view current print edition




D'Arrigo Bros. salesman

Greg Heinz competes in mountain bike races on a white and pink mountain bike. The bike has pink cables, and Mr. Heinz accessorizes with pink gloves and pink glasses.

Pink is the color used by the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, most often seen with its pink ribbon logo. Breast cancer awareness is a cause that Mr. Heinz's employer -- Salinas, CA-based D'Arrigo Bros. Co. of California -- has actively supported for years. In fact, D'Arrigo has a popular, decades-old "Andy Boy" label that is pink.

In addition to supporting the cause of breast cancer, Mr. Heinz's pink bike is a nod to his playful side. But however the color is construed, it is working because Mr. Heinz rapidly is climbing the ranks of the mountain-biking circuit.

He is very familiar with nearby Watsonville-based California Giant Berry Farms' road racing cycling team and its racing jerseys denoting Cal Giant. Though he does not sport a comparable D'Arrigo Bros. jersey, in 2009 he will be part of a 16-member racing team for Monterey, CA-based business Joselyn's Bicycles. Joselyn's Bicycles is the team's title sponsor, and D'Arrigo Bros. Co. of California is a co-sponsor. The team's jerseys sport D'Arrigo's "Andy Boy" logo with a breast cancer ribbon.

The Joselyn's Bicycles team will participate in a local nine-race Central Coast Cyclo-cross series. This year, Mr. Heinz will jump to the rank of professional and will compete as a pro in the local races and as an amateur in the national races. He hopes to race strictly as a pro by mid-2009 or 2010.

The mountain-bike racing season is about to get underway, and a Feb. 15 race will be Mr. Heinz's first since October.

The 25-year-old Salinas native works in sales at D'Arrigo Bros. and handles green onions, Brussels sprouts and fennel, though "I've handled all commodities at one time or other," he said.

Mr. Heinz graduated from California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo in 2006 with a bachelor of arts degree in agricultural systems management and a minor in agricultural business. He got his start at D'Arrigo Bros. while in college, working as a cooler dispatcher for one summer and a foreman in the cooler another summer.

In mid-May, Mr. Heinz placed first in the 25-to-29-year-old expert division in the prestigious Sea Otter Classic mountain bike race held in Monterey, CA. In mid-July, he placed fifth out of 30 racers in the 25-to 29-year-olds expert division at the U.S. Nationals held at Mount Snow, VT.

"California [racing] is drier. Vermont is very slick," Mr. Heinz said. "I crashed five times in the nationals."

He has a racing coach -- Chris Burnham -- whom he credits for showing him how to get more benefit out of training with less effort.

In addition to biking, Mr. Heinz enjoys wakeboarding, snow skiing and snowboarding. He played water polo on a club team at Cal Poly.

What makes Mr. Heinz's bike racing accomplishments all the more impressive is that he's had asthma since he was three years old. When he was five or six, his parents sent him to an asthma camp hosted by Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital.

"The camp teaches you how to control it," Mr. Heinz said of his asthma. "It teaches you how to live with it. I carry an inhaler when I race and when I ride."

Battling the effects of asthma and allergies has him on a regimen of 40-45 pills per week. He has to send paperwork detailing his medications to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to make sure he is in compliance with its rules governing road racing.

"It's really hard to make a living in the United States as a bike racer," Mr. Heinz said, adding that racing entry fees can cost as much as $100. To make serious money in professional racing, athletes have to rank in the top five, he said.

With that in mind, Mr. Heinz plans to remain in fresh produce sales. "For cycling, I couldn't work for a better family," Mr. Heinz said, adding that John D'Arrigo, president and chief executive officer of D'Arrigo Bros. Co. of California, also is an avid cyclist.

Mr. Heinz's sister, Leslie Heinz, is marketing manager at D'Arrigo Bros. Co. of California. His father, Ed Heinz, works for Smurfit-Stone Container Corp., which supplies cartons to D'Arrigo Bros.

Mr. Heinz has never sustained serious injuries while riding, but he's broken at least a half-dozen helmets by hitting trees and rocks, he said.

In the event of an accident, he carries his cell phone with him while riding. "I hit a squirrel and broke my wheel" in one crash incident, Mr. Heinz said. "The squirrel got off scot-free. It cost me $50."