cycling utah March 1999


Mountain bikers dominate

By Robert L. Truelsen


The 1998 USCF District Cyclocross Championships were held Nov. 14 at Wheeler Historic Farms in anything but traditional cyclocross conditions.

This was a day for fair weather cyclocross racers not for those expecting to slog through slippery runups carrying 40-pound mud cycles. The sun was out in all its glory teasing racers into wearing shorts and short sleeves. So much for tradition.

But, as they say, the show must go on. And the racing was exciting. Thomas Cooke helped design the course that was a part of Matt Ohranís Utah Cyclocross Series and the course was a typical East coast one. The start/finish straight was a wide service road that allowed the racers plenty of room for passing. Much of the course was on grass and open fields. Bunny hopping obstacles was prohibited, much to the chagrin of some of the mountain bike racers. The result was that racers actually ran with the bike between obstacles. Very traditional.

The B Group racers were off first. Jim Nelson of Layton and Jim Deschenes started fast and opened a big lead. These two racers would exchange the lead early until Nelson finally broke away. Behind Scott Jennings was making up for a slower start, attacking the course with gusto. As Jennings closed the gap, Nelson began to falter. Nelson noticably labored at the runups, pushing the bike instead of carrying it. His early lead was being threatened.

Jennings continued to get stronger as the race progressed. Soon he overtook Deschenes for second place with his sights clearly on Nelson. Time was his only enemy. And it ran out as Nelson crossed the finish line for the District Championship. Jennings crossed the line for the silver, although he was clearly the strongest rider at the finish. Deschenes held on for third place.

"Iím pretty tired," Nelson admitted after the race. "I pushed in the middle part of the race. For me the toughest part of the race were the runups. Iím not strong physically. The runup at the hill was the toughest."

Nelson fell once while passing a lapped rider on the tricky off-camber stretch after the hill runup. This section was challenging for a lot of riders with many plopping after losing traction with their front tire.

When the A Group racers started, Cris Fox led the charge followed closely by Gabriel Blacco, Bart Gillespie, Thomas Cooke and Brian Gillespie. It didnít take long for a pre-race pact to take shape as Fox and Bart Gillespie took control of the race.

"We bleached our hair for Districts," Gillespie said, "we were determined to go first and second."

And they worked their pre-race plan to perfection. The two racers exchanged places throughout the race, widdening their lead in the process. It would surely be a race to the finish.

Meanwhile behind the leaders, Joel Kath progressed through the pack moving past early front runners Brian Gillespie and Cooke. Blacco had a firm hold on third place ahead of Kath. Blacco would finish for the bronze with Kath fourth followed by Cooke in fifth. Brian Gillespie was sixth.

At the front it was a race between two mountain bike racers, Gillespie on a traditional cross bike and Fox on a suspensionless mountain bike. Gillespie proved the stronger, crossing the finish line for the District Championship. Fox was close behind in second.

"We were dicing in the singletrack," Gillespie said after the victory. "Iíd get a little gap but couldnít motivate myself to keep it. I followed Cris for a few laps but I was confident about my power. I knew I had the momentum."

"Itís good to race with Cris," he added. "We talk during the race."

In other categories, Brad Buccambuso finished 8th overall in Category A and 1st in Junior A. Bret Gibson won the Junior Category B. Brian Gillespie was the 19-22 Champion. Victoria Tanner won the Womenís event while Bart Adams and Tom Noaker took the Masters 35 and Masters 45 titles respectively.

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