Wednesday, June 23, 1999

Wheels of fortune turn here

Local cyclist leads pack in national races

The Cincinnati Enquirer

O'Brien Forbes trains along Wooster Pike Tuesday.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
| ZOOM |
        A broken left collar bone forced Cincinnati cyclist O'Brien Forbes to sit on Cliff Drive in Eden Park and watch last year's Elite National Championship Cycling road race.

        As Forbes sat on the grass watching cyclists fly by, he wondered what it would be like to compete for a national title in his backyard.

        This weekend Forbes will get his chance. The U.S. Elite and Junior National Road Cycling Championships return to the Cincinnati area Thursday, beginning with the individual time trials in Anderson Township and concluding Sunday with the men's national championship criterium race, a short-track event, in Loveland.

        Those in the cycling community recognize this weekend as the biggest in U.S. amateur cycling.

        “This is very exciting,” said Nick Vehr, president of Cincinnati 2012 and a board member of Cycle Cincinnati-Loveland Inc., the non-profit organization running the championships. “It's even bigger than it was last year.”

        Loveland is the host for the second consecutive year. What began as an event to bring local riders together in 1997 has developed into the top national cycling event and draws more than 1,000 cyclists.

        Spectators make the trip to Cincinnati too. Loveland Mayor Lee Skierkiewicz said nearly 7,000 fans watched last year's three-day event in 90-plus-degree weather. He expects more than 10,000 to attend this year's event and pump about $2.3 million into the Greater Cincinnati economy.

        “You can walk up and watch some of the finest athletes on earth do what they do best,” Vehr said. “It's an impressive thing.” There are a few changes to this year's championships. This is the first year Cincinnati also is playing host to the junior national championship road race. Also, another difficult climb has been added to Saturday's road race, making the loop one of the most difficult in the nation.

        “It will be a death march,” the 35-year-old Forbes said. “The 100-plus miles are going to be brutal.”

        Forbes will travel the 16km loop that includes climbs up Hill Street and Cliff Drive on Saturday. He won't complete all 104 miles, because he wants to finish well in Sunday's 0.9-mile criterium race.

        “I'd love to be in a break-away pack of about 10 riders and win the sprint to the finish,” said Forbes, who is Cincinnati's best chance for a high finish Sunday.

        Forbes is eager to get back on the course after sitting on the grass last year.

        While competing in a race at Ault Park three weeks prior to the 1998 national championships, a rider bumped Forbes' rear tire, sending him to the pavement with a thud.

        “I was broken-hearted, but I accepted it,” Forbes said. “Crashing is a risk you have to take. But you don't quit. You have to get back on the bike, just like you would a horse.”

        Forbes crashed again in March while riding in a pack and broke his collar bone.

        “You're trusting your life with the people (in the pack),” Forbes said. “But there's nothing like being just inches off some guy's wheel at 35 mph. It's a rush.”

        In early 1994, Forbes nearly hung his bike in the garage for good. His best friend committed suicide because he could not ride up to his own standards.

        “(The suicide) told me I love cycling,” Forbes said. “It's a big part of my life but not the only thing.”

        But shortly after the funeral, Forbes had a change of heart. He still wanted to ride. He wanted to ride harder and faster than ever before. And he did. Forbes won 11 races the summer after losing his best friend.

        “Mike's death drove me to ride well for him,” Forbes said.

        And Forbes hopes to ride well here, competing against the best cyclists in America.


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