True grit

The first time I saw Charon Smith in a race he was sitting down in the middle of the asphalt with a hundred bikes flying by, his shorts torn and his wheel ground down from where he’d rolled his tire.

“What a wanker,” I thought.

That was back in 2007, I think, at the El Dorado Tuesday night crit, and since then he’s won countless races, state titles, stood on the podium at nationals, and I’ve pretty much won nothing. So, we know who the wanker is.

This past weekend at San Dimas, however, Charon really and truly took it to a whole ‘nother level. The rap has always been “Yeah, but he’s just a sprinter,” as if beating out a hundred crazy people in a death rush to the line is, you know, a piece of cake. Funny thing about that rap, it’s been wrong from the beginning.

While it’s true that over the years Charon established himself as the fastest masters finisher in SoCal, he’s worked hard each and every year to add new weaponry to his arsenal. Last year saw him tackle the San Dimas stage race where he snagged the green jersey in a hilly, tough road race and then said “Adios” to all comers in the final day’s crit.

With another off season of focus and preparation on the non-sprinting aspects of his race game, Charon showed up to play consummate teammate at the hilly Boulevard RR, where his team efforts resulted in victory for their designated road guy, and he showed up again at San Dimas. This time, however, he raced with the kind of toughness and smarts that you only find in the most hardened of road racers.

When the winning break in the road race rolled up the road, Charon bridged solo to a field that included the Who’s Who of masters racing: Phil Tinstman, Rudy Napolitano, Mike Easter, Derek Brauch, and Mark Noble, to name a few. When the break came back, Charon continually found himself OTB on the climb, only to repeatedly claw his way back on.

With everyone melted from the speed and the day’s withering heat, the remains of the peloton hit the finishing stretch wrung out and beaten to a pulp. Charon reached down deep and kicked hard, so hard that with “only” 900 watts he cleared the line first. So much for the “He’s only a sprinter” thing.

True grit is more than what happens on the bike, though. A mentor to junior racers, Charon is vitally concerned with what happens to those coming up in the ranks. Showing young riders how to obtain good, credible results through hard work and dedication is something that he does as a matter of course.

And in cycling, as in life, it’s the little things that reveal the bigger ones. Charon’s inclusive — he brought Prez onto the team, for dog’s sake — he shares what he loves, and he’s got time for anyone who has time for him. Stands up when people introduce their wives or parents, and opens the door for you. Those little things, which really aren’t so little after all.

No wonder that he’s built a team of devoted and dedicated followers who are making competition miserable for everyone else.

END

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17 thoughts on “True grit”

  1. Charon Smith always has a smile and something funny to say. Definatly one of the good guys and proof that hard work and dedication is the key to success in life and on the bike. Good one WM.

  2. Good job Charon! Gracious in defeat as well as victory & he takes jokes pretty good too….hoping the Samsung deal will up his video blogs though because they are a bit Freddie:)

  3. Charon is a class act as well as an accomplished racer. Being the new guy on a recent Donut ride, fresh off a plane from KC, he was kind in helping me understand the route for the day and answering questions about the local cycling community. Classy.

  4. I am surprised by absence of reference to mythological Charon, who rowed a passenger boat across Styx to the Underworld. You get on Mr. Smith’s wheel at risk of death from overexertion.

  5. Seth, great writing.
    Better. Subject.
    We used to have awards for people like him.
    In my book he is man deserving of one.
    When I was a kid wishing I could be Bobby Orr.
    A son of a athlete in the 50’s.
    I Wanted to win like Orr, Unassuming and humble, But competative to a fault.
    I learned about what is sport ? and what is sportsmanship ?
    He defined it.
    Charon carries that forward in a big way.

    Thank you for writing this.
    ML

  6. Seth, and everyone else on this thread. I truly appreciate the kind words, I had no clue Seth was writing this or where he got the details of the race. This has been a fun journey and I am thankful for everyone who is on it with me. I wish nothing but the best for everyone. Keep fighting the good fight!

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