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Cyclist with record-breaking speed of 152 mph coming to Great Western Bike Rally 

Great Western Bicycle Rally participants get read to embark on a ride from Paso Robles Event Center.

Great Western Bicycle Rally participants get read to embark on a ride from Paso Robles Event Center.

Annual bicycle rally kicks off May 22

For the 35th year in a row, the Great Western Bicycle Rally will take place in Paso Robles. This year the rally will feature a special appearance from Olympic cyclist, land speed recorder holder and the 1981 Ironman Triathlon World Champion John Howard, who will give a talk on Friday.

John Howard

John Howard

Howard, 67, was on the Olympic cycling team in 1968, 1972 and 1976, was on the United States national team for 10 years, is a 14-time USCF and NORBA Elite and Master’s National Champion, Cycling Drafting World Record Holder for cycling 539 miles in 24 hours in 1987, the world record holder for cycling speed of 152.2 m.p.h., and Competitive Cycling Magazine’s Cyclist of the Decade for the 1970s.

He set the land speed record while motor-pacing on a pedal bicycle on July 20, 1985, on Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats. His record was beat by Fred Rompelberg in 1995. Today, Howard is a trainer and coach with John Howard Performance Sports. His talk on Friday will be on the mechanical and bio mechanical connection for setting up bicycles for maximum performance, he said.

“I’ll have a model there on a bike to show how a cyclist can obtain maximum power,” Howard said. “I do therapy and that is my focus: to get the most power out of an athlete as possible.”

This is the 51st year for the bicycle rally, which was held at various locations around the state before it settled in Paso Robles.

“There’s nowhere better to [hold the event than Paso Robles],” said Jo Allen, whose company CCSD Sport Event owns the event. This will be Allen and her husband’s first year running the event, although they have years of experience managing sporting events.

The annual event draws 800 to 1,000 people, of which 95 percent are from outside San Luis Obispo County. “We’re actually trying to change that,” Allen said. “What we really want is for local people to come out.”

One thing that Jo and Rob Allen added this year is a local artisan market. “This is one of the things we love about Paso — there is so much going on here. That is such a cool aspect of the area,” Jo Allen said.

The event kicks off Friday, May 22 at 5 p.m. at the grand opening and runs through the morning of the 25th. While the event officially doesn’t kick off until Friday evening, Best Bike Zone will lead an early bird group ride Friday at 9 a.m.

The event includes rides for all ages and abilities from rides as short as three miles to 104 miles. Some rides are self-guided, some guided and there are two supported rides: Velo de Femme at 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 23 and Giro di Paso at 7 a.m. on Sunday, May 24.

Velo de Femme is a ride that goes 32 or 49 miles for women cyclists. During the ride there will stops at a winery and a visit to Templeton Farmers’ Market. The Giro di Paso has routes that 104, 63 and 45 miles with three support stops with food, picnic lunch and refreshments.

“It’s really a unique event,” she said. “It haven’t seen another even that isn’t male dominated.” She said that 51 percent of the participants are female.

Throughout the weekend, there will be talks related to cycling and nutrition at the rally at the Paso Robles Event Center, as well as a Bike Road-eo for children and other family events. At the grand opening on Friday, there will be a beer garden with Barrel House Brewing Company and wood-fired pizza from a food truck.

Other special rides include a Hearst Castle and clam bake ride, a ride to a goat farm for cheese tasting and a picnic lunch, a garlic lovers ride and more. For more information, visit their website at



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