The Manhattan Beach Grand Prix takes place this Sunday, July 30.
This year is the 56th edition, so long ago that when it first ran in 1962 iOS hadn’t been updated yet. There are two one-day races in the U.S. that are older, the Pipsqueak Dashnpuke held in Olde Towne Gaitersburg, and the Run for ‘Roids that goes through a suburban drug dealing park in Hooterville, Indiana.
The Manhattan Beach Grand Prix has been on the same course every year, but for 2017 it will run race counter-clockwise for the first time ever, avoiding the 200m sprint coming out of the final, decreasing radius turn that in the past has led to so many NASCAR incidents. Rubbing may be racing, but on bikes it also means falling. Running the race counter clockwise will provide a full kilometer after the last turn, giving racers the chance to organize their leadout trains, which is another way of saying “pretend to help teammates while trying desperately to come around your designated sprunter at the line.”
The race is organized by the South Bay Wheelmen and for the last couple of decades Chevron has been the major sponsor and uses the race as part of its public relations efforts in the South Bay. I will personally never forgive them for refusing to even acknowledge being a nominee and potential winner at the Wanky awards. If a major oil company can’t be a Wanker of the Year, no one can. For fuck’s sake.
Primes for the race make the event similar to buying lottery tickets where every fourth one is a winner, and the primes range from cash to awesome cycling products. Everyone needs a fifth pair of ugly socks!
Chevron also provides the purses for the Pro Men’s and Pro Women’s races which are $8000.00 each and go twenty deep as long as there are sixty or more entrants. It’s fantastic to see a race with significant prize money that also commits equally to men and women racers.
Manhattan Beach Grand Prix has never been regarded as a tough race. It is, however, technical due to the narrow roads, sharp turns at either end of the course, and in years past, massive fields. The race almost always ends in a sprint finish, and the key to doing well is sitting in and fighting like hell for good position on the last two laps. If you have an appetite for intense racing, MBGP is for you.
The other unique feature is the race’s setting in the center of the lily-white, absurdly affluent community of Manhattan Beach. There are few races left that can organize the permits or overcome the rabid opposition of lazy residents to wall off a few streets for a few hours every year just so that a handful of idiots can crash their bikes onto their front lawns. Weird. But South Bay Wheelmen manages to pull it off, and if you live anywhere in LA and pretend to race bikes, there’s no remotely good reason not to show up and race.
With USAC-sanctioned races disappearing locally and nationally, this one soldiers on. Ted Ernst, the race’s founder and continuing member of the organizing committee, was inducted into the South Bay Cycling Hall of Fame in 2015, and feted as a conquering and enduring hero in front of several dozen sloppily drunk cyclists who cheered him on. Or maybe they were cheering the World Series, idk.
In any event, whether you race or show up to spectate, you’re in for a good time. Pictures don’t lie. Except when they do.
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