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March 8/98 9:04 am - Redlands Stage 4 Report


Posted by Editor on 03/8/98
 

What a difference a day makes! by Ed Schum

Moving from yesterday's snowy mountaintop finish at nearly 5000 foot elevation to the center of downtown Redlands under blue skies and bright sunshine was a change the riders and spectators appreciated and welcomed.

This 1 mile, 9 corner course is the best site for a criterium I've ever seen. If more bike races were held in a location like this we could turn bicycle racing into a popular spectators' sport. The course today was solidly lined with people, in some places several deep. It is difficult to judge the exact number but it was easily several thousand. The experienced team of announcers, including the now retired cycling legend Davis Phinney, kept the spectators informed and entertained. (Something that is really lacking in most races in Canada). Taking the race right into downtown is something Canadian race organizers should try to copy. While it may be easier to move out into deserted industrial areas to hold criteriums, if we want to get exposure, spectators and increased sponsorship, we have to take the races to where the people are.

The racing here was fast and exciting. The course was fast and technical and while it was possible to get away it was very difficult to stay away. The women's race, lasting 60 minutes, started at a fairly fast pace. Nothing much happened in the early going with the exception of one to two riders going off the end every lap or so. At the 24 minute mark Canadian race leader Clara Hughes rolled a tire in turn one. She ran a distance pushing her bike, then managed to roll the tire back on and got to the pit. There she was given a change and got back into the pack. Clara says that at that time she was told that she was given a free lap. Just a couple of laps later Clara was involved in a crash. She was able to get up and get her bike to the pit to have a bent wheel replaced. When she, after the wheel was changed, tried to ride off, it was discovered that her frame was broken. She was given a spare bike but the pedals did not fit Clara's shoes, so she rode on it to Pit #2 to where her own spare bike had been left. After getting on it she re-joined the pack and assumed everything was all right. So did everyone else, including the announcers and spectators who were applauding and complimenting Clara's great efforts in catching back on.

The race saw many short lived breaks, all chased down by the powerhouse teams. Clara and her Saturn team had the race under full control. Canada's mountain bike ace Alison Sydor was always to be seen at or very near the front taking a very active role in the race. Most other Canadians, while looking more or less comfortable in the pack did not seem to have the experience, the strength or the speed to really make an impact on the outcome of the race.

With five laps to go, Saturn's Dede Demet made one more attempt to go it alone, gained as much as 12 seconds on the bunch but was caught with three laps to go. From there on the pace was too high for break aways and everyone was fighting for position for the final sprint. Saturn confirmed their dominating role in women's cycling by placing Karen Kurreck first, Clara Hughes second and Dede Demet third. Or at least so everyone thought. When the commissaires investigated Clara Hughes' flat and mechanical problems, it was decided that her rolled tire was not mechanical problem eligible for a free lap and she was scored at one lap down. One lap is approximately 2:20 minutes, which meant the loss of the yellow jersey for Clara. It also meant that Dede Demet moved up to second place for the stage and Kendra Wenzel (Saeco Timex) into third.

Women's Criterium top 10:

1. Karen Kurreck Saturn
2. Dede Demet Saturn
3. Kendra Wenzel Saeco/Timex
4. Carmen Richardson Volvo Cannondale
5. Aleka Skouras Ralph's Klein
6. Mari Holden US National
7. Nicole Reinhart Shaklee
8. Pam Schuster Saeco/Timex
9. Julie Young Fanini
10.Julie Hanson Saturn

Top Canadians

18. Alison Sydor
20. Chrissy Redden
25. Lesley Thomlinson
30. Mandy Poitras
31. Trish Sinclair
37. Melanie McQuaid
46. Linda Jackson
52. Annie Gariepy
54. Leah Goldstein
57. Cybil Diguistini all same time as winner

