With about five miles left in Pedal to the Meadow, Rick Beach had a sizable lead. So much, in fact, he felt comfortable enough to joke with volunteers as he whizzed past on yet another uphill climb Sunday morning.
“I’m too old for this crap,” he yelled.
No, he’s not.
The 36-year-old from Wailua Homesteads claimed first place in the sixth annual race that takes riders on a 15.75-mile ride that gained 3,835 feet of elevation, starting from Kekaha and finishing at Kanaloahuluhulu Meadow in Kokee State Park.
Beach, who also won this race in its first year and has finished near the top in other years, came in believing he had a chance to win.
“There were no pros this time, so it kind of opened the door for local riders,” he said.
Susan Gray, the starter, sent riders on their way at 8 a.m. Joe Funk led the field of about 90 riders in the early miles up Kokee Road before Beach moved to the front on his Trek bike and cranked things up. When the serious climbing started, he set a smooth, steady pace and slowly pulled away.
He was alone in the final miles as he zipped along, feeling strong and topping 30 mph, which is how he likes it.
“Once I was by myself, I tried to tone it down a little bit and not put myself into trouble,” he said.
He didn’t. He finished in 1 hour, 7 minutes and six seconds to hold off Ray Brust of Oahu, second in 1:09:37.
It was nice to win again.
“It felt great,” Beach said.
Monique van der Aa of Oahu defended her title in the women’s field, winning in 1:16:45 and setting a women’s course record, which was her goal coming into the race.
She trained hard for Pedal to the Meadow, and it showed. She said she felt “fantastic” climbing the hills, even leading a column of men, and finished 12th overall. The 51-year-old was pleased to repeat as women’s champion.
“For me, consistent training is key,” she said.
Race director Binney Williamson said the race went well. The weather was cool and cloudy, a bit rainy at Kokee, and a contingent of volunteers kept riders safe, motivated and on course. The event was presented by Tradewind Cycling Team.
“We’re happy with it,” Williamson said.
Most riders were in a mood to celebrate after crossing the finish line.
Roland Tanicala of Hanamaulu, president of the Pihi Cycling Club, was all smiles.
“It’s hard, but I made it,” he said.
Roque Maniago was banged up a few weeks ago after a collision with a car while riding his bike, but posted a time of 1:31:13, which he said might have been his best time in three times at Pedal to the Meadow.
“It was a pretty tough ride,” he said. “I had a good ride. I’ll be back next year.”
Lance Laney of Hanalei set a personal best, finishing in 1:31:44. The 65-year-old credited a solid training regimen and giving up alcohol a year ago for his performance.
Not even the hills up Waimea Canyon could slow him down.
“You know what you do, I get on this third gear down, and I just grind,” he said. “You find that comfort zone, you put your head down, and you just grind, grind, grind and grind.”
And by the finish?
“I had nothing left,” he said, smiling.
The bike race was a first for Lihue’s Sidney Jane Kato, who finished in a misty rainfall with a huge grin and fist pump as an enthusiastic group of friends cheered wildly for her.
The applause, she said, meant the world to her.
“I kind of teared up,” she said. “I did. I teared up.”
Stan Rollins of Kalaheo hopped off his bike and sat on the wet grass as he recovered.
“It was nice until it started raining like last year. I don’t do well when it’s cold,” he said.
But his training, both in the gym while on the Mainland and some running, saw him through the final, difficult miles. He was glad to have it done and come to a stop.
“I’m going to go home and take a nap,” he said.
Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or firstname.lastname@example.org.