© Cindy Lee
On my bedroom wall, I have a poster of a black and white photo taken by an otherwise unknown photographer. It's part of a remarkable collection of Tour De France photos taken from the 1920's forward and worth every penny I spent on custom framing.
This poster shows a group of riders hanging out under a tree, presumably after one of the many grueling races in the Tour. Their bikes are sprawled out all around them. They're wearing T-shirts and shorts, hats and goggles, satchels at their sides, and what appears to be tire tubes around their necks. A few of them are drinking from their bottles. Wine bottles, that is. I didn't catch that obvious detail, or the title of the photo: THE DRINKERS, until after I had bought the poster.
It doesn't matter though. I bought the poster because the image reminded me of the first few years of the Redlands Bicycle Classic, my introduction to the world of Cycling. Back then, our race was still small and we new fans were still naïve. So were the adventurous teams that came to check us out.
After each race, they would hang out in their matching jerseys, right in the middle of everything, their bikes by their sides, just resting and talking and being themselves-no wine of course! Then all of a sudden they would be bombarded by autograph seekers who assumed everyone who showed up was a star. In our defense, we did have a few big names in our race back then. We just didn't know which ones they were. So anyone wearing a jersey or riding an expensive bike was fair game. Soon, only the teams that had never raced here before were seen in such a vulnerable position after a race!
Redlands has changed significantly in the last 20 years. (Yes, we really just celebrated Year 20! Wow!) We all know more about the sport of Cycling. We've gained more experience as a host city. We know who's who and no longer get star struck at the sight of a jersey, (although I must admit my heart does skip a beat whenever I see a team in training around town!).
Our initial child-like enthusiasm has turned into a real love for the sport and the riders. They are now real people whom we have literally invited into our homes, our families, and our lives. Our baby race is all grown up now and we have all grown up with it-we have an entire generation that started with the big wheel races and are now competing in the real races!
The Redlands Bicycle Classic is so big now that the riders finally feel comfortable enough to hang out with us all over town during the race week, with or without their bikes. And instead of chasing them down for autographs, we now greet them every year with warm hearts, big hugs, and lots of cheering. As it should be.
But I still smile when I see a group of riders hanging out after a race, their bikes carefully lain out around them, drinking from their water bottles. It's really true: The more things change, the more they stay the same.