On a mostly sunny Saturday, Utah's road racers gathered at the City County Building to compete in the Einstein Bros. Bagels Downtown Criterium held in conjunction with Cycle Salt Lake and the Bike Bonanza. The course is a fast, flat, four corner, clockwise circuit around the historic center of Salt Lake government. The roads were blocked off and Salt Lake's finest were out to ensure that the racers had a safe ride on the 1991 USCF Road Nationals Criterium Course.
The first race of the day was the Women's Category 4 group. It was added to the schedule in large part due to good turnouts in this category in previous races this season. This is a healthy sign in Utah bike racing and we can only hope the trend continues until we see women's packs as large as the men's. The race saw a few attacks and some good riding, but in the end it came down to a field sprint won by Einstein's Laura Patton, with Carry Scoggins (Utah Premier) finishing second and Angela Snyder (Einstein's) rounding out the podium.
Steve Tibbitts, top, slipped past his breakaway companions in the Category 1-3 race to claim the win. Above, the Category 4 women had their own race this year. They showed up in force and displayed some great racing.
Photo by Dave Iltis
The Women's 1-2-3 race was next and also saw a good turnout. The race quickly became the Tana Stone show as she took off on lap two. Fresh off her dominating victory in CDS Software's Southern Arizona Classic, Tana, of Northshore, lapped the field 2 1/2 times as she time-trialed to victory. Her teammates Kris Walker and Brooke Mickelson rounded out the top three as they lapped the field once. Tana will be going to the First Union USPRO championship in June to ride with the Fuji Composite team that includes Olympic Gold Medalist Kathy Watt.
The Men's Cat 4 race saw a great turnout and lots of fast, fun action including one crash right in front of the officials tower as one rider touched the rear wheel of another and went down. A good reason not to overlap wheels! But, in the end it came down to a field sprint won by Jim Morgan (MiDuole). Jeremy Smith (Gourmet) was second and Todd Astill third.
The Master's 30+ event saw what is an all too common site in Utah racing, three Einstein's riders off the front and a disorganized pack loping along behind. Darrell Davis, Dave Wood, and tall Art O'Conner established a gap after several attacks and counterattacks. They rode smoothly through the corners and worked hard to stay off the front.
Towards the end, O'Conner could no longer hang on and was absorbed by the group. Davis took the win with a hard effort that Wood did not respond too. The pack seemed content with just riding until the last few laps when there was some good action and a fast finish with an attack that might have stuck by Chuck Collins (EDC) and Greg Jex (Einstein's). They were swallowed up when Jex attacked Collins too soon to stay away. The sprint for third was taken by Richard Vroom (Magellan's) with Tana Stone coming back for more and finishing in the pack.
The men's 1-3 event got going just before dusk with a large field of Utah's fastest local riders. Greg Jex (Einstein's) launched the first big attack that was designed to put the other teams off guard and set things up for the big guns.
He was reeled in shortly and then the attacks came fast and furious until a group of four category one's established a gap. Dave Zabriskie, last year's junior TT national champion, and Ryan Littlefield, both Einstein's, teamed with Burke Swindlehurst (Nutra-Fig and former Einstein's racer) to get things rolling seriously. Then Steve Tibbitts (X-Men) rode up to the trio and the foursome worked hard in a coordinated effort to lap the field.
"I saw Burke, Dave and Ryan up the road and I had no choice but to go," Tibbitts said.
X-Men captain Thom Cooke described Littlefield as "our Get Out Of Jail card," referring to Monopoly and perhaps recognizing Littlefield's ability to power a break. And the analogy proved accurate as the break quickly put time on the main pack.
"In the break it was just the same thing as always," Swindlehurst said of the familiar looking break. "I wasn't really aware of the jersey out there."
Tibbitts position in the break wasn't guaranteed. But it appeared that four riders were better than three to accomplish their goal. Surely he earned his place otherwise Einstein's would have tried to burn him off.
When they regained contact late in the race, they made several attempts to keep right on going but the pack would have none of that despite Zabriskie crushing the pedals at 35 mph for two laps near the end.
Part of the quartet's difficulty in continuing on was the confusing rule change that prevented riders from the field from working with the break. While this was probably done for safety reasons, it helped ensure a mass sprint at the end. Alan Butler (Einstein's) attacked hard out of the pack to finish fifth and win the field sprint. The four leaders finished with the group as Tibbitts cranked it up for the win to keep second place Swindlehurst and the Einstein's duo of Littlefield (third) and Zabriskie (fourth) from coming around at the end.
"I think they kind of forgot about me," Tibbetts suggested after the race. "I had a straight line to the finish and I was coming up to the line fast enough that they had to have forgotten about me."
"I was watching Ryan (Littlefield) in the sprint," Swindlehurst admitted, "and to be honest I forgot about Steve. I tried to get away with two laps to go but Ryan and Dave Zabriskie rode right up to me so I knew they had the legs tonight."