Fair

66°F

Waitsfield

Fair

Wind: 3 mph

  • 1 Aug 2014

    Partly Cloudy 77°F 59°F

  • 2 Aug 2014

    Scattered Thunderstorms 76°F 57°F

The Valley Reporter
P.O. Box 119
Waitsfield, VT 05673
802-496-3928
CONTACT INFORMATION

Valley Reporter on Facebook

The Valley Reporter Restaurant Guide
Calendar of Events for the Mad River Valley
The Valley Reporter Business Listings

A great weekend for riders from both near and far

{mosimage}

09/10/2009

By Peter Oliver

Elite bike racing is a pretty tightly knit world. So when a rider who no one knows shows up and puts a major hurt on everyone else, the other cyclists look at one another quizzically and ask, like Sundance asking Butch about the identity of their unknown pursuers, "Who is that guy?"

In the ninth edition of the Green Mountain Stage Race, held in The Valley and Burlington over the Labor Day weekend, the unknown rider who was the overall winner in the elite men's race was Andres Diaz. His listed address was Fort Lee, New Jersey, and he was riding for the New York-based GS Mengoni squad. But after he won the brutal 77-mile Mad River Road Race on Sunday, leaving Vermont rider Jamie Driscoll in his exhaust on the final climb up App Gap, riders and race officials began scrambling to do further research.

{mosimage}

A little Googling identified Diaz as a native Colombian who had logged impressive results in his home country, and suddenly the race outcome made total sense. Riders from mountainous Colombia are well-known on the international cycling scene for their climbing ability, and that's what set Diaz apart this weekend. He finished respectably in three of the four stages, but it was his relentless assault on the climb of App Gap, past the large crowd that had colorfully chalked up the road with encouragements to favorite riders, that secured the overall victory.

{mosimage}

The winner among the elite women was much more of a known commodity. Lea Davison lives in nearby Jericho and she also has Valley ties -- sister Sabra has been a ski coach at Green Mountain Valley School, and both have spent hours riding and cross-country skiing in the area.

{mosimage}

Perhaps more pertinent as far as the race was concerned, however, was that Davison (Lea, that is) is one of the top five or six professional mountain bikers in the country. She has the unique ability to ride hard, especially uphill, while maintaining a cheerful and breezy disposition that is as much a part of her persona as her racing talents. Like Diaz, she distanced herself from the competition on the final climb up App Gap on Sunday, crossing the finish line looking no more physically drained than someone who might have just pedaled to the local convenience store to pick up a carton of milk.

{mosimage}

It was a weekend of racing that had, both literally and figuratively, many ups and downs. The 855 riders who came from all parts of North America -- as well as a power-packed team from Sweden and one notable Colombian ringer -- experienced Vermont weather on its best behavior. Even riders who finished far down in the standings were almost unanimous in saying that, of all the races they do in a year, the GMSR is their favorite.

{mosimage}

On the downside, there were a few violent and injurious crashes, especially in the junior field. This was perhaps the strongest group of juniors the GMSR has ever seen, with four or five of the top young riders in the country and the four top finishers in the Canadian junior national championships. The overall winner, Nathan Brown, is a U.S. national junior team member whose credits include, among other strong results, a win in the prestigious Tour du Pays de Vaud in Switzerland earlier this summer.

{mosimage}

But no matter how talented they are, juniors typically know only one style of racing -- all hard, all the time. The result is fast, furious and exciting racing, and while all racers accept crashes as an unavoidable part of the sport, juniors sometimes seem to ride as if hitting the pavement is a part of their mission rather than something to be avoided. A particularly bad crash Sunday on the descent of Brandon Gap sent a couple of junior riders to the hospital, and the mangled remains of the bikes returned to the race start indicated that a crash when descending at 50 miles an hour can cause significant damage to both man and metal.

{mosimage}

Fortunately, none of the half dozen or so local riders -- or riders with local connections -- was subjected to such pain. In the elite men's field, both David Glick, whose parents Barry and Cathy live in Warren, and Charles McCarthy, former Valley resident now one remove away in Middlebury, used steady, smart riding to finish in the top 25 overall. GMVS Coach Jim Komarmi also had a fine weekend, taking 13th overall in the Category 3 race. Jessie Donavan, a once and perhaps future Valley resident, rode strongly to take fifth overall in the women's Category 3/4 field.

{mosimage}

Larry O'Toole, racing in the Category 4 field, and Bob Dillon, in the 50-and-over field, finished well back but were ecstatic about the opportunity simply to be a part of the race. Shawn Patenaude, in the Category 4/5 field, also logged a most respectable result. Dillon was almost giddy in trying to describe the excitement of cornering at crazy speeds in the criterium in the streets of Burlington on Monday.

{mosimage}

But one of the more entertaining rides of the weekend was put in by Waitsfielder Jeff Whittingham -- like Davison, known more as a mountain biker than a road racer -- who won the coveted King of the Mountain competition in the Category 3 field. Early on Sunday's stage, Whittingham, without any deliberate planning, was off the front in a small breakaway group. The riders in the group, a bit surprised at finding themselves in the lead, looked at one another, shrugged and figured, what the heck? They rode hard enough to extend their lead, climbing well ahead of the field over Brandon Gap and up Bristol Notch, earning Whittingham the points needed to secure the KOM jersey.

{mosimage}

On App Gap, however, the wind went completely out of the breakaway's sails, and not only was Whittingham caught by the chasing field, he was so whipped that he briefly dismounted and took a stroll with his bike to bring his heart rate back into a more manageable range. He finished almost 20 minutes behind the winner.

So Sunday's Criterium, with Whittingham now handsomely attired in the KOM jersey, offered a chance for redemption. Early in the race, he made another brief foray off the front of the pack. His 3-year-old was watching, and he wanted it to be known that dad, despite the previous day's finishing misery, was not a total slacker. The breakaway was short-lived, and Whittingham finished with the main pack. But for a brief and shining moment, one happy 3-year-old in the crowd was able to rise up as the lead rider went by and say, "I know that guy."

MORE GMSR PHOTOS
Share

Add comment

All comments are moderated. Please include your full name and email. Email address will not be shown but are necessary for confirmation.

Security code
Refresh