"Cycle Salt Lake," the 10-day Salt Lake City celebration of cycling, was kicked off on the evening of May 9 by the R. C. Willey Express Criterium held at Liberty Park. Staged as a showcase of top talent, the evening card was limited to three races: Masters 30+; Pro and Category 1-2 women; and Pro and Category 1-2 men.
Thanks to the numerous primes and several hot spot sprints in each race, the speed was high and the attacks were constant. It was an exciting evening of excellent road racing.
When local racing icon Steve Johnson brought his fellow United States Postal Service (USPS) teammates Jerry Malone and Larry Nolan into town, it appeared they would dominate the 45 riders who lined up at the start of the Masters 30+ race. Dominate they did, as Nolan snatched all of the three hot spot sprints and several of the numerous primes.
However, when the finishing sprint was over, it was Bill Harris and Richard Vroom of MiDuole, the local sponsoring club, capturing the win and second place ahead of Johnson.
With about 7 laps to go, Johnson, Vroom and Joel Kath (Untamed Spirit) rolled off the front and established a dangerous break. Harris, sitting at the back of the pack recovering from a previous attack, recognized this as the winning move.
"With 3 laps to go I knew that was the move and I just had to get across," Harris stated after the race. "I gave everything I had to catch them, and I did not catch them until half a lap to go . . . It was the hardest chase I've had to do in a long time."
As soon as Harris caught Johnson and Vroom, all three just sat until winding it up for the sprint. Vroom made the first move, attacking up one side. As Johnson responded, Harris attacked to Johnson's other side. Unable to counter both moves, Johnson ended up taking third.
In a pleasant break from the past, this event brought together almost 15 strong women racers. With national caliber Heather Albert (Power Bar) present, it appeared riders were marking her and Jill Wilkerson (MiDuole) throughout the race.
Despite numerous attacks and sprints, the field stayed together until the finishing charge. Lisa Flahive (Power Bar) of Las Vegas, conspicuously absent from contesting any of the sprints, successfully challenged the field when it mattered most and snatched the victory in the final sprint from Tana Stone (Northshore) and Suzie Forsytine (MiDuole).
Flahive, in her first season after a 5-year hiatus from racing, felt she was often struggling just to hang on. "Women have really changed because they have gotten so much more aggressive . . . We used to kind of sit in and wait till the final sprint, and now there are teams and they are attacking and trying to do some strategy. It's a lot more fun."
Describing the finish, Flahive stated, "For me it was a big struggle to keep up towards the front and get through all the riders. Again, different riders were attacking and attacking, and I was trying to keep up with them and not get lost off the back. So then I just came around strong in the last 200 meters and there wasn't anybody left. I don't know how that happened. I just went as hard as I could. I put my head down and went for the line, and when I looked up there was no one there."
It was another Las Vegan, Rene Saenz Jr., a track rider with the EDS National Team, stealing the glory from the local favorites. After bridging to a break consisting of two Team Einstein riders, David Zabriskie and Eric Messenger, Saenz easily won the final sprint over Messenger, with Zabriskie trailing in for third.
About 30 minutes into the 90-minute race, Jason Van Marle (Team Einstein) spent several laps on a lone attack off the front. As he was swept up, fellow teammate Zabriskie countered with a solo attack of his own. He was quickly joined by Messenger.
Several laps later, Saenz made his move to bridge up to the Zabriskie/Messenger break. "The Einstein Bagel guys had most of the field there, so I figured the other teammates would block, and if my teammates got in it then it would be pretty good. So I figured it would be the move." Saenz chased for a lap before joining the two leaders. These three then easily moved out to a 1:15 lead.
Bill Harris (MiDuole), feeling strong from his win in the Masters race, then led an attack that included USPS professional Marty Jemison of Salt Lake. Jemison was on a break before returning to Europe to race in the Midi Libre, the Dauphine Libere and hopefully the Tour de France.
Harris and Jemison's attack resulted in a chase group of six riders that dropped the rest of the peloton. But they were unable to make up any significant time.
