By Steven Hoffman
“Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes it rains.”
“Nuke” LaLoosh, the fictional fireballer from “Bull Durham,” uttered those words following his meteoric rise to the Major Leagues. There’s a lot of wisdom in those words. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes it rains.
Last Friday, as the Chesco Grand Prix rolled into Oxford for the sixth of seven races in the week-long event, it rained. A lot.
Even so, the cyclists who participated in the second annual Oxford criterium and the spectators who watched them were undaunted.
“There are a lot of folks out here whose spirits aren’t dampened,” said Jamie Cole, chairman of Oxford’s Race Committee. “The community involvement is still here. We have a full event, just fewer people than we would have had. There’s nothing you can do about Mother Nature.”
“We were all hoping for better weather,” said Michael Doupe, a chief referee for the race. “But it’s not uncommon for these guys to race in weather like this twenty times in a 100-race season.”
Indeed, the professional cyclists who participated put on a good show for the spectators. Andreas Graf, a native of Austria, won the rain-shortened race with a time of 1:09:30. Graf is a member of the Rudy Project International All Stars team. He edged Simon-Pierre Gauthier, who was cycling for the powerful Garneau-Quebecor team that once again dominated the Chesco Grand Prix as it made stops in towns throughout Chester County, including Coatesville, Malvern, Parkesburg, Phoenixville, and Kennett Square.
West Chester’s Mike Chauner finished in fifth place for the Garneau-Quebecor team, an effort that was appreciated by the crowd, even if they were huddled under umbrellas, porches, or the Victory Brewing VIP area.
Doupe said that about 45 cyclists took part in the race the day before, but with the steady rains only two dozen cyclists came out for the race in Oxford. One of the cyclists was Adam Farabaugh. He finished seventh in the Oxford criterium, but came back strong the next night to win the race in Kennett Square. It was his third top finish in seven events and he outpaced Gauthier, his teammate, for the first spot overall for the Chesco Grand Prix.
Getting a chance to see top-ranked cyclists was only a part of the fun during the Chesco Grand Prix. In Oxford, for example, there was also a Category 4 race, a Masters contest for cyclists over the age of 45, and a celebrity race that featured State Rep. John Lawrence, County Commissioner Terence Farrell, and a host of Oxford Borough officials. Youngsters even braved the rain-slicked course for kids’ races.
This was Cole’s first year being involved with the planning for the event. Despite the soggy weather, he took great pride in the fact that all the planning and work resulted in an event that was still enjoyed by everyone who participated. Cole said that he was talking to one father who shared a story about how his son spent the week cleaning his bike in preparation for the kids’ race.
Many spectators weathered the downpour to watch family members participate in the fun events.
“My brothers were in the race. It was cool,” said Corinn Schaible. Jared and Jordan Schaible both had good finishes in the kids’ race, and were among the top finishers.
As much as Corinn liked seeing her brothers compete, she also enjoyed watching the professional cyclists.
“It was pretty neat to see how fast they were going,” she said.
“I came here to watch the race with some friends,” said Caitlyn Coverly. “It’s fun to just see all the racers go by and cheer them on.”
Oxford Mayor Geoff Henry, who once again participated in the celebrity race, also marveled at the professional cyclists.
“You can’t turn your head because you’ll miss them,” he said.
Despite the rainy weather, Henry said that, “It’s been a nice evening. I think everybody who came here is enjoying it.”
Sue Cole, the executive director of Oxford Mainstreet, Inc., expressed her gratitude to all the volunteers and Oxford Borough officials who worked to plan and carry out the event, including the police department, who kept everyone safe.
Henry said that Oxford’s police department received a helping hand from both Lincoln University and West Nottingham Township.
Jamie Cole said that he is looking forward to planning for next year’s Chesco Grand Prix. He would like to have restaurants in the area play a more prominent role. This year, Muse, El Mundialitos, and the Nottingham Inn Kitchen & Creamery had offerings during the event. He would like to see more restaurants involved next year, and he would also like to have live music to expand the event.