean here they are folks, beauty on two
wheels fighting it out like lionesses protecting their cubs. It’s a show you
don’t want to miss.
Former USA Criterium Champ Nicole Freedman (Team Basis)
will have her work cut out for her on a typical fast day at this race, super
quick at the finishTina Pic. Local Becky Quinn (South Bay Wheelmen) and member
of the National team, winner last year will be out to collect a double,
Katrina Grove (Rona Equipe) fresh from wins in the Midwest
and Eastern circuit will surely make her presence felt, racing against former
team mate at TMobile Amber Neben. The field includes many Pro women and local
Elite teams who make the So Cal area their home turf so there will be no easy
victory when the Cycling Gods sort ‘em out on the course.
Womens Start List (not complete at publication)
Team Basis: Nicole Freedman, Lauren Gaffney, Nicole Wangsa, Jessica
Genesis Scuba: Rook Campbell, Tina Pic, Kori Seehaffer,
TMobile: Amber Neben, Stacey Peters, Dotsie Cowden, Lynn Gaggioli
Victory Brewing: Gina Grain,
Red 5 Racing: Jennifer Stevens, Pam Schuster, Tamara Gonzales, Kelly
Finn, Laura Erker, Jennifer Eyerman, Nadine Bruhn, April Andersen,
Velo Bella: Erin Alders, Sarah Kerlin, Brenda Lyons,
South Bay Wheelmen: Becky Quinn.
Rona: Katrina Grove
La Grange: Nicole Brandt, Catherine Powers, Desira
Remembering 43 years ago and a Salute to a Local Hero
The morning fog was drifting across the course when I and 5
other Junior novices lined up for the first Manhattan Beach Grand Prix in 1961.
I was 15 ˝ and been riding for six months on my full Campy Condor bike. I knew
the course as I lived with my family only blocks away and had ridden it in
preparation for my debut that day.
The starters gun went off and the six of us launched
ourselves forward, I fumbled with my toe clips at the start and had to chase to
make up the first fifty yards to our small Peloton.
The race was 4 laps, the first was ok, I was well within my
zone, the second lap the speed went up as one of the riders attacked at the
short 7% climb, I was dropped by a few feet but managed to catch on quickly as
the others negotiated the wet railroad tracks that I had long ago learned to
handle at speed.
The speed picked up as another rider attacked on the back
stretch across the rollers and into the wind it was a foolhardy move and we
pulled him back by the turn before the finish.
As I past the finish I could hear Ted Ernst screaming to me to hang in the
The third lap on the straight leading to the hill another
attack and I was feeling drained as I approached the short climb, the legs
weakened and I was dropped half way up the hill.
The rest of the race for me was a pursuit to catch the
three leaders who soon became two, by the last lap I was half a lap behind, But
Ted cheered me just the same as if I was leading. I finished a minute or two
behind the winner but I finished and was congratulated by Ted for my first race,
not bad at all. When the podium was called I found myself with a prize for
fourth place. It was a dinner for two at a local Spanish restaurant next to Teds
bike shop. I proudly gave the dinner to my parents for a rare night out for
Ted Ernst was my mentor then, I spent hours in his bike
shop Ted regaled me with his adventures racing in Europe, the black & white
pictures of him on the walls showed his career racing on track and in derny
races. He told me about the tour de France and the Classics and the pros he had
met and raced against. There were always German and French Cycling mags around
and Ted would point out the biggest pros and tell me some of their stories.
Ted also helped me train and shared his wisdom on riding
skill on the weekly South Bay Wheelmen bike rides. He also taught me to give
back and help the newer and younger riders who joined the ranks of the South Bay
Wheelmen, taking them out for training rides and teaching them the ropes riding
in an echelon or making our way through the dense Los Angeles traffic safely.
Over the years Ted has been active in the local track,
creating a bike path along the Southern California beaches, helping other young
aspiring riders and racers, and keeping the Club and the Manhattan Beach Grand
Prix growing to the status it now has as a Nationally recognized and popular
Each of us in our areas have Local Heroes like Ted who
selflessly give of their time out of love for the sport. Ted Ernst was mine. He
passed on and planted the seed of his passion for the sport to me. So in passing
you will know that some part of what I do and the Daily Peloton does traces back
to Ted who nurtured the dreams of a young man and introduced him to the world of
Cycling. More than this he founded the club and enriched many lives along the
Salute to you Ted Ernst Local Hero!