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March 2nd marked the twelfth running of the Los Angeles Marathon and the third running of the LA Marathon Bike Tour. This year just under 20,000 runners ran the Marathon and over 12,000 cyclists participated in the Bike Tour.
Over the last two years the marathon course has been getting easier while the bike tour course has been getting more difficult. I like it that way.
In 1995 the bike tour essentially followed the route of the marathon, starting near the coliseum and ending at USC. A challenge for runners and a minor obstacle for cyclists was the uphill grade from downtown to Hollywood Blvd through the Silverlake District.
In 1996 the marathon route was changed and reversed, turning the challenging Silverlake up-grade into the piece-of-cake Silverlake down-grade. To reduce potential runner/cyclist conflicts, the bike tour started on Hollywood Blvd at Mile 17 and finished on a gentle upgrade at Hollywood and Vine well away from the start and finish of the marathon.
1997 saw yet another change in the marathon route - aimed at further easing the grades and lowering the times. The bike tour route was also changed - but for other purposes. This year the tour started at Universal Studios, crossed over Cahuenga Pass into Hollywood and ended up back at Universal after a 26 mile ride. This kept the cyclists geographically and temporally isolated from the runners, walkers and wheel-chair racers. The re-routing also yielded a prolonged up grade to the finish. Having ridden in all three bike tours, I like the increased difficulty of this latest route and hope the organizers keep it for a few years.
I arrived at Universal Studios about 4:45AM, parked on Ventura Blvd. and rode to the staging area. There were already about 300-400 cyclists in front of me. We were staged on a dark downgrade connecting to an access road beside the Hollywood Freeway. As we waited we could see the steadily increasing flow of bike-laden cars approaching the offramp to Universal. The moral is - "With 12,000 like-minded and not necessarily well-trained cyclists to ride with - Get There Early."
Start of the Bike Tour
At about 5:30 we all rode downhill along the access road to the start of the bike tour on Cahuenga Blvd - about a mile away. There we waited until about 6 A.M when the tour officially started. A contingent of LA Wheelmen, CORBA and LAPD cyclists led the pack - a tradition aimed at keeping speeds below 15 mph until the pack thins out.
The first part of the new route had a lot of down grades which tended to get the cyclists spread out quickly and out of each others' way. In spite of the large number of participants with varying skill levels, I would be surprised if there were many accidents during the bike tour. In the three years I've done the tour I've only seen one minor accident.
The new route courses over Cahuenga into Hollywood; runs down a bumpy Hollywood Blvd toward downtown; traverses Virgil to Wilshire past McArthur Park; runs along Union, Venice and Figueroa; passes the 707 jet incongruously and permanently parked next to the Museum of Science and Industry; winds around the Coliseum; heads up Exposition, Rodeo, Crenshaw and Wilshire; continues along Rossmore and Vine to Hollywood Blvd. ; and passes over Cahuenga for the return to Universal Studios and the finish.
What sets this bike tour apart from the earlier ones is the upgrade toward the end of the tour. After crossing Hollywood Blvd you've got about 2-1/2 miles of rather steady upgrade on Cahuenga to the finish near the entrance of Universal City Walk. If this were a race rather than a tour, it would probably be decided in this ending stretch.
At the Finish
I like the bike tour. It makes the marathon experience accessible to more people without stealing any thunder from the the runners and wheel-chair racers. I like watching the sun slowly come up as the tour progresses. I like the feeling of a bicycle free-for-all with no cars allowed. I like the shared energy. It's not quite the same shared energy you feel when you are running the marathon but it's there in its own way. I like the reaction of the people watching along the route. And I like the geographic and ethnic diversity of this city which isn't as apparent from behind the wheel of a car as from the seat of a bike on Marathon Sunday.
©1997 Gary Fisher
The 1996 Los Angeles Marathon Bike Tour II (with reference to 1995 Tour I)
The 1998 Los Angeles Marathon Bike Tour IV
The 1999 Los Angeles Marathon Bike Tour V
The 2000 Los Angeles Marathon Bike Tour VI
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