While many kids his age huddle over a joystick, trying to reach the next level of the latest video game, 14-year-old Massimo Lucidi can often be found hunched over the handlebars of his carbon fiber racing bike, trying to reach the top of some steep Laguna street.
“When it comes to electronic toys and all that, [Massimo’s] not much interested in that. He’s interested in gardening and he’s interested in cycling,” said avid cyclist and family friend Dennis Barcelo.
As a member of Irvine-based Rokform Junior Cycling Team’s 13-14 age group, Massimo finished fifth out of 42 riders in the 2012-13 SoCal Cup point standings. He won the Peninsula Hill Climb in Rolling Hills Estates and the Hotter Than Hell Hill Climb, a 15-mile, 10,000-foot trek up Mt. Baldy. He recently signed a contract to compete for Rokform’s Junior Elite “B” Racing Team for the 2013-14 season. “For his age and his size, he’s an incredible climber,” said Jeff Shein, team coordinator.
More than three years ago, Barcelo convinced Massimo’s father Richard to enter his son in a time trial on Thanksgiving morning in Corona. It was there that Massimo and his father met Shein, who often attends those events looking to help people “who look lost,” he said. The Lucidis fit the bill, and Shein offered the up-and-coming 10-year-old a spot on what was then the Sho-air Junior Cycling Team. “I’m so happy that they joined us,” said Shein.
Massimo went on to finish second out of 29 riders in the 2011 SoCal Cup standings. He entered 15 events that season, finishing in the top five in 13 and winning three, including the Mt. Whitney Stage Race, a demanding event that takes riders on brutal climbs of 7,100 and 6,000 feet over two days and 58 miles. “Massimo was up there climbing like crazy,” said Shein. “As young as he was and as small as he is, he did great climbing those grades.”
On tough climbs Massimo admits, “I sometimes feel like I’m not going to make it.” So to keep his focus, “I think about being at the top,” he said.
When Barcelo and Massimo first began riding together, “I saw something that was completely different than most kids,” said Barcelo, who still marvels at what his diminutive protégé is able to do. “In cycling, the longer your legs are, the stronger your torque is,” he said. “So he has to work twice as hard to keep up with everybody else.”
But when it comes to climbing, smaller can be better, according to Shein. “The advantage is you have less weight to haul up the mountain,” he said. “The disadvantage is you have less muscle mass to propel you up that mountain.”
Massimo’s leg strength gives him a power-to-weight ratio that allows him to keep up with and beat bigger competitors, an advantage he’ll need this season when he moves up to the 15-16 age group. Two-year age groupings for SoCal Cup races are based on calendar year. That means Massimo, who won’t be 15 until next December, will have to race against 15 and 16-year-olds for the entire season.
A sympathetic Shein understands the challenges that Massimo faces. “There’s one 13-year-old who has like a beard and a mustache,” he chuckled.
“They all develop at different rates at this age. You try to make the most of it,” said Massimo’s father. In the end, “there’s a certain balance that ultimately nature is going to provide for you.”
In a town of surfers, skateboarders and mountain bikers, the self-driven cyclist usually finds himself alone as he takes on Park Avenue, Nyes Place and Temple Hills every chance he gets. Those local training climbs help Massimo maintain a balance between school and life. “He’s far more satisfied the days that he rides,” his father said.
“He understands life at a very different level than a child of that age,” said Barcelo. “I think he’s going to be a very extraordinary kid when he grows up.”
Barcelo also thinks the sky’s the limit for Massimo the cyclist. “He has an abundance of energy. It’s just a matter of him getting his confidence up and this kid can be a superstar.”
Whatever the future holds for Massimo in the long term, he hopes to improve his skills enough in the next few years to travel with Shein and a hand-picked group of 17-year-old elite riders to Belgium, where they will compete against the worlds best in the “center of cycling,” said Shein. “It’s a whole different world over there.”