The Big Race… from the eyes of Skip

I am the principal of El Crystal Elementary School in the San Bruno Park School District, in San Bruno, California. I attended the San Francisco Grand Prix yesterday with my wife Anne as guests of the Discovery Educator Network and Discovery Channel.  Dsc00391

My wife and I had no idea what to expect from this event as our only experience had been the remote detachment of watching the domination of Lance on television in the Tour de France. The morning started with a casual continental breakfast at Discovery Hospitality located on the Embarcadero next to the San Francsico Bay with a great view of the Oakland Bay Bridge. We then walked around the vendor area. Not being a cyclist, nor svelte enough to fit in those skinny pants and shirts, I deferred any major purchases.

Dsc00404   Dsc00405 The race began at 10:00AM under usual foggy San Francisco skies. The 170+   Dsc00411 riders made four quick laps in the vicinity of the Embarcadero before heading out to the longer course with   challenging climbs on Fillmore and Taylor Streets.

The Hospitality site was stocked with great food and beverage. More importantly, there were plenty of interesting guests including Ken Decroo, a principal in the Fontana Unified School District,  and his family, wife Tammy and son Sam. Conversations were of course focused upon aspects of competitive cycling, racing strategy, and the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team. Anne and I were the glasses half full. Every conversation allowed us to learn more and more about this exciting sport.

Throughout the race Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team members riders were seen heading the pack or close to the front. That presence created energy and interest throughout the Discovery Channel compound.

When the pack of riders made their final short run by our site and headed off to longer runs we settled into another cup of coffee knowing we would not see them for another 20 to 25 minutes.

Unexpectedly, Jannita Demian, our Discovery Educator Network host informed us we were invited to ride in the team car for a lap.Dsc00409

Not knowing what that really meant but anticipating a closer perspective on the race, we signed on. We waited curbside on the Embarcadero while the guide hailed down the Discovery Team car. It was like changing tires at the Indy 500. Two riders were out, we two were in and the Team Subaru was going 60 miles an hour in 3 seconds. We had lost pace with the pack and the driver, Laurenzo Lapage,  wasted no time. From Embarcadero the race wound through North Beach towards the climb up Fillmore. The racers then backtracked to North Beach for the intense challenge of the Taylor Street Hill. Laurenzo followed the pack up Taylor at about 3 miles per hour-a respite from an otherwise 30 to 80 mile per hour chase. I believe there are actually two races going on here. The first is between the cyclists and the second is between the team car drivers and the escorting motorcyclists.

We encountered a bicycle crash between two team members I believe somewhere on Bay Street. It was hard to tell, as the course was a blur of big crowds, loud cheering, and flying vehicles. The accident slowed our team car considerably, but Laurenzo was not to be denied. We were back with pack almost instantly. If Laurenzo ever leaves the Discovery Pro Cycling Team as the team car driver, I am certain he is prequalified for the IRL or NASCAR. Actually, he is quite an incredible driver. He handled the car expertly, carefully avoided other cars and motorcycles, and blew his horn repeatedly when we overtook slower cycylists along the route. This sounding is an apparent universal signal to other drivers that a bicyclist is near. This expert driving is done while conferring and strategizing by radio with the team and apparent spotters throughout the course.

After bailing out of the car back at the Embarcadero, we walked or should say floated back to Hospitality. We were ‘pumped’. It took me about two hours to come down from that incredible ride. Thank you Discovery Channel for that memorable experience.

Back at Hospitality after others came back from their ride, we must have sounded like chatty children tasting ice cream for the first time.

The end of the race was an exciting dash between German, Fabian Wegmann, and two American riders, John Lieswyn and Jason McCartney who rides for Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team. The riders finished 1-2-3 in the same name order. They all had a time of 4 hours 27 minutes. They went 108 miles.  Dsc00429

What does this all mean for education and application in the classroom. The first thing that comes to mind are the concepts of perserverance, dedication, hard-work, team building, knowledge, style, practice, humility,  giving of best effort, honor, and sacrifice that it takes to become a professional cyclist.

I’ll post more on those thoughts later.

Thank you Discovery Channel, Discovery Educator Network, Jannita Demian, Laurenzo Lapage, and everyone working Hospitality for allowing Anne and I to have a great Sunday at the Grand Prix.

-Skip JohnsonDsc00399_1


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