cycling utah July 1999
Littlefield, Albert claim "Over The Top" titles
By Paul Quinlan
Ryan Littlefield (Rhodes) and Heather Albert (Nissan) both used dominant performances in stage one, the infamous "Over the Top" from Kamas to Evanston, to secure overall victory in the men's and women's Pro 1, 2 categories respectively in the High Uintas Classic, June 19-20.
Despite competition from a big purse criterium funded by the USCF that kept many Colorado riders home, over 220 riders started this 11th edition of the race. This race ypically benefits from an unusual degree of cooperation among the diverse agencies and organizations necessary to hold a multi-stage cycling event in two states.
MEN'S PRO 1, 2
Make the winning break in the 80-mile first stage over the Mirror Lake Highway from Kamas to Evanston and you have a chance to win on Sunday. Surround yourself with as many buddies as possible to hammer the always hot and windy descent to the finish and place in the money. Enjoy the scenery and real beer.
While these thoughts floated through the field as it rolled east towards Bald Mountain Pass, former dirt boy John Osguthorpe (Rhodes) launched a typical early attack that was joined by teammate Littlefield and Chris Humbert (9th and 9th), and Logan standout Jamie Thomson.
Feeling left out as the twice former-champion Littlefield and the returned Euro Star Humbert rode away, X-Men Thomas Cooke and Tim Brown waited until Murdock Basin at the 22-mile mark to put it in the big ring and start churning. "What a beautiful view" came the wail from the shredded field.
Only Joel Kath (9th and 9th), Art O'Connor (Rhodes), Brad Buccambuso (Logan), former winner Rick Sorenson, and pro mountain biker Peter Swenson could hang on as they went over the pass three minutes behind the leaders. The leaders, by agreement, gave the King of the Mountain award and time bonus to the aggressive Osguthorpe.
With Kath and O'Connor more or less enjoying the view (or perhaps a cold one), the gap grew to four minutes by the second feed zone at mile 50.
"I guilted Joel and Art into working after the second feed," lamented the always animated Cooke, "but our organization really fell apart."
Indeed, Littlefield took the sprint from Humbert and put just over five minutes on the chasers, including Thomson, who suffered his first bit of bad luck, flatting 15 miles from the finish to fall out of the lead group. Kath nipped Brown in the chase group's sprint for fourth.
The individual time trial on Sunday morning was held on a flat out-and-back nine-mile course just north of downtown. With the top three spots in G.C. already set, the focus was on the battle for fourth, not to mention bragging rights and a side bet here and there.
It's unknown whether Brad Buccambuso had any action going, but brag he can, after smoking the field despite throwing his chain and stopping to fix it. The stage win moved him into fourth in G.C., while Brown was two seconds back to move into fifth.
Starting the day with a five-second lead on birthday boy Humbert, Littlefield clocked the third fastest time of the morning, ten seconds in back of Buccambuso, and extended his lead over Humbert to 43 seconds.
"I had some problems adjusting to the altitude," said Humbert, who no doubt was also somewhat jet lagged, having just returned from Switzerland four days earlier.
Humbert loved the criterium course in downtown Evanston, the site of the final stage on Sunday afternoon. "It reminds me of back east, through neighborhoods instead of a parking lot," said the Buffalo native.
With the leaders in GC marking one another to prevent any breakaways that would upset the standings, the speed was steady for most of the 20 laps of the 1.3 mile course. Travis Tenney's (Rhodes) failed solo break provided some excitement in mid-race, as did a pair of solo crashes. First, Brown's front wheel flatted with six laps to go and stacked it en route to the pit. Then, with three to go, Thomson flew off course on the high speed finishing straight. Although his bike was totaled, he managed to climb aboard and finish.
Brown came flying out of the pit and together with teammate Cooke, closed down a break containing O'Connor and Sorenson, before attacking at the bottom of the climb on the final lap. Littlefield and Humbert exchanged looks, then searched for teammates willing to chase, but by then it was too late and Brown had the stage win, securing fourth overall. Buccambuso sprinted in for second and fifth in GC. The top three in GC, Littlefield, Humbert, and Osguthorpe all finished in the pack to maintain their positions.
Although he was disappointed with the criterium results, Littlefield was extremely pleased with posting his first victory of 1999, not counting the Tuesday and Wednesday night "World Cup" Crit Series. "There's more to climbing than just being fit," said Ryan, who attributes what he called an "attitude adjustment" to getting dropped by seldom seen Steve Johnson on the Morgan loop.
WOMEN'S 1, 2, 3
Team Nissan's Heather Albert and Daphne Wilhelm rode the rest of the field off their wheels on the climb to Bald Mountain Pass, then worked together to keep a gap on a powerful chase group to finish 1-2 in Saturday's first stage.
The chasers worked together to keep the Nissan riders close, and were led across the line by Laura Howat (9th and 9th), followed by teammate Laura Humbert, Teresa Eggertsen (X-Woman), and Jessica Phillips. Their collective effort paid off, keeping the margin at 70 seconds heading into Sunday's events.
Howat, however, was less than optimistic about her chances to move up in GC. "I would have a better chance if the TT had a climb," commented Laura while ordering her favorite power food.
She was right, sinking to seventh in the TT that was captured by Jill Wilkerson (Rhodes). Albert maintained her lead in GC with a second place finish, while Humbert took third and moved into third overall, one minute behind Wilhelm, who was fourth in the TT.
It would take a successful break by Humbert in the crit to topple the two leaders, but Albert and Wilhelm would have none of that. Also working against Humbert was the ridiculously short distance of the final stage, eight laps, for a total time of 25 minutes; no time to make anything happen. With three laps to go, Albert countered a move by Wilhelm and sped away for the win. Wilhelm managed to hold-off Humbert for second.
The overall quality of the races impressed chief race official Gary Bywater, "Everyone is racing faster and harder, particularly the women. They made the race competitive the whole way," he observed.
MASTER MEN 35+
As expected, the Master's race came down to a dual between longtime rivals and former teammates Mark Schaefer and Dirk Cowley (9th and 9th). Together they put nearly 13 minutes on the field in Saturday's road race, before Cowley grabbed the win and time bonus.
"I set the pace on the climb," said Schaefer, "and Dirk set it on the descent. We've ridden together so often, we can get really close and fly." Yeah, Baby! The race ended up being decided with Schaefer's win by 23 seconds over Cowley in the TT. Once again, a break would be needed in the final stage crit.
Unfortunately for Dirk, the break included his teammate Terry McGinnis, not him. Knowing that Cowley's Mi Duole team would be angling for time bonus sprints, Schaefer gambled and attacked; only McGinnis responded. Terry then dumped the overall winner on the final lap to claim victory in the crit and secure third in GC.