Published: June 22, 2013
They've stayed in hotels and cabins at locales near and far.
But to the three American sidecar teams at this coming week's Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, nothing beats the comfort of home.
Thanks to longtime Cascade residents Diannia and Dennis Wagner, six competitors won't have to worry about leaving their coveted sidecars in a parking lot, coping with the thin walls of a motel or finding a mechanic when inevitable repairs pop up during race week.
"Not having to worry about the little stuff really takes the stress off," said John Wood who, with co-driver Giorgina Gottlieb won last year's Hill Climb sidecar championship. "A cabin isn't what we needed. We needed a garage we could back into, and you can't sleep knowing a sidecar is sitting on a trailer. I have my life invested in that. It's a huge advantage with the Wagners taking us in."
The Wagner's 5-acre residence, perched above Cascade on Pyramid Mountain Road, allows for a short commute to practice and qualifying at the base of Pikes Peak. It's that high location that allowed the couple to spot an irregular occurrence two years ago.
It was Wood in his vintage sidecar, experiencing problems on the road in the new development.
When Wood saw a man running in his direction, he feared the worst.
"I thought he was going to read me the riot act," Wood recalled. "Instead, it turned out to be my lucky day."
With the Wagner garage nearby, Wood found the necessary parts to repair his sidecar. The rest is history.
Wood, from Victorville, Calif., looks forward to seeing his fellow Californians in Cascade early this week. The six already have staked out their places.
Wood and Gottlieb got dibs on the fifth wheel, while Wade Boyd and Christina Blunck, last year's runner-up, claimed the camper. Hans Schulz and co-driver Steven Stull have a prospective spot in the Wagners' trailer.
"The best part is the wonderful people we've met with the Wagners," Schulz said. "It's wonderful to have a place to stay and a place to work, all in one place."
By the time the six arrive for Monday's technical inspection at World Arena and ultimately practice and qualifying on America's Mountain, the Wagners will have converted their dwelling into a full-service operation with home-cooked meals to keep them out of restaurants.
After all, these riders aren't here to just have a good time.
"This is the only road race where a sidecar can compete on a public road," Wood said. "There isn't pressure on us to repeat, but there is pressure. If I don't win, I probably can't make my mortgage payment on the first of next month."
And with two international sidecar teams added to the field this year, the American riders feel a sense of national pride to perform at their best, bolstered by a home-garage advantage.
"We have to defend our title," Diannia Wagner said. "It's like a reunion, too. Last year, one of them had to win. With more competition from France and Japan this year, the stakes are raised. There is camaraderie, but they want to beat each other on the hill."