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Memories of the Oyster Festival Cycling Classic: a Great Bike Race

Bill Bauer of Bayville suggested honoring the late Tom Reardon with a bicycle race. He hopes maybe they will bring back the bike race in the 30th year in memory of Tom Reardon.

Mr. Bauer said, “Tom Reardon was one of the many chairpersons behind Oyster Festival Cycling Classic and hosting the Pro Cycling Team of 7-Eleven.”

When the Oyster Festival was getting started, festival promoter Herb Machol of Machol Media Services had contacts in the sports world. He got 7-Eleven to extend their cycling tour one more race to the October event held the week after Columbus Day. With its prize money it attracted international cyclists to come to Oyster Bay and helped put the Oyster Festival on the world map.

Bill Bauer was race director for all 11 years of the cycling event. He picked out the parameters of the race course, because he felt it was the best possible one for the spectators to watch the race.

The first two races (Oyster Fest Cycling Classic 1 and 2) were won by Eric Heiden, former five time gold medalist, 1980 at Lake Placid for speedskating. The first three races in each classic, were 50 mile criteriums (70 laps) with the average speed of 31 mph!

Bill Bauer, president of the local host GB&C/Bialostok cycling team known as “Bicycle Bill”, said he finished all three races with the 7-Eleven team. He is a former bronze medalist at the World’s Criterium championship.

Mr. Bauer said, “Tom’s son Andrew was about 9-years old at the time and said it made a lasting impression on him - meeting all of the top cyclists from around the world and watching them race. He is now an avid cyclist in his own right.

As part of the Oyster Festival, “I ran  a bicycle safety clinic a week before the race, and checked all the resident’s bicycles and fixed them,” he said. One was held at the Roosevelt Elementary School and local children brought their bikes to be tested, and to learn some bike safety lessons.

Mr. Bauer said Andrew Reardon is married to the daughter of Kevin Clifford who owns the Hendrickson Bus Company. It is the one the Oyster Bay-East Norwich School District uses; and is the Oyster Festival bus for bringing visitors from the Syosset train station to the festival. Kristin Reardon is the co-chair of the festival.

Mr. Bauer said, “Andrew likes to do tours, which is a 100-mile distance, not a race but something like the Tour to Cure and he was inspired by the Oyster Festival.”

Festival Memories

Mr. Bauer said, “I did the first three OFCC races but I was in my 40s and it was hurting me. Then I did one lap as hard as I could and most of the time would win the first lap.

“So people shouldn’t forget about the first 11 years of the festival,” he said. They are great memories and he has kept the festival memorabilia from those years.

He said, “I even have a commissioned watercolor of the cyclists making the turn on Maxwell Avenue. I have another picture taken with George Hincapie who did the Tour de France with Lance Armstrong this year. He was with him the seven years that Lance won the Tour de France. George won the US Pro championship three times too. He went to Farmingdale High School and graduated in 1991.” George raced in the OFCC for a few years. He got his start racing the local hills.

“It was just before he turned pro and I actually raced against his father years ago. His father was Ricardo Hincapie. George’s brother who also raced at the OFCC, is Richard Hincapie,” said Bill. He just finished his 15th Tour de France in July. It’s nice to think that for Hincapie, it all started at the Oyster Festival,” Mr. Baurer said.