Meanwhile, Messenger and Zabriskie traded several attacks as they tried to shell Saenz. Saenz successfully countered each move. "I just chased each one of them down. It gets the morale down when you ... don't let them get away."
Ultimately, it was Messenger who tired, however, and Zabriskie had to ride Saenz's wheel for a lap to allow Messenger to recover and catch back on.
Saenz explained his apparent easy victory sprint: "We were going kind of slow, trying to play the cat and mouse game, and . . . I have just been feeling really good so I just led it out from 200 meters." Messenger confirmed Saenz's effortless sprint win when he conceded, "I was just waiting for him to go . . . and he went! He just flat out beat me in the sprint."
With exciting, tactical racing, it was an excellent evening and a good start to the full slate of Cycle Salt Lake events.
Cycle Salt Lake was cycling's centerpiece during the month of May with media events, a century blessed with brilliant weather and a high-profile downtown criterium in the spotlights (literally).
The Einstein Bros. Bagel Downtown Twilight Criterium on Saturday, May 10 drew big fields of racers from around the intermountain west for the excitement of racing in the dark. But there was plenty of excitement for the crowd prior to the main event featuring the Category 1-3 racers.
The racing started at 4 p.m. with Category 5 racing. This entry level field was the largest, next to the Category 1-3. Quintin Apedard (Logan) won the first race of the evening. John Reaksecker (Breakaway) and Kyle Brown (SCRT) were second and third respectively.
Category 4 was the next group to race at 4:45 p.m. and featured a two-man break midway in the race that held on for a two-up sprint to the finish. Robert Kuchik (EDC) took home the $150 prize for first with Paul Quinlan (Untamed Spirit) taking second. Henry Harper (EDC) brought the pack in for third.
The Masters race was decided when a four-man break established itself midway into the race. Chuck Collins (EDC), Dirk Cowley and Mark Schaefer (Mi Duole) and Larry Nolan (USPS) provided the power for the winning move. The group stayed together with Nolan taking the sprint over Cowley and Collins.
The surprise of the night was the quality of the field for the Senior Women's event at 6 p.m. Northshore and Mi Duole fielded strong teams and gaps were filled by talented individuals like Heather Albert of Team Powerbar.
It was clearly evident from the start that Mi Duole and Northshore had come to race. This rivalry along with frequent primes certainly kept the racing intense for the 45 minute race.
Mi Duole got the action going by taking the first prime just two laps into the race when Kacey Rhodes bested her breakaway companion, just 5 seconds ahead of the main pack.
Heather Albert bridged to the two racers just as another prime was announced. Paula Childs of Mi Duole came out of the pack to claim the second prime. Mi Duole liked the sound of the cash register as they seemed focused on taking the primes and they took a $25 prime during the early stages of the race.
At the midway point Vicki Seiler of Mi Duole and Tana Stone of Northshore rode clear of the pack and began to increase the gap. Seiler took a prime at the 21-minute mark as three riders separated themselves from the main pack. Albert was at the front providing the initial burst away from the pack. Of course, Mi Duole (Jill Wilkerson) and Northshore (Laura Tavares) were present to keep tabs on Albert as this trio quickly had a 10-second gap on the field.
Seiler certainly benefited from the effort of the break. She took several primes while the two were off the front. And the effort seemed to solidy their position at the front.
But soon the break numbered five when the breakaway pair was caught by the three chasers. This group quickly got organized and began to increase the gap on the main field.
As the pack began to splinter, the break took the form a finely-tuned machine. At the 17-minute mark the gap stood at 30 seconds and quickly increased to 45 seconds.
With 11 minutes to go, Seiler took a prime and it was obvious the break would not be caught.
Albert tried to power away from the break on several occasions with aggressive moves to the front, but none succeeded in burning anyone off. It appeared this race would be decided in a group sprint.
The frenzy increased on the bell lap as spectators maneuvered at the finish line for the best view of an exciting finish. With everyone leaning into the street watching the final turn onto the finish straight, Northshore's Tana Stone was the first racer to come through. Stone struggled to maintain her advantage through the finish against a hard-charging Wilkerson and teammate Seiler. Her early move proved successful as she held on for the win.
