Canadian Cyclist


April 20/98 8:52 am - O-Cup Update, Willamette Final

Posted by Editor on 04/20/98

Ontario Road Cup #3 Update (courtesy the organizer)

The local municipality has refused me permission to organize this race on the Ravenna circuit. You will recall that there were problems two years ago but I hoped that these had died down by now. My choices were (municipality's suggestions) do a Time Trial (where the riders go off one at a time - I never knew that), no rolling enclosure for a road race and the competitors ride no more than two abreast or go to Mosport where I might be more socially acceptable! Nice guys.

Anyway, all is not lost. I will send further details later but this is a pre-announcement for riders that we have a course using the Beaver Valley and the Epping Lookout road. This is a combination of the Blue Mountain Grand Prix, the Owen Sound Grand Prix and a bit of Ravenna backwards (on regional roads - where we are welcome).

The race will start just south of Thornbury and the circuit is 40km in length. Men will complete 3 laps and women 2. It will be a tough race.

Because of the length of the course, I shall allow an extended caravan (police permitting) and issue maps of how spectators and supporters can cut across the course to see the riders more than once per lap. I would be interested in hearing from anyone who would be willing to work in the caravan or be a motorcycle marshall. They can e-mail me at

Willett, Pryde Hang On To Win Mercury Tour of Willamette Titles
(courtesy USA Cycling)

Report by David Morgan

EUGENE, Ore. -- The Mercury Tour of Willamette wrapped up Sunday with the dramatic and unexpectedly difficult Greenhill Technology Park Criterium.

Buffeted by strong winds from the north, the wide-open, flat course bared its teeth and kept everyone guessing until the announcer provided the final results.

The men‚s stage winner was decided early when Mike McCarthy (Saturn) joined Michael Barry (Canadian National Team) in a breakaway that lapped the field and put McCarthy across in first and Barry in second place, both with a time of 1:35.40.

But the battle for the overall winner was far from over. It would come down to Kirk Willett (Mercury), the overall leader at the start of the day and Brian Walton (Saturn), who trailed by only four seconds overall.

The 90-minute and then five lap race would continue with the seven-strong Mercury squad dominating the tempo throughout the majority of the race, allowing some riders to break off, but denying the Saturn team any opportunity to sustain an attack.

Several times Walton and other Saturn team members appeared to attack, but each time the Mercury team picked up and regained control. With McCarthy and Barry having lapped the field and carrying a one and a half minute lead, the first and second slots with the respective 15 and 10 second time bonuses were taken. That left only the third place time bonus of five seconds available. It would be just enough to put Walton in the lead if he could get away and take third place in front of Willett.

That‚s when a U.S. National Team member, David Zabriskie, threw a wrench at an already tenuous Saturn position. Zabriskie went out alone and led the rest of the field, and with just five laps to go looked as if he might stay away and take third, along with the precious time bonus. However, as the clock ticked down and the final lap arrived, the field had closed in and devoured Zabriskie.

Walton needed third to win the overall, even if Willett finished with the same time. The five-second time bonus was the key. Anyone else takes it and Willett wins. Everyone launched and the pace on the backstretch went ballistic.

The sprint to the finish was furious, and it looked close. Walton led Willett. Bikes rocked back and forth beneath the racers as they gave everything. And then it was over.

Gord Fraser (Mercury), the man that Willett had said yesterday "would be waiting to give me the turbo there at the last if it‚s ever needed" did that and more by rocketing past Walton and Willett to wrap up third for the stage and keep Willett on top. Walton finished fourth and Willett took fifth. The main sprinting pack finished with a time of 1:37.10.

"We let guys go that we wanted to let go, that weren‚t dangerous, and let them have the time bonuses," Willett said. "With Gord up there, they‚d have had to out-sprint Gord and me to get the time bonus. So I just had to sit on Walton‚s wheel and finish with him. The team did it all. I did nothing."

A determined but subdued Walton explain the Saturn strategy: "When Michael (McCarthy) was out there, we wanted to actually bridge up to him, and then all of a sudden it was too much, they are going for the win, we‚ve got to sort of wait," he said. "The last three days took its toll on everybody, there were a couple of individuals still fresh, but not enough to break the Mercury train. They have seven guys in control and we‚re here with five. It was a damn good effort on my team, I can‚t complain. I think that we showed who the strongest riders were here. Mercury was lucky."

It was a dramatic finish to wrap up five days of world-class bicycle racing. After 15 hours, 11 minutes and 43 seconds, Willett, of Pullman, Wash., had taken the title of overall winner of the 1998 Mercury Tour of Willamette by the narrowest of margins. Walton finished just four seconds back.

The women‚s event carried its own drama. Susy Pryde of Auckland, New Zealand and riding for Saeco/Timex, captured the overall title by finishing in the lead pack and not allowing Tammy Jacques, of Clif Bar to take a time bonus.

Pryde‚s teammate Kendra Wenzel of McKenzie Bridge, Ore., showed the field what she can do on the flats. For nearly half of the race Wenzel was off the front, building as much as a 18-second lead. It was an impressive show of force on a beyond blustery day. The main group finally chased her down, but she dropped back in to bide her time. She was rested and ready for the charge to the finish where she accelerated to win in 1:04.36, the same time as the lead group. Nicole Freedman (Shaklee) took second place.

Stage Four, Criterium


1. MIKE MCCARTHY (SATURN), New York, N.Y., 1:35:40
2. Michael Barry (Canadian National Team), s.t.
3. Gord Fraser (Mercury), Ottawa, Ont., Canada, at 1:30
4. Brian Walton (Saturn), N. Delta, B.C., Canada, s.t.

5. Kirk Willett (Mercury), Pullman, Wash., both s.t.


1. KIRK WILLETT (MERCURY), Pullman, Wash., 15:11:43
2. Brian Walton (Saturn), N. Delta, B.C., Canada, at 0:04
3. Greg Randolph (GT), Durango, Colo., 0:28
4. Ron Schmeer (NutraFig), Seattle, Wash., 0:33
5. Roy Knickman (Mercury), Colorado Springs, Colo., 1:24

9. Michael Barry (Canadian National Team), 2:19
10. Gord Fraser (Mercury), Ottawa, Ont., Canada, 2:28
13. Peter Wedge (Canadian National Team), 3:17
14. Mark Walters (Mercury), Blackstock, Ont., Canada; 3:18
16. Matt Anand (Mercury), 4:23


1. KENDRA WENZEL (SAECO-TIMEX), McKenzie Bridge, Ore., 1:04:36
2. Nicole Freedman (Shaklee), Palo Alto, Calif.
3. Dede Demet (Saturn), Boulder, Colo.
4. Julie Hanson (Saturn), Boulder, Colo.
5. Stacey Peters (LeMond-Bike Gallery), Portland, Ore. all s.t.


1. SUSY PRYDE (SAECO-TIMEX), Auckland, New Zealand, 11:08:32
2. Tammy Jacques (Clif Bar), Carbondale, Colo., at 0:10
3. Dede Demet (Saturn), Boulder, Colo., 1:13
4. Ward Griffiths (Safeway-Saturn), Seattle, Wash.; 1:36
5. Louisa Jenkins (Shaklee), Boulder, Colo., s.t.
6. Linda Jackson (Saeco-Timex), Nepean, Ont., Canada; 1:38

8. Cybil Diguistini (Elita), Victoria, B.C., Canada, 4:27


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