Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday In My City - 9th Annual George Street Challenge, Worcester, MA

Unknown Mami hosts a wonderful feature called Sunday In My City, where you share something that's going on in your area each Sunday - it's lots of fun! If you haven't already, head on over to her place to check out everyone who's participating this week....and maybe share something about your Sunday!

I was very excited about sharing this Sunday with you all... I figured as lovely as they are, you may think that my area is all about small New England towns and hiking trails, but the fact is I live about a quarter mile from the second largest city in New England, right behind Boston. At least I think it is...Worcester, MA and Providence, RI keep swapping the "2nd largest" title back and forth.

Worcester has had it's struggles economically, and sometimes it gets a reputation that I don't really think it deserves. Naturally, in a city this size, there will be crime, but Worcester is surprisingly safe...it just doesn't always look that way. It tends to have that "run down" look. However, rich in history, architecture, culture and diversity, to me Worcester is a diamond in the rough. It is a city of many hidden treasures, and host to some really cool events.

This is one of them.....

The Annual George Street Challenge

Unless you are a cyclist, you probably have never heard of Major Taylor, but he lived in Worcester, moving here in 1895, just as he began to make his mark on the world. Marshall W. "Major" Taylor was not only a champion cyclist, but a man way ahead of his time, an African-American fighting for social equality for himself as well as others less fortunate, while promoting athletics and the virtues of healthy, clean living. You can read all about him here, and if you're lucky enough to get your hands on one there are a couple good books about him.

As part of his training regiment just before the turn of the century in 1899, he would ride his bike up George Street, a narrow one-way off of the north end of Main Street. My daughter calls it "The Steep Road" - 500 feet long, average grade about 17.5%. Several years ago, cycling enthusiasts and businesses began this event. One at a time, 100 to 150 riders attempt to ride up George Street, while their families, friends and some of us locals cheer them on. Here are some shots of this year's event....did I mention it takes place in July? Temperatures usually run from about 85 - 90+ degrees F, and we have this evil thing called "humidity"....it should be a four-letter word, if you ask me.

But it doesn't stop these amazing athletes from accepting the challenge....

This is the northern section of Main Street....

Here's the starting line, atthe bottom of George Street...

Here's one of the many cyclists who participated...you can't see the whole street here, just the very bottom.

A little better view of the incline..it curves slightly so you can't quite see the top...but you get the idea!

Here's the view down from maybe a quarter of the way up....

I have some good hills near where I live, and I can honestly say, I could make it this far...

Which isn't really that far....here's the view from about a third of the way up...

I'll tell you, some of these people make it look easy.


Here are some crowd favorites!


The finish line is still out of view here, but this family did indeed make it!

We moved up a bit further and cheered on several more participants. Each rider's name is announced, as well as where they're from - locals, students at one of the many colleges in Worcester, and visitors from Wisconsin, California, Chicago, to name a few.

Here's the view from about two-thirds of the way up...no, not from the top yet! If you look closely you can make out a participant taking off at the bottom...


Here he is about a third of the way up...

And maybe half way here...

Everyone gets cheered on - this rider did great, but that last twenty or thirty feet is almost a heartbreak hill of sorts, and he slowed down quite a bit. Another cyclist jumped out and walked alongside him, encouraging him.....

I don't know if they new eachother or not, but everyone supports eachother. There's no real air of "winning", it's really more like 150 people each committing to a personal challenge.

Here he is, about a foot from the finish line! He made it and, like everyone else, got a big round of applause.

Not everyone made it this day, but just accepting this challenge makes you a winner.

It was tough enough walking it....hats off to everyone who tried to ride it!

Major Taylor fought his own battle, and went on to become a well-respected cycling champion. At the age of 32, he retired from racing. The following years were tough ones. After several failed business attempts and a failed marriage, he moved to Chicago. He died in 1932 at the age of 53, a poor man, and was buried in an unmarked grave. Eventually a group of cycling enthusiasts had his body exhumed and interred in his final resting place. His old hometown of Worcester has also started to give him the recognition he deserves, naming one of the main streets after him - Major Taylor Boulevard - and dedicating a beautiful memorial to him at the library (of course, I forgot to go snap a photo, but I will in the near future....) and the Major Taylor Association, formed by a group of Worcester citizens in honor of Major Taylor.

Thanks for stopping by! Hope you enjoyed your visit! The George Street Challenge takes place every July...if you're ever in the area, be sure to stop by and cheer everyone on...or better yet...BRING YOUR BIKE!!!!!


11 comments:

Unknown Mami said...

I was really touched by the photo of the one cyclist encouraging the other. It made me get a lump in my throat.

Willoughby said...

What a great story, Christine! I can't imagine riding up that daunting hill. Makes me tired just see the photos of the cyclists that tried it!

ChristineM said...

@Unknown Mami, that was my favorite part of the day! I had actually just put away the camera and had to whip it out to catch a couple shots! A great moment, for sure!
@Willoughby - I will NEVER look at that hill the same way!

brainella said...

What a nifty thing. I think it is amazing to watch everyone cheering for these wonderful athletes. Not for the faint of heart. :)

The Absence of Alternatives said...

Wow. Thank you for documenting this event for us! What a neat idea. Thought I'm one of those weaklings that cannot even make it up to our street and I live in the very very flat Illinois. LOL

BLOGitse said...

wow, that hill looks hard ride up.
Name of the game: some do the work and others do the cheering. This case: I'd cheer - loud! :)
Have a good week ahead!

Chicago Mom said...

I love it when you go to a race and everyone is supporting everyone else. It can really make you feel like part of the human race and connected to everyone, which of course can be very emotional and wonderful. :)

Joanna Jenkins said...

I take my hat off to those riders. Not in a million years could I make it up the hills! They are awesome. Thanks for the tour.

jj

Anonymous said...

Christine, thanks for spreading the word about Major Taylor and the George Street Bike Challenge. Pete Banach of spokenshutter.com got another great shot of Nathaniel (barefoot!) encouraging a rider, Lavelle:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/31309239@N04/sets/72157624457064031/

Links for more photos, results and news coverage are at www.majortaylorassociation.org/events/georgestreet10.shtml

-- Lynne
info@majortaylorassociation.org

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