After taking the '96 season off to build a home, Stone was excited about her big win.
"It was a competitive race," Stone said after the race, "lots of team tactics. They (Mi Duole) would attack and we would counter attack and vice versa."
There was some doubt as to her chances during the race. "I was really hurting when we were caught," she recounted, "but I was able to recover.
"It was all I could do to stay on Vicki Seiler's wheel," she said, "Vicki cleaned up on the primes."
With the break staying together until the final lap, Stone planned her strategy based on her abilities. "It was going to be whoever was there at the finish," she said. "I can't sprint so I attacked early, going into the second-to-last corner. It was my only chance."
Stone was impressed by the women's field. "I've been racing since 1985 and this is the best field I've seen, the quality of riders is the best. It seems women's racing is on the upswing in Utah."
Stone will be a member of the Northshore team that competes in the Hewlett Packard Women's Challenge in Idaho, formerly the Powerbar. Mi Duole will also field a team for this prestigious event. So it would appear Stone is right. Women's racing does appear to be on an upswing in Utah.
The spotlights were powered up on each of the four corners for the Senior Men 1-3 main event. Sponsoring club, Team Einstein Bros. Bagels, was making sure this was their race by fielding a huge team.
The action was furious from start to finish. Breaks were on a per-lap basis but none were successful in staying away, although many seemed to have the right makeup for success.
Racers tried to use darkness to hide their intent but were quickly discovered when they made their swift entry and exit from the brightly lit corners. The size of the pack and the perfect weather conditions provided too much opportunity for rest and recovery. There were always fresh bodies to haul in an attack.
Even though it was clear the race would be decided in a field sprint, the sheer speed of the top racers made the race exciting. They were turning in laps of about a minute around the City/County building at speeds over 30 miles per hour. Impressive.
But it would be a night of disappointment for Team Einstein. As the crowd stretched for a good view, Las Vegas racer Rene Saenz was first to exit the final turn on his way to the race win. Jerry Malone (USPS) would cross the line in second. Bill Harris (Mi Duole) put Utah on the podium in third.
Saenz's win was his second in two evenings, having won the RC Willey Express Criterium at Liberty Park on Friday night. You would have thought Saenz would be a marked man on Saturday.
And you would have been right. "I think they marked me too much," Saenz said of Team Einstein. But Team Einstein was certainly active at the front. Saenz has his teammate Steve Morgan to thank for reeling in a solo attack by Einstein's Rod Smith with two laps to go.
"I was trying to catch Smith," Morgan said, "to maintain our position."
And that position would be to have their sprinter at the front at the end of the race.
But Saenz was lucky to be on the winner's podium. He had a mishap with another rider going into a corner. He had another rider's wheel go into his front wheel, breaking five spokes and nearly taking him down. "I'm amazed I didn't go down," Saenz said while looking at his damaged wheel, spokes dangling.
"I was hoping it would turn into a field sprint," Saenz related. "The last lap was very fast. My teammates chased down a break and then I put the hammer down. I'm feeling good right now. I just got back from an 11-day stage race in Uraguay."
This was Saenz's first trip to Salt Lake City but not his first to Utah. He had competed at the Tour of St. George three years ago as a junior.
Team Einstein manager Ryan Littlefield was disappointed after the race. "It was hard to get away. We were trying to get out in pairs," he said, "but there wasn't enough power to stay out there. A few times we had the right group up the road. It's pretty frustrating. We knew who Saenz was. He's a good sprinter."
The spotlights are off for another year until the 1998 version of Cycle Salt Lake rolls around. The crowds and competitors can hardly wait.
If I had to pick the bicycle group in Utah that I think we would all miss the most, then it would be the Bonneville Bicycle Touring Club (BBTC).
"Huh??," you may be thinking, "What race did they win?" Or even "Who the heck is the BBTC?!" If you are a regular reader of cycling utah you know at least something about BBTC. In fact, Dave and Bob have both been slipping more or less overt hints so that I would not forget an article on the BBTC.
