Cycling is huge in Encinitas and we love it.
We don’t like being called names, but we have all been called something while on the road, so we keep riding out of our passion for the sport. Encinitas gained its national and international reputation in the mid-80s and is still tentatively hanging on to that reputation.
Thousands ride through town each week and if anything goes wrong there are seven shops to give professional service. Hundreds of professional and top amateurs train here in the winter and most of the residents of Encinitas welcome them warmly.
In the early ‘90s Lance Armstrong lived in an apartment at the top of Encinitas Boulevard; Marianne Berglund (World road champion from Sweden) lived up Chesterfield in Cardiff, Greg LeMond stayed at the Rancho Santa Fe Inn; John Howard (gold medal winner at the Pan Am games) lived in Encinitas and Axel Merkx (whose father was the greatest cyclist ever) showed up every winter to train with Swami’s Cycling Club.
Encinitas’ own Swami’s Cycling Club was the nation’s best amateur team in the ‘90s. Their riders won 10 national championships and represented the United States and Canada in the Olympics, World Championships and top international races.
The first rider to break through was Ryan Dahl from Leucadia whose father owns Wax Research. Ryan represented the U.S. at the Cyclocross World Championships in Belgium in 1990. Swami’s latest alumnus to ride for the U.S. was Chris Horner at the London Olympics this year. He joined Swami’s as a happy-go-lucky 19-year-old from La Mesa in 1991. Even though he now rides the biggest races in Europe for Radio Shack, he still will give you a wave and smile. You will probably see him on the road this winter riding the back roads of North County.
I don’t want to leave out the triathletes, who have as great, if not greater, impact on riders in Encinitas. Scott Tinley in Olivenhain, Mark Allen and Julie Moss in Cardiff; Paula Newby Frasier and Greg Welch in Encinitas are all Ironman Hawaii winners and trained here full time. They attracted pros and amateurs alike to swim our oceans, ride the world-class roads of North County, and run the trails of Rancho Santa Fe. They’ve come from Australia, Japan, Europe, Africa, and all over North America. Their intense training, positive outlook, and camaraderie have inspired us all.
But, I’m sure you’ve noticed, not all cyclist are elite athletes. A great majority are weekend warriors that love to be outside putting in a hard effort and rewarding themselves with a cup of coffee. Fifteen years ago I knew everyone on the Coast Highway, but now I’m hard pressed to recognize anyone. Cycling has become a mainstream sport with hundreds of thousands of San Diegans participating.
Encinitas should renew its effort to enhance our local, national and international cycling reputation.
My hope is “the powers that be” will think of the cyclist first when upgrading our streets. They will think of the cyclist first when developing new transportation corridors. They will think of the cyclist first when we want Encinitas to be more intimate, quiet and unique. I know that will attract more cars, bring people who want to escape the chaos (Los Angeles), but over time they too will come to understand what we already know. Cycling is huge in Encinitas.
Mark Lathrop is a Leucadia resident.