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Van Haute Has a Few Points to Make, Earn : Cycling: San Marcos athlete seeking an individual championship.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

San Marcos’ Danny Van Haute tonight will try to correct a string of disappointments that began 12 years ago.

He will compete in the 30-39 age group at the Masters’ World Cup Cycling Championships at 6:30 in the Morley Field velodrome. His goal in the points race is an individual championship, something that has eluded him.

“I get a lot of seconds and thirds,” Van Haute said. “It seems I’m always in the top five in individual events.”

Don’t get him wrong--Van Haute has won several individual races. But he has never done so on the national or international level.

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And those are the plateaus upon which cyclists are judged in this country. Cycling is a subculture of sorts, and few outsiders pay attention to it until the Olympics.

Which was Van Haute’s problem.

He was ready to compete in the 1980 Summer Olympics when the Soviet Union entered Afghanistan. President Jimmy Carter retaliated by boycotting the Moscow Games.

Four years of preparation was wiped out, and Olympic athletes could only start over again.

Almost four years later they came back, and Van Haute did so stronger than ever.

His chances to win a medal in 1984 appeared excellent--he qualified first in the points race at the Olympic trials.

And this time there was no chance of a boycott, at least not by the U.S.--Los Angeles would play host to the Games.

But when most of the rest of the world showed up at the Dominguez Hills Velodrome (the Soviets retaliated with a boycott), Van Haute finished 12th.

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“That was disappointing,” Van Haute recalled eight years later. “I guess I kind of peaked too early.”

Now he’s trying to peak all over again in masters’ competition.

It’s a little easier in masters’ races--contestants are grouped by age and therefore championships will be doled out to 30- to 39-year-olds, 40- to 49-year-olds and riders 50-and-older.

In 1991, Van Haute finished second, one point behind the 30-39 winner.

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Not that he tried making excuses, but Van Haute had to endure a little more than his competitors that day. He was at the velodrome early in the morning trying to get things ready.

“My legs were just too sore,” he said. “Too much work setting up the race last year tired me out.”

It was the first year Van Haute joined former Olympian Skip Cutting in promoting and administering the event.

Now it’s a full-time job.

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“It’s a perfect job opportunity,” Van Haute said. “I can still spend time on the road training and keep up with the sport.”

Because he thought it would benefit his cycling career, Van Haute moved to San Diego from Chicago after the 1984 Olympics.

“You can’t train in 30-below wind chill,” Van Haute said. “Now I’m on the bike 10 months out of the year.”

But too many other people had the same idea and moved to Southern California for the weather. Now the population is sometimes more hazardous than freezing temperatures.

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Van Haute has had to map out a training course that takes him all the way to Santa Ysabel--just to avoid traffic. And even in the county’s backwoods, he encounters unwary motorists.

“You would be amazed at what happens out there,” he said. “We get cut off a lot, but it’s mostly by older drivers, 70 and above. I don’t think they cut us off on purpose, but they don’t realize how fast we’re going. And we are riding at 18 to 24 m.p.h. all the time. Some drivers think they can get past us at that speed, and still make the turn, but that’s just not so.

“And then there’s always the person who waved a gun at us. I guess he just didn’t like cyclists. He started yelling at us. We yelled back, and then he reached for this gun. He didn’t point it at us, or anything. I think he just wanted us to know he had it.”

Such episodes appear to be part of the sport.

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“It’s all fun and laughs if no one gets hurt,” Van Haute said.

Besides the Masters World Cup Cycling Championship velodrome events, criterium races will be conducted in the Gaslamp Quarter of Downtown Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The start/finish line will be near the corner of 5th Avenue and J Street. Special in-line skating races also will be conducted on the criterium course.


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