And if you ride the roads of the area, you will at some time have come upon a BBTC event. Lots of friendly, chatting folks, riding at all speeds, and only vaguely sure of where they are heading. It's like being swarmed by bicycle good-will ambassadors, a little disorienting after years of racing club rides...
So who are these folks anyway? According to all the vital stats, the BBTC is in a class all of its own. With between 200 and 400 members depending on the time of year, the BBTC is larger than all the race clubs combined. Even the "core" group, the members of every organization who do all the work, include some 50-75 people!
At $15 per year, they probably have the cheapest annual dues. And while they do enjoy some discounts from sponsoring bike shops and in-kind donations for individual events, the BBTC is financially self-supporting. At 40 percent, they have the largest percentage of women of any bike club, and with 70 percent of their members over 40, they are the most mature of all the clubs.
Well, I guess that depends on how you define "mature." The BBTC has a wackiness quotient that makes the rest of us look like the stone faced guards at Buckingham Palace.
BBTC is a bicycle touring club, a title that evokes some preconceptions, but one that also allows great freedom of interpretation.
You see, with BBTC you can join John Peterson for his 19th Registers Annual Great Ride Across Iowa, a week long, rolling party of 40,000 cyclists. If you are nice, he may even tell you how he manages a whole RAGBRAI on one beer. You can join the Southern Utah National Parks Tour each summer or the Credit Card Tour of the Northwest.
But with the BBTC you can also do supported centuries like the Little Red Riding Hood (women ride, men do support) and Big Bad Wolf (other way around), which run on the same weekend (June 7/8 this year). Or the Utah Lake Century Epic Ride (ULCER), a supported century around Utah Lake in August.
And for the true hammerheads, there is the Four Canyon Ride, this year on June 7, which involves -- you guessed it -- riding up each of Big and Little Cottonwood, Millcreek, and Parleys Canyons. 110 miles and 12,000 feet of vertical in one day. And you thought bike "touring" was easy?
For off-roadies, the BBTC organizes a tour of Antelope Island -- this year they used it to raise $500 for trail development on the island. They also take a group to the White Rim Trail, and include local mountain rides in their weekly program.
Club meetings happen at REI on the first Thursday of each month and feature guest speakers on topics from emergency first aid to bicycle planning in the Salt Lake Valley.
The BBTC is also involved in many other bicycle events, as a club and individuals. In fact, it is hard to be in an event that is completely "BBTC-free."
The AIB/MBAC Century each year in May could not happen without the Syracuse rest stop organized by the BBTC. The current president, Jon Smith, has been the announcer for the last three years of the Einstein Bros. Downtown Criterium.
And the Centennial Bicycle Tour of Utah, an epic ride from the south to north borders of the state, was organized by BBTC-ers Lucy Ormond and Jon Smith.
There is even a persistent rumor that the Tour of Utah may happen again before too long and Jon hopes to lead a tour of the Netherlands in 2000 to see the International Sailing Armada come to Amsterdam Harbor.
And what's it like to participate in a BBTC ride? Here too, the variety and range of distances, speeds, and moods makes generalization difficult. One sure thing is that you will never be left by the side of the road with a flat tire, broken bike, or empty water bottle. There is always at least informal support and everyone -- member or not -- is welcome at BBTC events.
A common risk with touring events is that the ride will be poorly suited to the rider; too easy/hard/short/long or a day trip when you arrive packed for a week's expedition.
In order to avoid such confusion, each ride in the BBTC calendar has instructions, a difficulty/speed rating, and a contact person. Rides range from A+ (17-30 MPH with regrouping) to E (easy going ride, food and socializing stops) and from 1 (very mountainous) to 5 (flat). You can check the BBTC hotline (534-4451) for up-to-the-minute information and the monthly newsletter contains an event calendar as well as articles and club news.
So why do I say that we all need a club like BBTC?
