Yesterday I visited my friend Chris Weiss in the hospital. As a long-time cyclist and founder of the Semi-Tough Cycling Club, I’ve visited a number of injured cyclists in the hospital over the years. Injury is a normal part riding and racing, and part of the risk we take when we get on our bikes. But Chris’ injury was different. He suffered a gunshot wound on our club ride. That is not something any cyclist anywhere should be willing to accept as normal.
Here’s what we know: Chris was hit by a small caliber bullet in his back as the group rode home from Chef Highway to the lakefront via Bullard Avenue in New Orleans East. We do not as yet know from where the bullet came, whether Chris or the group of cyclists he was with were the intended targets, or whether this was a stray bullet that found an unlucky home. We presume that Chris was not personally targeted, but the recent spate of paintball attacks on Lake Shore Drive provides strong support to the theory that the group at large may have been targeted – and that is a very disturbing prospect.
The club took a very proactive posture with the media, and immediately issued a press release about the shooting. The story was picked up and disseminated by the media. The NOPD did not immediately get involved due to some mis-information about the nature of the shooting. Initial reports from EMS led the NOPD to conclude that Chris had been shot with a BB gun, and the NOPD did not classify this as a gunshot until almost 9 hours after the fact when they arrived to interview Chris in the hospital where the presence of a bullet lodged in Chris’ back near his spine was confirmed.
Now that the NOPD is aware of the facts, the club hopes and expects that they will help Chris, the club, and the entire community of cyclists that depend on access to the outdoors for recreation and training to get to the bottom of what happened here, and take steps to keep this from ever happening again. If cyclists are being targeted by paintball guns – and now real guns – we have to find a solution this problem. Chris is lucky (as of 11pm Saturday he is out of the hospital, but he will carry a bullet in his back as a keepsake of the day’s events), but as he said when I spoke to him in his hospital bed, “what’s next?” – and unfortunately, what’s next is that someone like Chris is not as lucky next time.
Someone did this to Chris, intentionally or accidentally, and we all deserve the NOPD’s best efforts to find out who and why. But we also need to take a step back before we start deciding who the perpetrator of this crime is. Many among us have been quick to demonize the city of New Orleans as a whole – to write our home off as crime-ridden mess. Some have more specifically said that the “perpetrator” of this crime is New Orleans East – “the ghetto”, the “should-be-written-off wasteland” – and have vowed that they won’t ride the route clubs have been riding for decades anymore because of this.
I think that this response is both unfair and over-simplistic. Did we vow to stop riding on Lakeshore Drive when the first or the second of our fellow club members were attacked with paintballs out there? Did we insist on avoiding Uptown when the school mom in the SUV buzzed and ran us off the road on Nashville Avenue? Did we boycott Chef Highway after Frank Guinn was run over and killed? The answer is “No, we didn’t”. And why not? Because like my friend Pete Christian said on Facebook, the problem wasn’t Lake Shore Drive, Uptown or Chef Highway in those cases, or New Orleans East in this case – the problem is the people, not the places. And mercifully, though the problems are serious, it is still only a very small fraction of people who are the problem.
Yes, this incident involved a gun – and that’s different. But, this isn’t about New Orleans East, this is about the thoughtless individual(s) who did this. Our club rides, and club rides for decades before have taken this route. The people of New Orleans East have been just as friendly as any other neighborhood in this city. The Giro was back out on the route this morning without incident. Of course, as cyclists we can be singled out in unfortunate encounters with motorists and the public almost anywhere, but certainly no more in New Orleans East than any other place.
To me it seems the appropriate response to this is not to blame the city, or to boycott the neighborhood, but to demand that the people who did this to Chris (and more broadly ALL the people who harass and hurt cyclists) be brought to justice. Rather than vocalizing the stereotype that New Orleans East is a dangerous place that you will now avoid on your bike – and ruining what has been your club ride for years in the process – vocalize your demand that the police investigate this crime and do something to make it right.
