Half of the starting field in the 60+ race at Hammerfest this year was VC; Frank Kurzawa, Mike Haney, Joe Haas and John Bartle. Could we prevail over the other four riders on three different teams? Our competition proved to be Charlie Johnson and Val Lincecum of Southwest Cycling Club Racing (SWCC).
The Men’s 60+ race was combined with both the Women’s Open and the Women 3/4 races, so it was a cozy pack of about 20, of mostly Austin riders, that set out on the Saturday morning hill climb stage in a light wind. The pace was steady, with each group respecting the strategic moves of the other group; that is, until the route got seriously steeper and the lone Tulsa Wheel’man’ woman attacked. Frank went with her and Charlie Johnson and John Bartle settled in with three ATC women chasers who kept the leaders within striking distance. The battle was on - a battle against Mt. Hood - resulting in a group of five making the final approach to the McDonald Observatory Visitor’s center, which was the men’s finish line. (The Women Open race finished at the observatory itself; one mile and one 20% ramp further up the road.) On a short dip in the climbing, Charlie attacked (precursor) and Frank and John scrambled to make contact. The group was split into two races again, unfortunately the chase effort was more than John could handle and he had to watch the finish as Frank paced off Charlie and came around him at the line. John was not envious of the two lead women (Samantha Runnels and Alison Atkinson) who came by on their final effort up the mountain.
The afternoon’s short flat road race was, as usual into an exposed headwind – but mercifully only about 15 mph. Again the two races developed almost independently, with the ATC women sending one then a second rider off the front. Alison (I think) stayed away! It was a bunch sprint, which Frank won, Val was second, John third, Mike fourth and Charlie fifth, after leading it out from a ways back. This put Frank clearly in the lead, John tied with Charlie (on points) for second, Val in fourth, Mike in fifth and Joe in seventh.
Sunday’s road race could be called the Princess Stage; not too long at 48 miles but hilly (3,600 ft.), going back towards the observatory, down into Madera Canyon, turn around, back up the canyon, Mt. Hood and a long descent back to downtown Ft. Davis; between 5,000 and 6,300 feet in elevation. In the beginning the pace was moderate. Joe took a flier, perhaps to try to clear out a lingering cold that had hampered him. Southwest Cycles chased and when Joe was caught Mike went off. What did he have to loose? Southwest Cycles saw a pattern here and backed off as did the rest of VC. Haney built an out-of-sight lead. This would be the definitive move of the race. The women began to race and a group of 4 or 5 went up the road eventually catching and then passing Mike. Meanwhile, the climbing progressed at a manageable pace. John made one attack up the backside of Mt. Locke but it did not have a lasting effect and he did not want to eat into Mike’s lead too much, so the five came by the observatory road on Mt. Hood with 16 miles mostly downhill to the finish. This is where Charlie attacked but John was on his wheel. They spent a couple of minutes over 40 mph, but everyone was all together as they closed in on Mike. The group had just collected Mike at the approach to “Heartbreak Hill”, the old finish line, but still 8 miles to go in this race. It was the last uphill before the finish, John's last chance to shed the SWCC riders , so he callously attacked over the top and got a gap. But Charlie was with him. Then Frank bridged up and took the lead. Charlie, of course was not working. Frank advised John not to pull since he had to beat Charlie for second. Val closed the gap - and brought Mike and Joe with him. So it was 4 VC and 2 SWCC coming to the final with two places on the podium up for grabs. “You need to beat both of them.” Frank told John with 2 k. to go.
Joe came to the front and set a strong pace discouraging any last gasp attacks. John sat on Charlie’s wheel. Mike was on Frank’s wheel and Frank led it out, making himself wide in front of Val (there was only one lane of the main drag into town). John went to the open side of Charlie, even though it was windward and prevailed, despite legs cramping, winning the stage! Charlie second, Frank third, Mike fourth, Val fifth, Joe sixth.
So, the GC was Frank, John, Charlie, Val, Mike, Joe, Rickie Wilson and Jerry Dusterhoff. It had been a strategically interesting race and VC finished 1-2, despite having left it to the potential chaos of the final sprint. Racing well as a team and forcing SWCC to work allowed John to save strength for the sprint, which he believes that in 4 times out of 5, in other circumstances, he could not finish ahead of Charlie and Val. Besides, Frank told him he had to beat both of them.
Also VC riders who did well at Ft. Davis were Dan Piercy 2nd. Ken Hubacker 4th. in the 40+ and Bryce Billings 7th. in Cat. 4.