At 19 years young, this is the bicycle club that has been around the longest, and with the largest membership. If you go to any bike town, you will find the same situation. It's the touring clubs that have been around the longest. It's the touring club that organizes the most and most-varied events. It's the touring club that fills the local advocacy groups, goes to the legislature, teaches bike safety courses and generally gives cyclists a presence in the community.
While we racer dudes are all out busting our butts becoming Mini-Migs (at least in our wildest dreams), the folks from the touring clubs are pushing the broad cycling agenda and making riding better for all of us.
Touring clubs also make good "stepping stones."
When I first started cycling, I joined a touring club to pick up some knowledge, a few cycling buddies, the prerequisite funny tan lines and miles.
As we slip in and out of fitness over the years, a touring club can provide the bridge up, or that ego preserver on the way down. BBTC offers a built-in upgrade path by way of a strategic alliance with Equipo del Corazon (last month's featured club).
And if you have never tried it, bike touring, with a club or just a good friend, makes a great mid-season break, a season wrap-up or a refreshing change from the hum-drum of yet another week of intervals, hill sprints, tempo rides and crits. A club like the BBTC can provide all the information and encouragement you need to do your first tour.
If you are looking for that bike club "for the rest of us," then the BBTC is about as good as it gets.
I used to field a lot of calls for the Rocky Mountain Cycling Club from interested cyclists. After some questions about past experience, ride distances, racing ambitions and fitness expectations, I ended up sending a lot of folks to the BBTC. I'm hoping they will return the favor and send us some new racing talent. But even if they don't, I'll still enjoy any chance to work with them on a bike event, get a bagel from them at a century rest stop or join them on a nice long ride along a quiet road in Utah or Iowa or the Netherlands.
If you too are ready for the "touring" experience, you can contact the BBTC through Jon Smith (596-8430 or [email protected]), a "Ride On" newsletter from a local bike shop, or by calling the BBTC hotline at 535-4451 and join them for a ride.
For this second in a series on road climbs, I will highlight one more route in the Salt Lake valley. In the coming issues, I will focus on some excellent and challenging climbs outside the Wasatch Front.
In keeping with the sesquicentennial (150 year) celebration of the arrival of the Mormon pioneers in the Salt Lake valley, I have chosen to highlight the route from the bottom of Emigration Canyon to the top of Big Mountain Pass. This is the reverse of the route taken by the pioneers in 1847, when they descended into the Salt Lake valley, arriving on July 24.
This can be an out-and-back ride, or it can be incorporated into a longer ride by descending down the other side to East Canyon Reservoir and on to any number of destinations to the north, east or south. You can also loop back around through Ogden, or through Hennefer and Coalville, to Salt Lake for a long century ride.
The start is at Hogle Zoo which is situated at the mouth of Emigration Canyon. From the start, you gently climb rolling hills for the first 6 miles, passing such temptations as Ruth's Diner and the Santa Fe Restaurant at the 2 mile mark, and Crompton's Cafe at 5 miles. Do not succumb: all the climbing lies ahead.
To this point, this is a pleasant ride winding through the trees and alongside the stream. At 5.7 miles, the road steepens, requiring that you shift into lower gears. Mile 6 brings a split in the ride and you turn sharply to the right.
Climbing in earnest, you will wind along for another mile before the road switchbacks to the left and ascends to the top of Little Mountain summit. From here you get a good view of Emigration Canyon and Mt. Dell Reservoir.
Tired yet? I hope not, because that was just the warmup. After a fast descent for 1 1/2 miles, you reach the junction with State Road 65. Turning left, you descend briefly and then start rolling gently uphill.
The road from here to the top is nicely paved and quite scenic. If you are fortunate and keep a good lookout, you may see moose or elk.
At mile 12.1, just after crossing the stream, the road steepens for what appears to be a short distance. Do not be deceived. This is the start of the stiff climb to the top of Big Mountain Pass.
You will continue to climb with the stream and the Affleck Park group picnic and campground on your left. As you reach the top of Affleck Park at mile 12.7, the canyon splits, and the road curves and continues up the right fork.
