cycling utah September 1999
By John McConnell
"That hill right there" was the typical comment riders had when asked what part of the course was the most difficult, Allison Dunlap (Team GT), winner of the women's pro race echoed that thought and added, "It was so steep, so hot". After racers finished the three-lap, 19-mile course they were fifthly from toes to teeth, as the 90-degree temperatures and dusty trails made everyone a mess.
The race began with a quick trip around the short course and then climbed "The Wall" Allison led the pack riding her I-drive GT with Alla Epifanova (Volvo-Cannondale) on her tail. After one lap, the pair had over two minutes on the chasing pack. Ann Trombley (Airborne) kept the pressure on trying to catch the second-place Russian, and out-climb fourth place Rene Marshman (Moots), "I didn't want to lose third place", she said, as everyone but her was being cleaned up in the interview tent by team managers.
Five local women started the pro race before an enthusiastic crowd: Teresa Eggersten (Micro-Supreme) of Park City, Leigh Hale (WolfCreek/Canyon Bicycles) of Orem, Jennifer Tribe (Ironhorse/Native), Sally Warner (Gary Fisher) and Ronda Reasner all from Salt Lake City.
Hale was just pumped to be in the race, this is her first year in the pro ranks, having just upgraded a couple of months before the NCS came to town. "It's so fun racing pro because there are so many racers and they really push".
Tribe was excited about her 23rd place finish, "I kept falling-the downhill was the hardest, but I'm so stoked to be top 30." Ronda and Sally also finished well, with commendable, 27th and 30th places. Sally credited her grass roots sponsors for her success in the race saying that the Gary Fisher bike was fast and she was able to stay fired by the Smart Fuel she was downing throughout the race.
A couple of hours later and a 10 or 15 degrees warmer found nearly 80 pro men lined up to battle each other, and "The hardest NORBA course," according to second-place Roland Green (Team GT).
Flats, dehydration, altitude, climbing, and a long list of other circumstances robbed 34 riders of a finish at stop number 5 on the Chevy Trucks National Championship Series. The contest was played out pretty much like the women's race with the leaders going out strong from the get go.
"That Hill" even beat Kashi Leuchs (SoBe/Headshock) and Green on the first lap, as they both ran the steep ascent on their way to first and second place finishes some four laps and two and some change-hours later.
This was the first win for the 19-year-old from New Zealand, "That was my kind of course, straight up steep undulating hills". With his skills as a downhill racer, he was confident on the steep slopes, "I knew I could kick it on the descents", he described as he explained the race.
David Wiens (RLX Polo Sport) a headliner from past mountain bike glory ('93 national cross-country champion) was only two minutes down taking third place, riding his "own race" trying not to make any mistakes.
Five men from the "Pretty Great State" of Utah were also lined up to test the best here in the states. US Postal racer and US Pro champion Marty Jemison joined Eric Jones (SoBe/Headshock), Gabriel Blanco (Gary Fisher), John Osguthorp (Schwinn) and Tim Brown (SoBe/Headshock) of Salt Lake.
After a series of flats on the rocky course, Brown had to bail. John was wounded from a bad fall pre-riding the course earlier that week, but toughed it out for two laps until the pain was too much.
The best performance was registered by Eric Jones in 15th place. Eric was a little disappointed after he smoked the field last year taking seventh place. A bad fall at the bottom of the second lap in the single track and the heat all played a role to place him out of the top 10. With an ice pack on his back, a wash job from the team and a SoBe in hand Eric said it was "Real nice to have a pro team behind you." From the response of the crowd when he was introduced, Utah was behind Jones too.
"I do it just to punish myself, to face my fears", Marty remarked when asked why a roadie races off road.
A "foreign-local," Gabriel Blanco has spent the winter here in Utah getting to know indigenous riders on and off the road. Listed as an Argentine from Sandy, Utah gives Gabriel the best of both worlds. His goal is to work his way into the Olympics for his home country, a finish on this course was a step in the right direction.