Staff photos by Lynne Hermansen

Lynne Hermansen
Cycling enthusiasts and competitive racers of all ages from children to Senior Citizens gathered on an unusual race track to compete with themselves and the fastest times.
Men and women used all their physical strength, agility and mental stamina to whip down New Century Parkway at the NewCentury Air Center in Gardner, Kansas in 50 mile per hour fierce and brutal winds on the brisk morning of Sunday, May 29.
Racers began in staggered times of one minute intervals beginning at 9am going North down New Century Parkway starting before the overpass towards 151st Street and looping back South around past New Century Fieldhouse.

Anna Maria, mother of Jesse Blancarte, attended the Jesse Blancarte 10k Time Trials for the 20th Anniversary with her younger son Alex Blancarte. The cycling event was renamed in 2002 after the death of avid cyclist and Blue River Cycling Club member Jesse Blancarte, who passed away at the age of 37, while riding his bicycle in Eudora. The event took place at New Century AirCenter, Sunday May 30. Staff photo by Lynne Hermansen

The Jesse Blancarte 10k Time Trial began as a time trial event in the mid-1990s on old Missouri 210 Highway along the Missouri River east of I-435 towards Richmond, Missouri.
The USA Cycling sanctioned event is sponsored by Blue River Bicycling Club. BRBC was founded in 1994 by Ariel Mendez who opened Leawood Bicycles in Kansas City, Missouri and has now retired. The club remains strong in southern Johnson County. BRBC member Jesse Blancarte was an avid and passionate cyclist with the club and passed away suddenly in 2002 from a heart attack while riding his bicycle in Eudora.
The event was renamed in his honor and moved to Gardner, Kansas for the last 15 plus years.
Anna Maria Blancarte, mother of Jesse, has attended every year with her other son Alex Blancarte.
Anna Maria said she has so many fond memories of her son and his love of bicycles.
“He would come home from work and he’d be like I rode 50 miles today,” she said.
Anna Maria said this happened frequently and there were times she hadn’t even known he had left let alone been able to ride so much so quickly on his bicycle.
Alex Blancarte, younger brother, said him and his brother began delving into cycling as a ways to lose some weight and get healthier, and Alex was mostly the reason in the beginning. They began with small, less competitive events such as the MS150.
Jesse only had a Huffy mountain bike from K-Mart and didn’t even know how to maintain a bike, he said.
“Then he took it a level further,” Blancarte said. “He really enjoyed the internal competitiveness. He had a one track mind and when he really gets into something that’s it.”
Jesse never quit a race, he said. And he loved and relished showing his talents with local riders and celebrating their talents too.
Blancarte said his brother loved being a part of the Blue River Cycling Club.
“He enjoyed the camaraderie of local events,” he said. “He would have been all about this.”
Alex Blancarte said he has held on to all the VHS tapes with his brother’s races and cycling events recorded on them and still enjoys watching his brother’s passion on them.
Natural Grocers organic grocery stores supported the team this year as first time sponsors joining Elite Cycling and Shawnee Mission Audi. They provided a low cost grant to support and promote women cyclists. The grant brought women’s entry fees down from $25 to $10.
Dan Messina, Team Captain for Natural Grocers, said it was important to support and showcase women’s cycling because women’s cycling represents a long-standing effort towards independence, starting with pioneers such as Susan B. Anthony who encouraged women to ride during the Women’s suffrage movement.
“In the not-too-distant past women and bikes changed the world,” he said. “Bikes helped women gain freedom by helping them go wherever they wanted without having to rely on a man for transportation.”
Messina said there was still a wide disparity between men and women in bicycle racing and they wanted to help promote more women in the sport.
His wife Rachel Messina was also racing for the event and on behalf of the Natural Grocers cycling team. They have been racing as part of the cycling team for the past five to six years.
Natural Grocers had a table set up with free bananas and CBD products.
The Messinas both landed on podiums for their respective categories.
Messina said he had never met Jesse Blancarte but they planned on continuing to support the Jesse Blancarte 10k Time Trail event moving forward in the future and keep his memory alive.