Everyone in Boulder, Colo. knew it was coming, but unsuspecting out-of-state motorists, topping a rise on Route 93 one morning last week, saw this: first, in the distance, the gleaming town at the base of the mountains; then, squirming up the hill—glints of chrome in the sun—hundreds of pumping legs. A bicentennipede?
No, it was the Red Zinger. Which is a bicycle race—in fact, three bicycle races in three days: a 10.8-mile time trial, a 93.4-mile road race and the 50-mile Criterium, so called because it is the ultimate test. In toto the event is the Red Zinger Classic. Red Zinger, sports fans, did not pitch for the Toledo Mud-Hens in 1935. He is an it, and it is an herb tea—not as universally known as Ginseng, but nonetheless popular with yin and yang, organic-food types.
Celestial Seasonings, the makers of Red Zinger, are proud of their brew. And Red Zinger is only one of 12 exotic potions they have designed to invigorate the spirit and pump the body full of energy. There is, for instance, Mo's 24, a tea named for Mo Siegel, Celestial's 25-year-old president, which combines hibiscus, raspberry leaves, peppermint, camomile, anise and a dozen other herbs. There is Mellow Mint tea and Sleepy Time. Naturally, the folks at Celestial Seasonings are interested in having people buy their potions. Because clean air and physical fitness are very big in Boulder, two years ago they decided to push their product by putting on a bike race, and they decided to call it the Red Zinger Classic (a Sleepy Time Classic may have struck them as inappropriate).
On this morning, the day of the road race up and down the Rockies, there was no shortage of either clean air or fitness. Some of the world's greatest quadriceps—those muscles above the knees—were whizzing by in near-90� heat. The altitude was a heart-thumping 5,350 feet at the start, and from there the way was up and up.
Hunched over their handlebars were 130 cyclists including five members of the recent U.S. Olympic A and B teams, an Australian named Clyde Sefton and an Englishman, Dudley Hayton. Eight other foreign cyclists, including the six-man Mexican Olympic team, made the word classic seem appropriate; if the race was only two years old it was, indeed, a classy field and the first international stage event in U.S. history. As the road race proceeded four or five bunched cyclists would suddenly sprint ahead, like frightened minnows in a school, their backs bent, their heads down, their eyes squinting upward. Each man took his turn at the front, blocking the wind for those behind; no one wins a bicycle race alone.
They passed the hamlet of Wondervu, elevation 8,900 feet and aptly named. And in the press trucks ahead there were two kinds of emotion—admiration and awe tinged with fear. The first was in response to men all but sprinting up mountains, the second was at the sight of men tearing down them. Officials and press sat in the trucks facing backward, mercifully spared from seeing where they were going, but they winced anyway as the cyclists hurtled down at close to 60 mph, clinging to their wispy 20-pound bikes, inches from the edges of cliffs, barely slowing at hairpin turns. Knees brushed knees, tires all but touched tires; disaster was always a split second away.
In one truck was Wyck Hay, vice-president of advertising for Celestial Seasonings. He stood, bracing himself, a megaphone at his mouth, screaming at people on the shoulder, "Hold onto that dog," or "Get that car off the road and into a driveway." When the break came, the five Americans fresh from Montreal, the Aussie and the Englishman left the pack, trailed by the Mexicans and 117 other contenders.
Then even the leading Americans and the Englishman were left behind. Clyde Sefton, the 24-year-old Aussie, was the first to wheel into the town of Ward, at 9,253 feet the highest point on the course, for which he won a $400 savings bond and the sobriquet "King of the Mountain." A few miles farther on, one of the Americans attacked and passed him. Sefton sprinted, caught up and broke 20 seconds into the lead. Olympian Sefton had finished 15th overall in Montreal, and now he was out to prove he was much better than that. Slipping precariously between equipment trucks and the guardrail at 60 mph, he continued his headlong downhill dash.
"He's a monster," came a voice from a truck.
"They're all monsters," said Kim Howard, wife of last year's overall champion, John Howard.