Touring Report - A Day at Cherokee Park - August 2019
Written by Doug Wintin
I was watching the Tour De France and enjoying the tactics and the incredible athletes that make up the peloton. That got me thinking about a day in the 70’s and one of my first races. It was at Cherokee Park in Louisville Kentucky and was part of the Kentucky Derby of cycling. I wish that I could tell you that the rest of the story was about my overcoming great odds to win, but it isn’t. In fact I got dropped like a stone on the third lap of the cat. Four race. The real story is about the Senior Men’s Cat. One and Two race.
The Kentucky derby of cycling was a big deal. Riders came from all over the country just for the opportunity to compete against the best the U.S. had to offer. One of the riders in the event was the national Men’s Road Race Champion for that year. His name is Wayne Stetina. You may have heard of Wayne. He is a two time national champion, competed in two Olympics, is pro racer Peter Stetina’s uncle and is currently vice president of Shimano's road cycling division. Wayne is the man!
The One/Two race lined up for the start. The course is one of those that suits some riders and not so much others. I thought to myself that this was a course for Wayne. He was a great bike handler which would be needed for the downhill hairpin turn at the end of the home straight. The course then makes its way onto the flat section of the park where his and brother Dale’s TT skills would put the hurt on many in the pack. The last mile of course goes around the east end of the park and up a hill that I remember as being as steep as the Aboite Road hill but twice as long. Wayne could climb but it wasn’t his strong suit, he left climbing for Dale.
As the race started my wife and I were laying out a picnic lunch. We settled down on the blanket and watched the race unfold. From where we were sitting we could see the finishing straight into the hairpin and sections of the flat portion of the course. We couldn’t see anything of the finishing hill until the riders started to make the final turn onto the home straight and the finish line.
The laps rolled by. Riders were being shelled off the back of the peloton. Wayne didn’t lead all of the time but he was never very far from the front of the group. The laps rolled down and the group got smaller. Wayne was positioned perfectly as the bell rang signifying the last lap. There couldn’t have been more than fifteen riders left to contest the finish. The crowd was standing, straining to see the flat portion of the course. Then you started hearing “That’s Wayne.” “There he goes.” “They won’t catch him.” And then they were gone, out of the crowd’s sight.
Everyone turned toward the top of the hill to see Wayne come around the corner first. He did just that. He was all alone with the finish line right in front of him. He sat up and started zipping his jersey. Something caught my attention. A single rider was flying around the corner. It was a kid! A skinny little kid and he was moving! Then the screaming started. Papa Roy Stetina was yelling over and over “Go, Wayne!” “Go Wayne!” “Go Wayne!” Wayne got back down on the bars and peddled as hard as he could but it was too late. The skinny little kid was gone and crossing the finish line.
It turned out that the skinny little kid was a junior racer from Nevada. He would go on to have an incredible career in cycling. That junior ended up winning the Tour De France three times and the World Championship twice. You guessed it. Greg Lemond was the skinny little junior racer who won the Kentucky Derby of Cycling! Every time I see a picture of pudgy adult Greg I see that kid flying past Wayne and I hear Papa Roy Screaming in the background.
That was a day in the park that I will never forget.