Joy in the Purest Sense: Ventura’s Cycling Superfan, Lorelle Dawes

lorelle ventura amgen cabrillo middle school

by Visit Ventura

The biggest professional cycling race in America is coming to town on May 16th, and when it does, one of the biggest cycling fans in Ventura will absorb every colorful, lung-searing second.

“I love that teams come from all around the world,” says Lorelle Dawes, who, along with being an unabashed cycling fan, doubles as Principal of Cabrillo Middle School. “I love that the cyclists all share a common language, that they have this common endeavor, and they work so hard to accomplish it.”

It might be argued that, regarding effort and endurance, even the seven-stage, 777-mile Amgen Tour of California pales in comparison with being a middle school principal, but Dawes, being a middle school principal, is moving too fast to stop to consider this. Though on May 16th, stop to gawk she will, as some of the best men’s and women’s riders in the world will swoop through her hometown streets.

“I’ve lived my whole life here,” says Dawes. “To have the best athletes in the world here, that just doesn’t happen in Ventura every day.”

But nooooooooo, an educator can’t just stand still and watch. In 2016, the first year the Amgen Tour of California came to town, Dawes helped orchestrate a seemingly simple display that grabbed the cycling world’s attention; all 900 students (and Cabrillo staff) sitting down on the athletic field to spell out an enormous “Ventura” visible (and filmed by drone) from the air. But the real magic was on the ground. The students held themselves in check for just as long as was required, then made a crazed dash for the fences to see the passing cyclists.

“Just watching them running over to the fence to watch the race, this surge of wonderful, youthful energy, it was just so amazing,” Dawes says. “It was joy in the purest sense. And the riders said they felt it. It shows what a difference a group of people can make.”

Like any wise educator, Dawes also realizes that, while the fireworks are grand, it’s what happens after the smoke drifts away that matters.

“Seeing something like this, it really kind of makes the world a little smaller place,” says Dawes. “This race, it brings the world to these kids. It might inspire them too. Not all of them, but some. I think the idea of dreaming big, of deciding on a goal and following it through, of just being your best, and your best is good enough; I think we can all learn from these things. We can all learn and grow from seeing greatness.”

And how will Dawes cope after the Amgen Tour of California has passed through her hometown?

She’s heading to France with her wife Amy (an avid cyclist too) to see the Tour de France, live, for the very first time.

Magic does possess a smile.

“We’re just going to stand by the roadside in the little towns… and then maybe ride a segment.” Dawes’ voice trails off. “That would be awesome.”

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