The club will be working with Bike Law Louisiana and Bike Easy to meet with the New Orleans Police Department and city leaders to affect change, and as president of this club, I hope you will support those efforts. I respect your individual choice to react to these events however you choose, but we deserve to use the streets of New Orleans – all the neighborhoods of New Orleans – without getting harassed or injured, and I hope you will join me and your many friends as we continue our club rides as usual. Abandon streets to your fears and stereotypes and you lose. Demand to use them without fear or stereotype and we all win.
Harbor Master 2016 Cat 1/2/3 Race Recap
This year’s 1/2/3 race at the Harbor Master Criterium was epic, coming down to a photo finish after an hour of all-out racing. We asked Dustin Drewes of 4D Racing to recap the race from his perspective. His commentary follows…
This year I was able to make my return to the local one-day crit, Harbor Master, put on by the guys over at Semi-Tough Cycling Club. These gents really came on the scene with a bang two years ago when I went out to the inaugural Harbor Master race where I had an uncharacteristically good time at a road cycling race. So few road race events seem to have any charm, but this race featured some cool swag (See sunglasses), a beer cart, a crowd, and good announcing. It’s interesting how some seemingly small details can make such a big difference in the whole experience. I wasn’t going to miss it this year.
So we lined up for the Cat 123 race, and it started hard and fast. Quick off the line, I found myself 2nd into the first turn, the holeshot, knowing I would have to cover the first move. It’s the cost of a good start sometimes. We didn’t have to wait long; 25 seconds is what it took for the first attack. It was Matt Davis of La’Sport who went first. I hopped on immediately and the field stretched, but it all came together and stayed fast the whole first lap. The next attack went and I floated to the back with legs on fire from not being really warmed up yet. My 4D teammates covered the next series of moves and worked to keep things together while I tried to catch my breath in the back, hoping my legs would show up soon. Time was passing; moves were being made, and I knew my teammates were still working hard on the front of the race. I had to get back up there before something got away.
Roughly 15min in, we crossed the finish line and they were ringing the bell for the first prime lap for cash money. I wasn’t intending to go for it, but I knew the likelihood of a counter attack was high, so I had to get back up there soon. The timing seemed perfect because just then I see Matt Davis, who was close to me, start to make way to the front while the pack is gearing up for this prime. We get to the line with only a few bodies in front of us at this point, they cross for the prime laps, then Matt moves out to the right and attacks turn 2. If it weren’t for the acceleration, we would’ve taken out the first two guys entering the turn. In seconds, we are instantly way the hell up the road having taken a third rider with us, Alex Habbit of Acadiana Bicycle (who raced the Masters race earlier). I look back to see that the peloton is sitting on it, which is to say they were not chasing us. Time to go! We work hard for the next few laps to establish our move. We eventually settle in and take pulls on our sections of the course that we naturally came to an agreement on. The gap was growing as we were fed splits from Wes who was calling the race to the crowd. It’s quite a boost to morale to hear your name being said over the PA when you cross the finish line for each lap. After some time the gap got to 42 seconds at which point I could tell we were starting to slow a little. Matt decided to make a little dig which got Alex dropped from the move, and he eventually got swept back into the pack in the final lap or so.
