One hundred cyclists will race in the first event of the Junior National Cycling championships today, most of whom undoubtedly came to town looking forward to racing in the area's mild climate.
But the temperature will be anything but mild for today's 70-kilometer team time trials, which will be run 90 minutes east . . . in Borrego Springs.
That's right, Borrego Springs. Today's mirage will be reality--lots of people actually exerting themselves on bicycles.
The community nestled in the dunes beyond and below Julian is often the hot spot in the country. When visitors complain about 115-degree heat, residents snort, "It's dry heat."
Dry heat? That must mean to bring extra water. Or moisturizing cream.
The high Thursday was 105 degrees. According to the National Weather Service, the temperature should be in the same range, perhaps even a bit higher, today.
So, whose idea was it to make a bunch of junior cyclists--18 and under for boys, 17 and under for girls--race 70 kilometers (about 43 miles) through San Diego County's answer to Death Valley?
Don't all speak up at once.
" . . . It was his idea," answered race director Sandy Lowe, pointing at Ross Nicholson, whose Nicholson Cycling Productions is organizing the meet.
Nicholson flinched at the good-natured attack, then defended himself.
"One of the course's merits is that we knew it would work," he said. "And besides, we had to come up with a course very, very fast."
It was just five months ago that, at the behest of the U.S. Cycling Federation, Nicholson and Lowe took over the meet from a group in Los Angeles that was losing its logistics fight.
Another problem in getting set up was that Nicholson and Lowe had to do the planning while concurrently setting the stage for the Masters Nationals, held gere two weeks ago. This is the first time that all events of both the Masters and Juniors championships will be held in the same area and put on by the same group.
Actually, finding a roadway suitable for time trials can prove difficult. The idea is to race against the clock, not an opponent.
The first consideration when choosing a course for such a race is terrain. The road must be very flat to allow for speedy times.
The second is traffic. Cyclists have enough to worry about without throwing California drivers into the equation.
Since San Diego has become the seventh-largest city in the country, not too many roads meet those criteria. For the Masters Nationals, the time trials weren't even held in the country. They were held across the border on the toll road between the old bull ring and the sea.
But this event is for kids, and the Junior Nationals committee heard enough complaints from worried parents that they abandoned the Tijuana toll road.
Still looking for a relatively cool place to stage the ride, organizers looked to Camp Pendleton but found too many potholes.
Nicholson finally suggested the site of the 1983 Senior Olympics--Borrego Springs. So instead of ocean breezes, the junior cyclers will get "dry heat."
But it won't be that bad--really.
The race will begin at 7 a.m. The weather service said it should be only five or six degrees warmer than the anticipated sunrise temperature of 75. It won't start really cooking until 9 a.m.
But by dodging the sun, the organizers could encounter another problem--rattlesnakes. At night they slither onto roads, which retain heat better than desert sand. The snakes are known to stay put until mid-morning.
"It's just one of the funny things involved in the site," Lowe said.
Because the racers probably would not find dozing snakes very funny, Lowe said a patrol will go over the course before the race begins and shoo them away. Probably with a very long stick.