cycling utah May 1999
Racers conquer weather, canyons
By Robert L. Truelsen
While people along the Wasatch Front were moaning about a late spring snow storm, dedicated mountain bike racers flocked to Moab for the Tour of Canyonlands April 9-11.
The picturesque Utah desert mountain bike mecca was not immune to nature's whims. Cross country racers pre-rode the course on Friday in a blizzard. But come race day, participants couldn't have asked for a more perfect day.
Race promoter Eric Jean thought "the weather kept a lot of people away. People who preregistered were calling asking for refunds."
But once the sun rose over the red rock messas, evidence of the previous night's snowfall disappeared. Tights, arm warmers and long-sleeve jerseys were popular choices of attire for the 9 a.m. start.
For Gunnison, Colo. resident David Wiens, the weather was insignificant and so was the flat tire he had on the course. In an impressive show of power and fitness, Wiens ran past cyclo crosser Marc Gullickson at the hike-a-bike section of the Amasa Back Trail to take the lead in the cross country and he never looked back.
Steve Harris (3D Racing) of Durango placed third in the Pro/Semi Pro Men's race and was impressed by Wiens. "He just ran past Gulli at the hike-a-bike and Gulli is a cyclo crosser."
Harris had his best outing at the Amasa Back course. "I flatted three times last year," he said, "so this year I rode conservatively and it paid off today."
Salt Lake racer Cris Fox had a great ride to place fourth. "You got to keep air in your tires on this course," Fox said.
The race course is also used heavily by the Jeep Safari annual event held around the same time as the Tour of Canyonlands. And the 4-wheel drive traffic had an adverse effect on the course.
"The Jeeps made bid ledges on the course," Fox said, "I had to walk down some sections."
Eric Jones continues to race into fitness and placed seventh. "I didn't feel that great today," Jones admitted, "just walking up the trail and I was maxed out.
"The course was in pretty good shape today," Jones said. "There wasn't too much sand."
Former Pocatello resident Zach Shriver made Canyonlands his first race of the year. Now living and training in Durango, Colo., Shriver showed early the benefits of his move. That is before he flatted. He was seen racing with the leaders before being victimized by the flat. He ended up placing 17th.
"I'm starting racing later this year to try to do better at Nationals," Shriver said. "That's my focus this year."
Shriver is now riding for Hassle Free Sports out of Durango.
Attendance in the Pro/Expert Women's categories was somewhat disappointing. Only three racers started in the Pros and nine in the Expert.
Shonny Kimber turned in an excellent ride to claim the Pro win. The KHS rider completed the course in 1:55:30, over 15 minutes ahead of second place finisher Gretchen Reeves. Gloria Cisneros placed third nearly five minutes behind Reeves.
Kristina Nichols claimed the Women's Expert win finishing with a time of 2:12:23. Kate Van Valkenburg and Jennifer Elwell placed second and third respectively.
On Friday Jay Henry (KHS) won the Pro Men's Dirt Criterium while Kimber won the Pro Women's race. Gullickson and Harris were second and third respectively in the Pro Men while Nicole Grant placed second in the Pro Women's race.
On Sunday the downhill event was held and Grez Smith and Paige Baxter won the Pro Men's and Women's event respectively.
Despite bad weather prior to the races and a schedule conflict with the Intermountain Cup race in Las Vegas, the Tour of Canyonlands attracted 350 riders. This race attracts a lot of top talent from Colorado but promoter Jean hopes the word gets out that the race is a great event that is well run and offers plenty of riding opportunities. Jean emphasized that results were available quickly and the party at the awards ceremony was a lot of fun.