Roadies, cruisers, fixies, and mountain bikers converged at Bottom Bracket Social Club for the second official Alleycat: Friday the 13th race. Alleycat is an underground bicycle race that spans across the downtown landscape, featuring 13 check-ins that can be completed in any random order. Gilberto De Hoyos, the event creator, has been part of the San Antonio cycling community for years.
“San Antonio should be more proactive about cycling, so I took the initiative,” De Hoyos said. “If I want more people riding bikes, I need to do something about it.”
Alleycat has a long history, originating in Toronto with bicycle messengers who had something to prove back in 1989, and to this day, these pop-up urban events are being organized internationally. With San Antonio becoming more and more bicycle friendly, with a few speed bumps, it is not surprising that competitions like Alleycat have become popular in the Alamo City. Alleycat has been hosted here prior to the Friday the 13th series; for example, one Alleycat featured a stop where riders had to scarf down a cold bean and cheese taco at a check-in.
De Hoyos understands the importance of safety and how something like this bicycle race could have a positive impact on our community.
“My priority is to promote safety. I encourage people to obey traffic laws and to be prepared and predictable,” he said.
Ten helmets and multiple lights were donated from Allison Blazosky of Metropolitan Planning Organization. Almost every check-in landed at a locally-operated downtown business/landmark such as The Clean Plate, The Little Patch Garden, and The Brooklynite to familiarize the riders with the unique establishments that occupy our downtown environment.
“It’s important for riders to know where local businesses reside,” De Hoyos said.
I caught up with a local female competitor, Annie Klemm from Comfort, Texas, who was given the title “Fastest girl in San Antonio” by friends sitting next to her. She has been cycling for three years and this is her first Alleycat race, but her second official race. Klemm recently finished in 40th place out of a 100 co-ed participant century (100 miles) race while riding a fixed-gear bicycle against road cyclists with lots of gears to choose from.
As a cyclist myself, this is a huge achievement and I was blown away when she informed me of this accomplishment. When asked about her chances in the Alleycat and racing against mostly men, she said “I don’t see why I can’t put myself up against the boys when I can ride just like them.”
The race was about to begin, and riders parked their bicycles across the street and stood in waiting as volunteers tucked unknown location-rich manifests in spokes of each of the bikes. After a quick safety message from De Hoyos and Bottom Bracket proprietor Tito Bradshaw, the horn sounded and exhilarated racers ran across the street hurdling other bikes to reach their steeds with smiles on their faces.
Each rider had a unique approach to the manifest; most participants grabbed it and took off towards downtown, some took a seat and mapped out the entire route, and I even saw one rider completely ignore his manifest in his spokes and rode off like a bolt of lightning.
The race was underway and I could not help but feel simultaneously envious and nervous for the competitors. This was not just a competition of who had the strongest riding capabilities, but one of who knew the downtown area inside and out, the shortcuts, the correct route, and the timing of traffic. De Hoyos was expecting a victor around the one hour mark; it happened in 36 minutes.
That’s right; 13 stops, including locations such as the top of the Hays Bridge, and the busy Main Plaza during the inaugural night of The Saga at San Fernando Cathedral. You read that right: 36 minutes.
The winning cyclist in question was Ramiro Esquivel, and he completely crushed it, with his manifest verified by De Hoyos.
“He took the perfect route,” De Hoyos said.
The second and third place victors came about 10 minutes after Esquivel, which were also impressive times.
With a full moon, the night had come to an end, and the top three victors of both the men and the women were rewarded with cycling gear from sponsors such as Chrome Industries, State Bicycle Co., and Knog.
“Support from major cycling companies began almost instantly,” De Hoyos said. “I just shot Chrome a few emails and I received four bags and two jerseys right away.”
From beginning to end, every participant had a smile on their face, and it reminded me why I got into cycling to begin with six years ago: it’s a blast.
Next Friday the 13th, instead of wielding a camera and a notebook, I will be mounted on my bike, carving the streets with the same grin I saw repeatedly Friday night, and I can’t wait.
Featured image: Cyclists ride through St. Mary’s Street on the way to Alamo Plaza during the Alleycat bike ride on June 13, 2014. Photo by Scott Ball.