Words : Phil Ponebshek • Photos : Jim Hicks
This story reprinted compliments of Waterways Magazine.
The first weekend in March, like the swallows returning to Capistrano, a cadre of cyclists from across America—and even some international riders—will descend on the City of Lago Vista for the 24th edition of the La Primavera Lago Vista bike race.
The event is a highlight of the Texas Road Racing season, attracting over 500 racers a year who show up to test their early-season mettle against the physically demanding 5.5 mile loop which takes riders from a start/finish near the Lago Vista marina up to the top of Lago Vista’s beautiful hills. Race distances vary: from 33 miles for the younger and older riders, up to 83 miles for the professional racers, who will climb 7000 feet of steep Hill Country terrain over two days of racing. The race features 13 different racing categories (grouped by different ages and amount of racing experience), and each day includes 3 separate waves of racers.
Race Director Don Hutchison has been the driving force behind the event for all 24 years, but the race represents a unique collaboration between race director and the Lago Vista/Jonestown Chamber of Commerce. It was back in 1992 when then CoC President Dan Archer—a former racer himself who had a bit role in the cycling epic “Breaking Away”—contacted Hutchison looking for someone to pick up the ball and continue to put a race on in Lago Vista. The pro stage race the “Tour of Texas” had held a stage in Lago Vista from 1988-1990, and when the Tour disappeared from the schedule the CoC decided to find a way to keep the event going. Archer recalls “the Tour of Texas brought international cycling to Lago Vista, creating a lot of local excitement. In 1991 when we didn’t have a race, the community found they missed it, and ever since La Primavera took over Lago Vista residents anticipate the event like an early sign of spring.”
Almost 200 racers showed up that first year, and Lago Vista has been instrumental in helping the race grow and prosper. In the cycling world, a lot of races might last for a few years on one course or another before moving on to another location, but the city and CoC have helped turn out volunteers, provide support services, and groom the roads before the racers arrive to ensure a safe and enjoyable competition for their racing visitors —almost 50% of whom show up from out of state seeking the warmer racing conditions in Texas in early March.
Current CoC President Keith Billington offers “La Primavera is a unique opportunity for us to bring a lot of people to visit Lago Vista, and for us to show off the north shore of Lake Travis. Anytime we can get that kind of exposure it’s a value to the community.” This year La Primavera weekend promises to be even bigger, as a number of Lago Vista and Jonestown merchants are going to hold special events for the racers and spectators in conjunction with the race.
In the cycling community, enthusiasm for the race runs high. Unlike the mass recreational tours that sometimes loop through the Hill Country, attracting thousands of casual riders competing with their own physical limits, bike racing events feature a smaller number of very highly trained elite racers who are competing to be the first across the line each day, and to grab some of the $8,000 of prize money that will be awarded over the weekend. The race has a strong national reputation, and cyclists across the country are proud to remember the year they got to travel to Texas to compete in La Primavera.
With the competitiveness of the racers, and the stakes involved, there’s a high potential for chaos, and each year Hutchison must organize officials, race marshalls, race vehicles, mechanics, medical aid, and other support. Along with the normal dangers of high speed pack cycling (racers will exceed 50 mph on some downhills) the more unique hazards Hutchison has had to man- age include cart crossings for the Lago Vista golf course, and numerous incidents of stray deer bounding into race packs. But thanks to Hutchison’s diligent organizational efforts, and support from the Lago Vista Police Department, the race has been free of any serious mishaps over the years.
But along with managing a great race— Hutchison is proud that his volunteers and the racers are dedicated to being good guests of the community. “After the races are over, by 6 pm on Sunday, the cleanup will be done … the racers and spectators will be gone … there’s no sign that hundreds of racers had been there for two days, and it’s completely quiet out on the course.”
Quiet, of course … until the peloton of racers, donning jerseys much more color- ful and varied than any flock of swallows … returns the following March to energize the hills of Lago Vista once again!
Race pre-registration ends tonight at 10pm CST. Visit BikeReg.com.