Monday, June 22, 2009

Hegyvary, Sheasby take home Elkhorn Classic's overall prizes

BAKER CITY -- The dramatic June weather of Northeast Oregon's high desert landscape was the prime antagonist in the 2009 edition of the Elkhorn Classic Stage Race June 19-21.

Adrian Hegyvary (Hagens-Berman) capitalized on time gained in his second-place time trial ride to take the men's overall. Bend Bike 'n' Sports' Teri Sheasby won the first and last stages, and took the overall crown as well.

STAGE 1 Oregon Trail Road Race

Partly sunny skies, moderate temperatures and a police escort out of town greeted the start of the 8th annual event, with weather ranging from pelting torrential downpours and hail testing riders' endurance as they climbed up into, and then descended out of the Wollowa-Whitman National Forest on their way to the finish.

Bobby Sweeting, the Land Rover-ORBEA racer who is coming off his recent best-young-rider performance at the NRC Nature Valley Gran Prix in Minnesota, won the men's race by outsprinting a four-rider break that a got a small gap in the rolling foothills approaching the finish of the 72-mile event.

"Coming back from the climb, I knew there were at least one or two little gradual uphills running in to the finish," Sweeting said. "I attacked on the first one because I figured it would be pretty much flat after that. One guy came with me (Metromint Cycling's Evan Tuckett) and there were five rollers that I didn't expect. It was super hard and just shattered the field."

On the second-to-last roller, Hegyvary and Ian Tuttle (Above Cateregory Racing) joined the pair up the road, and the quartet immediately began working to keep it away. Sweeting said he gambled on the break group's gap and stopped rotating with about 600 meters to go.

"With 200 to go, I jumped first," he said. "I saw that (Hegyvary) got on my wheel and started to come around me. Fortunately I got him by like a wheel. It was close."

Sweeting finished ahead of Hegyvary, Pickett and Tuttle, who were all given the same time. Bob's rider Chris Stuart led the strung-out field across the line six seconds later.

In the women's race, Sheasby finished ahead of breakaway companions Alisha Welsh (PCIM) and Melissa McWhirter (Veloforma) after the group had built a lead of as much as three minutes near the end. Sheasby and Welsh crossed the line with the same time. McWhirter finished three seconds back. Touchstone Climbing's Heather Pryor led the chasers across the line one minute, three seconds later.

STAGE 2 Pleasant Valley Time Trial

The rains ceased and skies cleared for the Saturday morning Pleasant Valley Time Trial, but a consistent wind made riders work for their downtown finish.

Metromint Cycling's Phillip Mooney won the men's race on a 11-mile out-and-back course that also started in downtown Baker City. Mooney clocked a 21:07, but it was Hegyvary's second placed ride just one second slower that lifted him above Sweeting into the top GC spot by 30 seconds after the two leaders finished with the same time the day before. Hegyvary's time trial advantage proved to be the deciding factor in the race for the overall with just the criterium and the 19-mile finale to follow.

In the women's race, Riverstone Racing took the top two spots in what would become a familiar theme for the day. Allison Beall set the pace with a 25:54.61 time. Her teammate Heather Albert finished next, two seconds down. But it was McWhirter who came away with the GC lead, covering the course just 13 seconds off the pace of Beall, who started the day 16th overall after losing more than six minutes in Stage One. Sheasby held onto second in GC with Albert placed third overall.

STAGE 3 Gold Rush Criterium

The 1km, six-corner, L-shaped criterium course centered in downtown Baker City made for fast and fun racing, but did little to affect the overall of either men's or women's races.

Sweeting added another stage win to his results in the men's race, biding his time in the group during the prime-filled 60-minute race in anticipation of the upcoming GC battle on Dooley Mountain the following day. But as the race neared the finish still intact, Sweeting decided to go for the win.

"I just cruised and figured, with a few laps to go, that one sprint won't hurt me for tomorrow," he said. "The Bob's Bicycle guys had a good leadout going, so I pushed my way into the top five."

Sweeting came through the final corner fourth wheel before opening enough of a gap to hold off the bunch all the way down the long finishing straight.

The Riverstone Women's Racing Team put a headlock on the women's field in the last couple of laps and launched sprinter Jenni Gaertner for the win followed closely by Albert in second.

The team played out its pe-race plan to perfection.

"The crits are really important to me," said Gaertner, who started the stage 10th overall after losing several minutes to the leaders on Friday. "So we decided that I've got nothing to lose, and If I blew up then I blew up. If not, then we get a stage win."

Gaertner launced multiple attacks and gathered handful of primes before the race neared its conclusion. That's when she and her teammates put plan B into action.

