The Road Less Traveled 

Just a few years after learning how to ride a bike, Oakland's Beth Newell is quickly turning into one of the new stars of the cycling world.

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The middle of the infield is a nice vantage point, but it requires the spectator to swivel his head around. That, and obstruction by other folk, means watching a race can be a sort of hide-and-seek affair.

I caught a glimpse of Newell as she blasted past the second division of cyclists and pumped hard to catch the four in front. And then it was hospitality tents, taller spectators, and all sorts of flotsam and jetsam, and so I lost sight of the race for a quarter-lap. When the view cleared, I couldn't find Newell for a moment. She wasn't in last and she wasn't trailing the front group either. Just before she disappeared from view again, I finally saw her. She was in first place.

As they approached the final lap, Newell had passed every rider in the field, including multiple world-class Keirin cyclists competing in their best event. And she did it in less than one lap. The bell rang, signaling that there was one lap to go. Newell, who had just chewed up the entire field, had but one task remaining: hold on. Halfway through the bell lap, it was clear that she had used up a lot of energy to take the lead and didn't have much left to hold it. Needing only a third-place finish to earn a spot in the finals, she was passed by two riders with the rest of the pack hustling toward her. With fifty yards to go, a third rider pulled even and then passed her.

But unlike many other riders today who coast to the finish, hoping to conserve their energy for later events, Newell kept pumping and held on for fourth. Of the many things that make up her character, easing up is clearly not one of them.

Some people find the need to compulsively exercise and stay in shape. I am not one of them. In fact, good thing for my heart and overall health that I enjoy competitive sports, because otherwise I would be big, fat, out-of-shape, with congestive heart failure, diabetes, and hypertension. I missed exercising for approximately one day when I decided to go for a run. I ran across this cute Nike tank top Nike gave me when I was doing test product work for them, which I had never worn, because I don't run anymore. So I put it on, tied my shoes, and then as I was running VERY SLOWLY, I realized I had become that woman that I always made fun of when I was an actual runner in high school and college: the slow woman in a cute outfit shuffling along at a slow clip. My track/xcountry friends and I would always laugh about these OLD women in these official getups going so slow. That was me. Whatever ... Sometimes you sell out. (beth bikes! October 2008).

Last month, Beth Newell, winner of nine road races in 2010, showed up to compete in the Lodi Cycle Fest, which sends riders rolling through the streets of San Joaquin County's second city.

In addition to the overly specific $1,777 first prize, certain laps offer their own premiums. So Newell, who led ten minutes into the nearly hour-long road race, and then every minute after to take her tenth title of 2011, also earned some shoes and a couple bottles of wine for being fastest during specific laps. She couldn't have been a more gracious winner, posing for pictures with some of her swag, including a bottle of 7 Deadly Zins, and praising the race organizers and the city for putting on such a good show. She promised she would return to the Tour de Lodi in the future and charmed the local reporters.

As her cycling career blossomed, Newell's blog grew in popularity. One of the ways she grabbed readers was by writing about the growth of her quadriceps. Her postings had daily updates about how big her quads had become and included advice for how readers could get their own quads to grow bigger. She posted pictures showing people how and where to put the measuring tape (with funny asides and encouragement) to ensure proper quad data. One of her entries was picked up by a New York web guy who trawls the Internet looking for quality content, and before Newell could describe in painful detail how using expired suntan oil for saddle sores didn't quite help soothe the pain, she had more than sixty new commentators daily.

Before cycling and writing, Newell's first vision for herself was a career in the health care industry. When asked whether her expertise in this field supports her new passions, she responded: "I'd like to say yes, but that's a stretch. Cycling is a very expensive sport — all the equipment is expensive, the entry costs are very high. It is the one thing I really hate about it. Doctors at our clinics can't really tell patients to go bike for exercise, because there are so many structural reasons why bicycling isn't a good form of exercise ... the expense of a bike, a lot of the roads in low-income communities are not really safe for cycling, etc."

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