Racers rage in Wild Rockies season debut

By Lloyd Marble
What a great start for the 1998 mountain bike race season. The Red Rock Desert Rampage on Saturday, March 7 was a awesome beginning.

Just getting there was an adventure, with 6 to 8 inches of new snow falling between Fillmore and Ceder City. The storm came in suddenly on Friday catching a lot of riders on their way to the race. Just 20 minutes away from St George we were still in deep snow and wondering if there would be a race at all. We did not get to town until 3 am it was a nice thing to rest in our beds that night.

The morning was bright and sunny which made it easier to pry our tired bodies out of bed, with the good outlook of a great day of riding. The riders turned out in large numbers even with the bad weather. There were 251 riders counted on the final time results sheet. The bike shop sponsoring race was the Red Rock Bicycling Co. Owned and operated by Glen Ames, Greg Ames and Ken Johnson, they helped in the planing of the race. Everyone was talking about how smooth and fast the trail was. The trail winds through the desert between alternating single track and jeep roads. There was even a nice drop off jump on the downhill side of the small loop. The course was two loops, a long 13-mile loop and a shorter 7-mile loop. Depending on what category you were in determined how many laps and which loops you raced on. The Pro Men did one big loop and two small loops for a total of 27 miles. While the pro women did one of each for a total of 20 miles.

The results of the Pro Expert men were first place Bart Gillespie 1:48:02, second place Tim Brown 1:49:19 and third Art O'Connor 1:50:08. The pro expert women top three were Lynda Wallenfels 1:32:55 second place Mindy Gillespie 1:37:28 and third Jennifer Tribe 1:43:06.

"I really didn't want to be alone on the first lap but that is how it ended up," Gillespie said. "I was just riding my own speed and looked back and had a gap so I decided I would keep on riding my own pace, I thought they might catch me on some of the flat windy sections because I sometimes struggle on those parts. I tried to go up the climbs fast and it worked out."

When I asked him what his best biking experience was? He said "I'd probably say mountain biking with my wife. She races pro expert and she also won second place today. It was a blast on our honeymoon because all we did was ride, I feel pretty fortunate." I am sure we all wish we had a training partner for life.

Brown said a really fun part for him was the drop off jump on the downhill side of the small loop. "You could really launch it if you hit the far left side. The climb up really separated everybody out, whoever could climb the fastest won today."

O'Connor said "it is just great to be back racing again. It was a long winter and the first race of the year you never really know how things are going to work out. So it is good to know that I am not too far off the back end at this point. Coming out to these races every week and the Cannonade Cup in general I think we are really lucky to have such a great series here. The whole experience is what I look forward too, and getting together with your buddies."

Wallenfels, a local St George racer who knows the course like the back of her hand, said "I just enjoy being healthy and able to bike all the time, I admire anyone who gets on their bike and tries, this is such a great sport." She was a little disappointed however because at the last minute her race was cut short by one lap and she wanted to do more, hoping for a bit of training for the upcoming season.

Mindy Gillespie said that her "husband Bart is her inspiration. She had been doing a lot of running and when they met she started racing bikes and loved it so she was hooked."

She also had a very different race than the rest of the riders because early in the race she lost one of her contacts and that threw her vision out the window. Not being able to see the signs, she had to ask people for directions. On the plus side, the downhill was not so scary and she was able to go faster.

Tribe said "the race was going well until her seat slipped and was wrenching my back, but I finished the race and I was pretty proud of myself. I was really hoping to stay up with Lynda the whole race but, oh well, it is early in the season. Besides the problem with my seat it was a great race, great course, great weather. These people put on an awesome race down here."

So as you can see the first race of the season was a great start and awesome fun for all involved. A big thanks from all of us to Red Rock Bicycle Co. and all who helped pull of this great race in sunny St. George.