The next half-mile is probably the stiffest part of the climb. It is deceptive, appearing to be more gradual than it is, and it will seem to go on a long time. Finally, though, you will arrive to where the road switches back to the left, and provides a temporary reprieve from the steep grade.
It is a short distance, .3 miles, to where the road switches back to the right. After making the turn, there is a short, steep stretch, a good opportunity to stand up out of the saddle and stretch.
This section winds along for .8 of a mile (mile 14.4) to where you switchback to the left, the third of 4 switchbacks. Just before you arrive at this turn, you will come within sight of the radio towers at the top of the pass, a welcome sight.
After this third switchback, it is only a couple hundred yards to the fourth and final switchback, and the last .4 miles (total 15 miles) to the top.
You have now earned a good rest. Take time for a snack and a scenic view back down the canyon as you prepare for a well-deserved descent.
The first time I rode out in Tooele County was many years ago at the Mercur Road Race and then later at the District Time Trials out in Rush Valley. Both tough races for me and ones I remember for being on lightly travelled roads.
I've mountain biked a bit at Stansbury Island and up North Willow Canyon. Then in early spring I did a 25-mile loop that included Tooele and Grantsville, again with little traffic.
So when the Tooele County Chamber of Commerce ran an insert in our April issue, I paged through the brochure for some other possibilities.
In preparation for the American Investment Bank Century, I wanted to ride the Mormon Trail Loop as described in the insert but with some variation.
I invited Mike Bray, who I met during the Utah Centennial ride last year, along for the ride. We transported our bikes out to the Benson Grist Mill parking lot and started there instead of going into Tooele. So our loop would not include SR112 as indicated on the map, instead using SR 138.
The weather was perfect with highs in the 70s. The wind can be a major factor in Tooele County as it seems to blow up and down the wide valley between the Oquirrh and Stansbury mountains, but today it wasn't bad. At least not until we looped around going into Stockton.
For the most part, the shoulder along SR136 provides plenty of room to ride two abreast without holding up traffic behind. It was a nice 8-mile spin into Grantsville, the last opportunity for food or water until Stockton.
As stated in the brochure, the Mormon Trail Road was given its name by early pioneers who established the route between Grantsville and Rush Valley. We turned onto the Mormon Trail Road at West Street, the official start of the road. From here the road made a gradual climb to South Mountain Pass at our 19-mile mark. The grade was steady except for one switchback incline that required a gear change or two.
There was some traffic from Grantsville to the North and South Willow Canyon turnoffs, but it could hardly be described as busy.
All along the way the view of the Oquirrhs and Stansburys was great with a good view of the Deseret Peak Wilderness Area. Once at the top of the pass, we got a good look at Rush Valley as we descended for 6 miles.
The climb from Grantsville to South Mountain was a good 11 miles and we appreciated the wind-aided descent passing maybe two cars at this point of the ride.
Turn left onto SR199 at St. John and Clover then left again onto SR36, two miles down the road. It was at this point that we noticed that there was a pretty good breeze out of the north. We were just out to spin our legs so we both dropped to the small chainring to get through the wind.
Once on SR36 the wind was relentless in our face (as it usually is, right?). And the traffic was considerably busier than we had enjoyed since SR36 is the main road into Tooele from the south.
We made a pit stop in Stockton to fill up our water bottles for the remainder of the ride to Tooele and on to the car. One last hill out of Stockton and we slowly dropped down to Tooele about six miles away. Then we continued on SR36 through Tooele and on to Erda and Stansbury Park.
Here we cut across through the north entrance of Stansbury Park to avoid the intersection of SR36 and SR138. This brought us right to the Benson Grist Mill parking lot.
Our route was slightly longer than the brochure's route of 49.5 miles. My computer registered 52.5.
All in all a picturesque route that provided us with a good change of pace from the other routes we're all too familiar with along the Wasatch Front. There are a number of quiet country roads along the route to Grantsville that go to Tooele for shorter loops of around 25 miles or less. Just remember to take plenty of water and energy bars.