Sunday, January 11, 2009

Ryan Raymond Smith - Part 1

In the mid 90's I was mounting my third comeback of my cycling career when I met a guy at a bike race named Chuck May. He told my he was on a team named Sierra Speed Gel that was looking for riders. I told him I was interested and so was my friend Chris Baumann, and before we knew it we were driving back and forth from Sacramento to Visalia where the team an most of the riders were located.

The team consisted of a bunch of guys trying their best but mostly having fun. It was manged by a guy named Mike Camarena and some guy who said he was an ex-Belgian pro. I remember Shawn Bagley, the sarcastic mechanic/racer Danny Rondon and most memorably Ryan Smith who was a last year junior.

By the time the team had run its course, it had had some pretty impressive riders. Most of them were my friends and connected to the team through me. We had former Irish National Champion and ex- 7-11 rider John Brady, former Tour de France rider Nathan Dahlberg, current pro Tony Cruz, of course Chis Baumann and Ryan Smith who ended up riding for Sierra Nevada and even Chad Gerlach. There were even two Dutch riders, Remko Krammer and Ono and some crazy Italian-Canadian dude named Lucca Segato. The team somewhat reminds me of Battley Harley in that it was composed of ex-pros and up and comers. We won many races, and NRC race and the sprinters jersey and even top 10 Redlands. It was a lot of fun.

All of us non-Visalia riders would stay at Ryan Smith's dad's house we called Club Med. The place was huge, giving each rider their own bed. It even had a jacuzzi, pool and what seemed to be endless groceries at our disposal. There was even maid service once a week. I was the first to stay there, and on that first night created quite the mess while trying to bunny hope onto rollers after too many beers, no food and a 5 hour ride.

Ryan Smith, Chris Baumann, John Brady, occasionally Chad Gerlach and I would form a core group of riders that would switch teams together, travel all over the country and Mexico in Cris's vintage VW bus and just create general mayhem wherever we went - sometimes getting kicked out of races or even towns. We had as good of a time you can have racing bicycles and still win.


  1. Chuck, Thank you for your story about Ryan. I was a very good friend of his in Sac. He and I met at Rio City Cafe, where we worked and remained friends. I often think of him and am glad to hear that his cycling buds are still talking about him. I live in the same neighborhood as Chad, and he is doing much better now. I know Kevin Huff, Jeff and Jesse from Visalia, and I think I met Cris a couple of times too. For some reason today I couldn't stop thinking of Ry and I just Googled his name and your article came up. It was really great to hear the memories of him. He was a special guy to so many people and I deeply miss him. If you guys are ever racing in Sac, hit me up and I'll get some of his friends together and we'll have some beers for Ryan!

    Christy C.

  2. I raced juniors with Ryan on Waterman and then on Speed Gel. While Ryan got faster and went pro, I got married and got slow! LOL! I remember he drove me and Jesse to out to Porterville for a juniors ride! He was going super fast in his truck, it was foggy too! Ryan was a great guy, so talented but so down to earth. Super fast too, I remember the hammer rides out of visalia, I would always try to pick his wheel at the stop ahead sprints. I see Shawn now that I moved back to Visalia area, have not seen Chuck May in years. Glad to see Ryan is still alive in all our memories, I miss that guy!

    Robert Gibson