Top 10 GC

1. Mari Holden 6:29:17
2. Pam Schuster @ 0:22
3. Alison Dunlap 0:34
4. Leigh Hobson 0:39
5. Alison Sydor 0:40
6. Linda Jackson 0:46
7. Julie Young 1:35
8. Karen Kurreck 1:40
9. Sue Palmer 1:41
10.Tammy Jacques 1:58
11.Clara Hughes 2:07

other Canadians

19. Lesley Thomlinson 4:57
21. Melanie McQuade 5:12
22. Chrissy Redden 5:36
29. Trish Sinclair 6:41
32. Annie Gariepy 7:21
43. Cybil Diguistini 8:48
48. Leah Goldstein 9:52
52. Kim Langton 11:06
54. Mandy Poitras 12:12
62. Stacey Spencer 15:15
69. Karen Timewell 19:30
74. Sophie St-Jacques 22:21
78. Marg Fedyna 36:25
86. Kirsten Kotval 55:44

The men's crit started at a very fierce pace and got even faster as time went on. This was the largest criterium field I've ever seen. When 200 riders are strung out in mostly single file at over 45k/h there is more than 30 seconds from the first rider to the last. A truly impressive sight!

Right from the beginning it was clear that the Mercury team, including Canadian Gord Fraser, was out to put their mark on this race. They were riding tempo with mostly three to four Merc's pulling at the front of the pack. Several break attempts were short lived due to the blazing speed of the race. Canadian riders I noticed as being most active in the race were Gord Fraser, Eric Wohlberg and Keith Stark. Andreas Hestler seemed to be quite comfortable in the top third of the pack with Roland Green hanging on 10 to 20 places behind him. Other Canadians have to excuse me if I missed them. With so many riders moving at such high speed it was impossible to pick out more than a few.

In spite of the furious pace there were many break attempts. At the 35 minute mark of the race it was Julian Dean of Oilme who was able to stay away for two laps before being reeled in. Then Mercury's David Clinger teamed up with Mark McCormick (Saturn) and Todd Littlehales (Navigators) and two unidentified riders and gained as much as 18 seconds before being caught three laps later. During this phase of the race Canadian TT champion Eric Wohlberg (Shaklee) was seen very active in getting into several short breaks and in chasing other breaks down for his team. This type of action continued right through the event but the pace was just too high and the competition too strong to allow anything to 'stick'. During all this time 'Postman' Jonathan Vaughters, carrying the race leader's jersey was safely surrounded by his team mates and seemed never in danger to lose his lead in G.C.

In the last lap it was the Mercury team who had the strongest riders and the best strategy. There were four of them at the front with two corners to go. Roy Knickman led out Gord Fraser into the last turn and from there on Gord was gone. He beat Roberto Gaggioli and teammate John Peters to the line. Next best Canadian finishers was Mark Walters (16), Eric Wohlberg (31) Keith Stark (39).

Eric Wohlberg's comment about the race: It was absolute insanity. There were way too many people on such a tight course. His team's strategy was to keep everything together and set up sprinter Derek Bouchard-Hall. In the end this strategy failed due to the lack of enough strong legs in the team.

Keith Stark said that he'd never ridden in a crit with so many riders and at such a high speed. You really had to fight for position. The least bit of hesitation cost you 10 to 20 places. Overall he had a good time and found it surprisingly safe.

Gordon Fraser and his Mercury team were more than happy with the team's performance at the Classic. Their goal was one stage win. They have two wins with one more stage to go. This team is likely to be one of the powerhouses in North American cycling.

Criterium tom 10:

1. Gordon Fraser Mercury
2. Roberto Gaggioli Oilme
3. John Peters Mercury
4. Mike McCarthy Saturn
5. Greg Walker Vegas Cycling
6. Steve Tilford Lords of Dirt
7. Ham Jansen LA Wings
8. Michael Sayers Jeep/Brielle
9. Christian Vande Velde US Postal
10. Eddy Gragus Oilme

Canadians:

16. Mark Walters
31. Eric Wohlberg
39. Keith Stark
50. Yannick Cojan
72. Andreas Hestler
79. Roland Green
94. Scott Price
132. Lucas Curran
164. Tim Hadfield all same time as winner
188. Paul Rego @ 2:36 down

G.C. is virtually unchanged from yesterday with best Canadians Gord Fraser (12), Eric Wohlberg (23), Mark Walters (28), Keith Stark (69).

 


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