Tricycle Grand Prix draws a crowd to BartlettBy JOHN KOZIOL
Union Leader Correspondent September 17. 2017 8:31PM
BARTLETT — The Mount Washington Valley solidified its place as the center of the alternative-sports universe on Sunday with the ninth running of the Red Parka Pub World Championship Super Modified High-Performance Tricycle Downhill Grand Prix.
Santa, Superman and T-Rex were among the 32 competitors in the hyperbolically-named event which took place on the single black-diamond Avenger trail at Attitash Bear Peak. It ended with a run-off that resulted in a draw, and that raised money for the Dewey Mark/Red Parka Scholarship Fund.
The fund, named after the father of Red Parka co-owner Terry O’Brien, annually awards two $1,500 scholarships to Kennett High School seniors who are pursuing competitive skiing in college.
The Grand Prix of tricycling is the brainchild of George O’Brien, Terry’s husband, who a decade ago was musing on childhood and getting older and thought “it’d be really funny to have old men riding Big Wheels.”
But because they’re made of plastic, O’Brien knew the Big Wheel tricycles made by Mattel were too flimsy. Still, he was pointed in the direction of metal-framed trikes, and the rest, as they say, is history.
O’Brien now owns 14 of the trikes, which he offers for use once a year in the Grand Prix; many riders, however, bring their own, some of which are homemade.
The first Grand Prix “we did for laughs,” O’Brien recalled, while every one since has been “for charity.”
Asked if anyone had pointed out to him that, from a non-tricycle-racing perspective, the Grand Prix seemed reckless and juvenile, O’Brien smiled broadly and agreed it was both, noting that all competitors were at least 21 years of age and they were all happy to be there.
In several qualifying heats to determine the finals, the racers, four abreast, tore down a quarter-mile-long slalom course that had them reaching speeds of up to 30 miles per hour, said O’Brien, who both laid out the course and then took some two dozen runs on it in advance of yesterday’s racing to make sure it was safe and do-able.
The racing culminated with Scott Doak of Barnstead crossing the finish line first, and seemingly winning the individual honors, but race officials said his victory tied him for points with Bobby Blake of North Conway.
Blake later won the run-off, but graciously decided to share the title with Doak, who, he noted, had bested him in a heat earlier on Sunday.
Appropriately, only Blake and Doak, who is a member of Team Sea Dog and a five-time winner, have participated in every Grand Prix.
“We decided we were going to call it a tie,” said Blake, who was riding for Team Red Parka.
The Grand Prix, he added, “is about raising money” for the scholarship fund. Blake said the secret to winning the Grand Prix is a “good trike” and his advice to those who would follow in his path is to “build your own.”
Co-sponsored by Valley Originals and Amoskeag Beverages, the Grand Prix was held a week after the World Championship of Mud Football, the 45th installment of which was played on the sunken and flooded Steve Eastman Memorial Field at Hog Coliseum in nearby North Conway.
Although it hasn’t been featured — yet — on ESPN like the Mud Bowl has, O’Brien looks forward to the Grand Prix increasing in stature.
“We are the world championship for nine years,” he said. “No one’s disputed that.”