Racers young and old help OBRA toast 2009

The future of bicycle racing in Oregon.
From L to R: Liz Cartwright, Brian Fawcett, Fiona Graham, Keith Fawcett, Hannah McDade, Grant McElroy, Naiqwan Pelman.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Last weekend, the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association held their annual meeting and banquet. The event was an opportunity to recognize our state’s finest racers and look back on what was another stellar year for the organization.

OBRA, an organization that promotes, officiates, and sanctions bike racing events throughout Oregon, is the foundation of a thriving race scene. In 2009, OBRA memberships ballooned to 4,442 riders, a 13% increase over the previous year.

OBRA Executive Director Kenji Sugahara.

But OBRA, in typical fashion, didn’t look to take center stage at the banquet Saturday night — it was racers that were put in the spotlight.

Gary Brannan was there to claim his fourth-place spot among in the 70+ year-old category. “There’s only four of us,” he said, smiling ear to ear, “but it’s better than being dead.”

The guy Brannan chased all season was Clark Henry, who races for the Beaverton Bicycle Club. Henry took home the award Best All-Around Rider in the Masters 70+ category. He’s 75 years old.

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I had a nice chat with Mr. Henry and his wife Marge. Clark told me about his 10th place finish at the National Championship Road Race in Salem in the 1960s (he didn’t recall the year). “I took a flyer with two laps to go — and then got caught,” he said, with a slight hint of heartbreak still noticeable in his voice. “I was 10th in the nation.”

Clark Henry and Grant McElroy.

These days, Clark can’t walk normally because his knees have no more cartilage in them, forcing him to do what he calls the “old man shuffle.” But on his bike it’s a different story.

“When I’m on my bike I feel like I’m in my 30s… my knees don’t bother me at all when I’m riding.”

As we spoke near the exit door, everyone would stop, shake his hand and say “Keep racing Clark!” to which Marge would reply, “Don’t encourage him!” She thinks he’s crazy, but she still shows up at every race to cheer him on.

Congratulations to Clark, all the amazing OBRA athletes, and to the fine team of people behind the scenes that make racing in Oregon accessible and fun for everyone — from 10-year old Grant McElroy to my new, 75-year old friend, Clark Henry.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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14 years ago

Dang, I hope I am still racing when I get to 75. Teaching those whipper snappers a thing or two!

peder horner
14 years ago

Jonathan, great article. I dig the human interest side. I’m going to forward your article to my father-in-law, who is 65 and getting stronger every year. He did the entire Ride the Rockies last year, no sag!

Steve Brown
14 years ago

Thank you to everyone that attended this event and especially to Kenji Sugahara for leading OBRA through another great year.It was an honor to host this group of talented athletes and dedicated racing enthusiasts.
Steve Brown
Madison’s Grill