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Despite growth, Dana Point Grand Prix stays community and kid centric

Pro racers form a pack during the John Johnson Pro NCC Classic. Photo: Andrea Papagianis
Pro racers form a pack during the John Johnson Pro NCC Classic. Photo: Andrea Papagianis

By Andrea Papagianis

Playing the Mad Hatter, city engineer Matt Sinacori entertains young riders.

They line the start—their colorful bikes and helmets providing a different sight on the race course. This is the day’s big event, the one the community’s been waiting for. These are the Dana Point Grand Prix of Cycling’s kids’ races.

They take off in waves.

First, older kids race around the 0.8-mile course amateur and professional riders whizzed around at high speeds—upward of 30 mph—all morning. Next come smaller riders in a mad dash to the finish line. It’s a straightaway that kids zip down to waiting volunteers and U.S. Marines holding medals for each participant. Smiles spread across their faces and the crowd goes wild.

In its eighth year, and touting a nationally recognized men’s pro race, the Dana Point Grand Prix still revolves around the community and around those kids’ races, said Russell Ames, executive director of race organizer, the Dana Point Community Cycling Foundation.

While the prize purse, cycling world recognition and caliber of riders has evolved, the event has stayed centered around developing young riders to teach them safe and good biking practices, he said.

Hundreds lined the closed-circuit criterium course through Dana Point’s downtown Sunday as cyclists, both professional and those earning points to race at higher levels, took to the streets.

Around the course’s six turns volunteers signaled to one another when cyclists rounded bends and crowds awed as gusts of wind from large race packs blew past. Residents posted signs warning riders of tight turns and kids cheered for their parents racing through the streets.

Turning corner six at Amber Lantern and Del Prado Avenue, race-after-race, finishes came down to the last sprint. In the John Johnson Pro NCC Classic, 27-year-old Daniel Holloway, of Morgan Hill, California, notched a win, taking home the $17,000 prize.

Area nonprofits also won big Sunday as proceeds from the event benefit the Dana Point 5th Marine Regiment Support Group and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Capistrano Valley, which receives bike donations each holiday season.

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