So there it was: Matt and I with less than 15min in the race to ride it out and stay away. I suspect he achieved two things attacking as he did. Firstly, now it was a 50/50 shot of winning, not 1/3. Second thing is now he had an idea how I was holding up and what kind of legs I had left. As a coach myself, I often teach my athletes about respecting their opponents and what that means. This was my first opportunity to go toe-to-toe with Matt Davis, a guy who has been winning big races since before I even started riding and has continued to do well since I’ve been racing. I continued to rotate with him having a lot of respect for the rider I had to now figure out how to beat. I knew attacking him far out was not an option since I’m a sprinter, so a sprint it had to be then. I calculated in my head my best chance was to come into the last turn fast, and explode out of it with the acceleration I know I can call upon no matter how bad I’m hurting. We still had many laps to go, but now I had a plan I was going to stick to. The crowd was getting louder with each of the final laps as they watched the peloton closing in fast on us. Bell lap. No more time. Matt took his long pull along the headwind section and I took over by diving into the last section of 3 turns. I did my best to gain a little speed coming into the last chicane and coming out the last turn there are no thoughts, just loud white noise to the finish line. I had the jump, but I timed my bike throw just a fraction of a second too late and lost it by a hair. There’s always next year! Besides the bittersweet 2nd place finish, I still had a ton of fun in the road-racing-is-full-of-pain-and-suffering kind of way, and I now have two pair of custom harbor master sunglasses, so that’s a win in my book!
Dustin is the current head coach of Tulane Cycling and Coaches cycling and triathlon for 4th Dimension Fitness. His email is Drewes4D@gmail.com
Set a course for the Esplanade Mall in Kenner, LA as the Semi-Tough Cycling Club and Yeah You Ride host a criterium racing extravaganza. All hands on deck for first-rate racing with over $2500 in purse and primes across 6 races. Bring an appetite for more than just competition – and bring your family too. Beer, music, grub, and races; it’s all in the hold at Harbor Master 2016. Register online here.
Huge thanks to all our sponsors for making this a reality!! Bergeron Automotive, Bike Law, Person Huff CPA Group, Medical Rehab, Urban South Brewery, Keven Christensen & Associates, LLC and peloton magazine.
Check out 2015 coverage here.
Check out 2014 coverage here.
From USA Cycling…
If your cycling club is looking to expand its membership, now is a great time to focus on that growth because USA Cycling is launching a 2016 Cycling Club Growth Contest!
Clubs with the most growth in USA Cycling members by April 11, 2016 will receive a prize package which includes free 2017 renewal, free event permit, discounts from DNA Cycling, and a special feature article about your club on USA Cycling’s website!
Want to get a head start on the competition?
Make sure that the existing USA Cycling members in your club have all renewed their USA Cycling memberships for 2016. Then, a great way to start increasing your contest numbers is to encourage club members to become new USA Cycling members, even if they haven’t in the past. We’ll be giving you more resources next week, so make sure you start off strong!
How does the contest work?
Your club will be included in one of three divisions, based on number of members you had at the end of 2015.
Division 1: 76+ USA Cycling members in 2015
Division 2: 30-75 USA Cycling members in 2015
Division 3: 1-29 USA Cycling members in 2015
As the number of USA Cycling members in your club grows beyond what you had in 2015, you’ll be ranked alongside other clubs in your division. The top three clubs in each division will be the ones in the running for prizes.
Each week, we’ll announce the standings along with helpful tips on how to grow your club, and advice from past Club of the Year winners. At the end of the contest the top three clubs in each division, as well as the biggest new club, will receive awards.
What are the prizes?
1st Place for each division and Biggest New Club
- Free Club Renewal in 2016 ($200 value)
- Free permit (up to $100)
- 30% off a custom kit order from DNA Cycling
- Feature article in the USA Cycling communique
2nd Place in each division
- Free club renewal in 2016 ($200 value)
- Free permit (up to $100)
- 20% off a custom kit order from DNA Cycling
3rd Place in each division
- Free club renewal in 2016 ($200 value)
- Free permit (up to $50)
- 10% off a custom kit offer from DNA Cycling
If you have any questions, please contact Membership Programs Manager Emily Palmer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the past five years, members of the Semi-Tough Cycling Club have ridden their bikes to “fight kids cancer with love” as part of the annual Pablove Across America ride. Over the years, members of the club have raised well over $100,000 for the Pablove Foundation. It is something that we are all extremely proud of, and I think if you watch the video announcement for the 2016 ride, you’ll know why.