"Heather (Albert) came up beside me with about 10 laps to go," she said. "I said, 'If you guys get me there, I can win.' That was the plan; with two laps to go they would get on the front and drive the train. Then hopefully I would deliver."

Sure enough, Beall and Albert siezed the front of the race with several laps to go. Beall put in one long, last pull that discouraged attacks and eventually launched both teammates across the line ahead of Pryor, McWhirter and the rest of the field.

"For once it went according to plan," Gaertner said.

STAGE 4 Dooley Mountain Road Race

Reports of snow and 35 degrees at Dooley Mountain's summit, where the 102-mile Queen Stage was scheduled to finish, forced a last-minute decision by the chief referee to shorten the race. Instead of doing the 109-mile death march, riders proceeded 12 miles out of town, then seven miles up Dooley.

Bob's's Kevin Rowe, who started the stage fourth overall, turned the tables on GC leader Hegyvary and runner-up Sweeting by riding off the front early, finishing 33 seconds ahead of the chase group containing his nearest GC rivals.

Hegyvary, who started the day 54 seconds ahead of Rowe, managed to hold onto his overall lead, but double stage winner Sweeting slipped from second to third overall after failing to recognize the danger of the move by the Bob's rider, who started the day just 23 seconds behind him.

With fresh legs and the GC battle still very much up for grabs among a handful of riders seperated by less than a minute, the field flew up the finishing climb as Rowe's early attack caught the two leaders off guard. He played his advantage to nearly maximum result, falling short of the top prize by just 22 seconds.

Sweeting admitted his mistake in letting the Bob's rider go, saying he was caught up in the rush up the hill and with the rider in front of him on GC, and he didn't realize a threat to his own GC spot had ridden up the road.

"We went up the climb pretty fast. It wasn't a slow climb," Sweeting said the next day. "We were crusing the 39-16, going like 17 or 18 miles an hour."

As Rowe rolled off the front early on the climb and his teammates set tempo on the fornt, Sweeting and Hegyvary, seperated by just 30 seconds overall at the start of the day, played cat-and-mouse up the climb.

"I stared attacking (Hegyvary) with about 4k to go," Sweeting said. "He would cover me and just sit on. Everytime he'd sit on me, I didn't want to pull him around. And every time I attacked and sat up, the guy up the road got a bigger gap."

And so it played out down the road as Rowe charged the line to take the stage and second overall.

"I think after 100 miles it would have been a totally different stage," Sweeting said of the shortened course. "At first I was unhappy that the race got shortened, but I was numb after an hour. So I figured 100 miles would have sucked pretty bad."

In the women's race, Sheasby used her climbing prowess to storm away from the field with Alisha Welsh (PCIM) and take the stage win and the overall lead. Sheasby and Welsh finished 1:24 ahead of Veloforma's McWhirter, who started the day just 49 seconds ahead of Sheasby and Riverstone Racing's Albert. Welsh moved up to second overall, five seconds back. McWhirter fell to third, 35 seconds behind the leader. Tourchstone Climbing's Pryor finsihed with McWhirter and moved to fourth overall on GC.

Elkhorn Classic Stage Race,
June 19-21

Men Pro/1/2 Stage 4 Dooley Mountain Road Race
1. Kevin Rowe (Bob's 54:07
2. Erik Slack (Bob's +:33
3. Ian Tuttle (Above Category Racing) same time
4. Phil Elasser (Fanatik Bike Co.) same time
5. Dan Bryant (Safeway) same time

Men Pro/1/2 Overall
1. Adrian Hegyvary (Hagens-Berman)
2. Kevin Rowe (Bob's Biycles) +:21
3. Bobby Sweeting (Land Rover-ORBEA) +:31
4. Evan Pickett (Metromint Cycling) +:48
5. Dan Bryant (Safeway) +:57

Women Pro/1/2 Stage 4 Dooley Mountain Road Race
1. Teri Sheasby (Bend Bike 'n' Sport)
2. Alisha Welsh (OCIM) same time
3. Heather Pryor (Touchstone Climbing) +1:24
4. Melissa McWhirter (Veloforma) +1:24
5. Alice Pennington (Veloforma) +1:30

Women Pro/1/2 Overall
1. Teri Sheasby (Bend Bike 'n' Sport)
2. Alisha Welsh (PCIM) +:05
3. Melissa McWhirter (Veloforma) +:35
4. Heather Pryor (Touchstone Climbing) +1:57
5. Heather Albert (Riverstone Racing) +2:24

You can find complete OBRA results HERE.