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Rapha NW Juniors Stage Race
The two nuclear cooling towers at the Satsop Development Park in Elma, Washington have never been turned on. In 1994, the development committee shut down the program entirely, thus giving the Washington Public Power Supply System, or WPPSS, its nickname: "whoops." The office park and surrounding areas have a bit of a ghost town feel to them for most of the year. However, for one weekend annually, the Rapha Northwest Juniors Stage Race takes over the park for some of the best junior racing this side of the Mississippi River.
With the Giro Time Trial, the Hammer Nutrition Criterium and the Jim Brown Sr. Memorial Stage Race presented by Kona, Juniors of all levels will have the chance to get a real stage race feel into their legs. In fact, this is one of the only races in the United States that can boast this claim - an entire stage race dedicated to junior racing.
We attended the stage race last year to get a firsthand feel as to what organiser and coach Jim Brown and his Rad Racing NW crew were up to. What we found was there was an overwhelming atmosphere of enthusiasm and support for the younger racers.
It was like a strange dream, to be caught in a world where you are surrounded by some of the most professional looking bike racers that you have ever seen — carbon wheels, Oakley sunglasses and matching kits — but with something slightly differing. Maybe it is the polite and innocent rapport that they carry with them in their daily lives, but something tells me it has to do with their fearless leader Jim Brown. He's the one that taught them to stay in the drops whenever there is a sprint finish and that their podium etiquette is just right (one arm up on each side).
Possibly he has taught some of the younger ones this trick that we see as well — the way the riders jump and stamp hard on their pedals to get the cleats to actually clip in — it is amazing to watch and point towards a resourcefulness and desire that is almost unheard elsewhere.
Grace Green is one of the young ladies we saw racing in her first ever road race and she surprised everyone with a convincing win over the rest of the field.
"They [the other riders] said I looked like I had too much energy so I should be in the front. But, when I looked back they were all gone. It's my first race."
The eleven-year-old had her family there on the finish line to welcome her in and shower her with praise as she donned the race leader's jersey. With her helmet askew and her pink glasses to hide behind she was a perfect model of what you can come to expect at the Rapha NW Juniors Stage race. Perfect politeness to everyone around her.
The next iteration of the race will kick off this weekend in Elma, Washington. With the number of riders that came from all the surrounding states (and Canada) last year, we can expect a similar turnout. And if that wasn't enough to draw your attention, Garmin Professional racer and Seattle native, Tyler Farrar, will be on hand to present the race and offer his racing tips to the newest crop of young riders. Good luck to all at the Rapha NW Juniors Stage Race.
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