I spotted the post on the vintage board about the Keysville Classic and suddenly realized that it's been ten years since one of our sports first stars was tragically taken from us during practice for the downhill. Jake had scoped out a steep rock section and saw that if he carried his speed he could clear the roughest part. He waited for a break in the practice traffic before launching himself, his friends there said that he had a good fifteen feet of air under his tires. He landed on the dirt but the impact launched him over the bike and he landed hard, his abdomen against a rock, resulting in his fatal injuries.
I'll always remember the first time I met Jake. It was on the chairlift at "Downhill Mania" at Big Bear in'93, the year that it snowed. I was covering the event for Velo News and on the chair with Jake and I was Hans Rey (he raced some downhill back then). I was asking both riders questions and Hans, being Hans, was giving me smart ass answers. Jake finally told him "Lighten up Hans, the guy's just trying to do his job!" Jake was a gentleman and a gentle giant and is still missed. As his best friend "Insane" Wayne Croasdale said at the funeral, "Jake had a heart as big as his feet." I'm proud to have known him.
There's a memorial site for him, www.jakewatson.com
From Wikepedia: Jake Watson (December 5, 1973 – March 12, 1999) Known for his massive frame, Watson was given the nickname "Earthquake" early into his cycling, carrying the name to the top on podiums throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. Tragically 'Earthquake' Jake Watson lost his life during downhill practice for California’s Keysville Classic as a result of his injuries sustained in a crash. As a tribute to Watson's contributions, a major bicycle manufacture released a frame series in 1999, entitled "Quake". Watson died March 12 1999, at the age of twenty five.
FROM THE MEMORIAL SITE:My Last Day With Jake, by Michael Gonzalez
Keyesville was peacful and warm. Jake, Gina and Clyde pulled in just behind me. I was very happy to see them. It was great seeing Jake and Gina together having fun. We started up the mounain one car behind the other. Robbie, Scott, Paul and myself in front. Driving behind us was Jake, Gina and of course Clyde, Jake's dog.
We soon got to the top of the mountain to take the first run. Gina got back into the truck and started back down the mountain, but with one thing missing - Clyde!
"He's going to practice with us", says Jake. We all laughed and started down the mountain one after another with Clyde "running interference". After a while Jake lost us. He was so fast - "Go Champ!"
Later I caught up with him. We exchanged a couple of RRRAAWWW's and LA-LA's. He at the bottom of the mountain and me at the top. I rode down to where he was practicing a section of the race course. We laughed and greeted each other with high fives.
We were having the greatest time that day. The weather was perfect, sunny, clear and warm. The mood was exciting yet peaceful. Jake always had a way of making you feel comfortable and relaxed. His attitude was so positive and the dedication to being the best was in his eyes. I would have to say that Jake was glowing. He was electric. He looked like he was in is element and enjoying every minute of it.
As I sat on the boulder next to the one from which he launched from, I shared a few words with a woman. A beautiful woman with fair skin and blue eyes. She had sandy blond hair and a friendly smile as she looked me in the eyes. We commented on how picturesque the view of Lake Isabella & the valley surrounding was. It was absolutely spectacular. What a view it was with the sun shining bright on God's country,
We talked about Jake's jump and acknowledged the level of difficulty. She spoke softly to me and I remember her words so clearly.
"If he does this he will transcend to another level", she says.
I didn't ask what she meant by her comment, but only digested her words and focused on Jake. The beautiful, colorful "Earthquake Jake" as we all know and love.
I will always picture his smiling face and hear his funny laugh. He was a happy person and touched many people in a positive way. I will miss him greatly. We will all miss him.
My heart is filled with his love and enthusiasm for the gifts God has given us. I pray that the Lord will take care of him as well as all of us until we can be together again.
I love you, Jake
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