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September-October 2001 Newsletter

Altoona LAB Rally

by Cheryl Brawner


Since the LBC hosted the LAB Rally in 1999, I thought it would be entertaining to attend another one, just to see how others worked. Upon talking with other folks who were there, Louisville rates high! The Altoona Rally was lacking on many fronts that I believe the LAB needs to address before considering it as a future venue.

Altoona is hard to get to. The closest cheap airline flew into Baltimore, and Altoona is in central PA. One-way car rentals weren’t available in Altoona, and Amtrak takes forever, and is pretty expensive. Hence, we drove 9 hours to get there.

Several promises made to the LAB by a local politician were not kept, and as a result, glitches and deficiencies persisted throughout the event. For instance, long lines for food/late beer (leave it to me to complain about that!), reportedly insufficient/often uncomfortable accommodations, no roving sags, small expo area, and the list goes on. Hot/extremely humid/wet weather prevailed, making matters worse.

There was another huge event going on in the city—the Tour de Toona, the largest pro/am bike race in America, and Altoona is a relatively small town. Hence, the local volunteer base was stretched to the limit, and the LAB lost out. The LAB had to import their entire staff to Altoona to run the event at the last minute! But don’t get me wrong—bike racing is near and dear to my heart. I loved being in the same venue, and I thought that the combination of the two events was a great idea, albeit not well thought out. If only the LAB venue would have been closer to the race’s epicenter, then the Rally folks could have felt more a part of this super event. We did get to see the pro men and women fly by at Friday’s (damp) sag stop, and there was a bash on Saturday night that combined the volunteers, the racers and the Rally participants. The food was good and plentiful, getting to talk to the racers and volunteers was fun, and Chris Carmichael was in great form after the Tour de France!

No seminars. Only a short Q & A with the LAB president and a few board members at the town meeting, which turned out to be a participant gripe-fest about the event. The high point was winning the great swag (an LAB bike bag, windbreaker, and Rudy Project cap!) for answering what one LAB exec said was the hardest question of the day (folks who got swag had to answer various cycling-related trivia), which was who won the first L’Alpe d’Huez stage in the Tour de France— Fausto Coppi in 1952 (when it wasn’t paved), of course! ;)

Our accommodations were off-campus, thanks to Steve Sarson, who made arrangements for us to stay at Majestic World, a beautiful elk ranch 20 miles from Altoona. It was magnificent! I really enjoyed our fireside chats on the deck which went late into the night (yes, we talked about all of you! All good, of course!;). We bemoaned the fact that Earl Jones wasn’t with us—a last-minute family emergency kept him from joining us. He would have been a good balance for our crazy little group!

Thanks, Steve and John Paul, for allowing us to use your vehicles to get us there. Pam—you were a wonderful roomie! All in all, we had fun on our mini-vacation to the Rally, even though there were problems with the event itself. We had a lot of laughs and saw a lot of scenery. Thanks for the memories! I’m already looking forward to going to the LAB National Bike Summit in DC again in 2002—it more than made up for the Rally’s deficiencies!


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