Juneau’s Robert Sowers won Sunday’s stage 4 of the Tour Of Juneau, crossing the finish line after 51-miles, one-minute ahead of overall leaders Troy Henry, from Whitehorse, and John Bursell, of Juneau, in a time of two hours, 25 minutes and 37 seconds.
It was the duel for second and third, however, that would provide the overall tour winner.
“I needed to just maintain and not let anybody get away,” Henry said. “And let it come down to a sprint finish.”
Henry, 22, has been racing for 10 years and has competed in past Tours in Juneau.
“I have had a bike for a long time,” Henry said. “I like coming down here, although this year was a little wetter than other classics.”
Sowers broke away from the main peloton shortly after the 51-mile long racecourse started. Needing to make up over two minutes to overtake the leaders after three stages, Sowers opened up a 40 second lead.
The peloton, however, slowly reeled him back in.
That initial 51-mile peloton began dropping riders on the return from Eagle Beach, between Amalga and Tee Harbor. They passed the 31-mile sport racers shortly after their turn at Eagle and slowly approached the difficult six loops at Auke Rec.
Sowers and Forest Bowers, who finished the stage second in 2:26:13, pushed hard around the loops.
“I was hoping Robert (Sowers) would get enough of a gap to go for the overall win,” men’s runner-up John Bursell said. “He almost did, he tried a couple times. My mentality was just to stick with Troy (Henry), and work the sprint.”
Bursell made a few moves along the course to test Henry’s reaction to a pull away break.
“He was just too strong,” Bursell said. “I think I always need to work on my sprint. I think I waited a little too long. If I had gone a little earlier I might have had a chance.”
Bursell waited for Henry to sprint, drafting along before he also tried a pedal-powering push towards the finish line.
Henry’s front wheel was a half rotation in front of Bursell’s for second place in the final stage and securing the overall win.
In the mix with the men, Janice Sheufelt battled down to the wire, winning the stage four women’s long course in 2:27:26 to retain the overall women’s title with a combined time of 3:24:03, with Jamie Bursell third overall at 4:01:03 and Treena Irving fourth overall in 4:08:12.
“I just try and stay with the front riders as long as possible,” Janice Sheufelt said. “The pace was much faster here with the men than what I normally ride in a long race, so that was hard. My muscles are not used to riding with that much intensity.”
Adding to the intensity were the three strong front-runners: Henry, Bursell and Sowers.
“That is the challenge,” Sheufelt said. “If they do an attack and I am too far back there will be a split in the group and I might not end up with the front group.”
Melanie Tait won the 30-mile women’s short course in 1:34:35, just behind men’s winner Layrd Oliff’s 1:34:27. The win solidified Tait’s sport overall championship, as did Oliff’s who crossed with the same time as Greg Huebschen.
Tait is in her first year of competitive cycling, making a switch from speed skating. Tait has competed in that event in the Canada Games and trained at the University of Calgary. It was during that training that the cycling coach asked her to attend the Canada Games for cycling as well.
“Definitely the experience of coming down to where there are competitors who have been racing a lot has been rewarding,” Tait said. “Just to get as much experience from the other riders who know what they are doing and try my best in every race.”
Speed skating has given Tait the endurance and power needed for cycling as well as the similar racing knowledge such as drafting strategies.
“I think I am best on the sprints on the flats,” Tait said. “I am more of a time trialer. I will work on the hills now a lot more, but catching people in sprints is what I like to do.”
The strategy paid off for Tait as she finished just ahead of a strong short peloton of Brandi Gerke, Jennifer Watson, Cathy Tide and Melanie White.
Oliff, 22, a six-year cyclist, was strong in the climbs.
“I like to test everybody on the hills,” Oliff said. “Just see how they go, and then just play it by ear through that point.”
Following are the final overall standings and Sunday’s stage four finish.
Tour Of Juneau overall final standings (Riders who participated but did not finish all 4 events are listed without a time) -
Women’s overall: Janice Sheufelt 3:24:03; Jamie Bursell 4:01:03; Treena Irving 4:08:12.
Women’s Sport overall: Melanie Tait 2:37:04; Brandi Gerke 2:45:39; Jennifer Watson 2:54:24; Cathy Tide 2:55:21; Melanie White 2:56:08; Sandra Woods 3:10:58; Alysia Jones; Kerri Dunning.
Youth Overall: Shea Hoffman 2:36:17; Brace Lemphers 2:51:41; Matthew Knaack 2:5;z8:09; Caleb McPherson; Jacob McPherson.
Youth female overall: Tanicka Reeves 3:45:25; Ava Irving-Staley.
Men’s Sport Overall: Layrd Oliff 2:36:10; Greg Huebschen.
Men’s Overall: Troy Henry 3:16:51; John Bursell 3:16:56; Rob Sowers 3:17:30; Forest Bowers 3:21:44; Dan Robinson 3:26:38; Brian Smith 3:26:47; Mark Neidhold 3:32:03; Reed Stoops 3:32:16; Jim Ustasiewski 3:39:18; Richard Forst; Maxwell Rule; Noble Anderson; Bill Curtis; Mike McCann; John McConnochie.
Sundays Stage 4 Eagel Beach Road Race -
Women’s Long Course 51 miles: Janice Sheufelt 2:27:26; Jamie Bursell 2:57:18; Treena Irving 3:04:42.
Women’s Short Course 30 miles: Melanie Tait 1:34:35; Brandi Gerke 1:40:38; Jennifer Watson 1:42:28; Cathy Tide 1:42:28; Kerri Dunning 1:44:54; Melanie White 1:45:50; Sandra Woods 1:53:32.
Youth Men 30 miles: Shea Hoffman 1:34:27; Brace Lemphers 1:42:28; Matthew Knaack 1:43:50; Caleb McPherson 1:42:56; Jacob McPherson 1:34:27.
Men’s Short Course 30 miles: Layrd Oliff 1:34:27; Greg Huebschen 1:34:27.
Men’s long course 51 Miles:
Rob Sowers 2:25:37; Forest Bowers 2:26:13; John Bursell 2:26:54; Troy Henry 2:26:54; Richard Forst 2:28:14; Dan Robinson 2:28:43; Brian Smith 2:30:24; Mark Neidhold 2:31:54; Reed Stoops 2:34:14; Maxwell Rule 2:38:04; Jim Ustasiewski 2:40:24; Noble Anderson DNF; Bill Curtis DNF; Mike McCann DNF.
Race volunteers included: John and Peggy Ann McConnochie and Alex (exchange student); Dave and Ginger Blaisdell; Steve Wolf; Rob and Rose Welton; Vicki Orosco; Terry Ward; Jasper Soriano and Shane Ke; Parents and support people including Jim Sheufelt; Mr. Oliff; the Irving-Staleys,the Taits and others forgotten; Dave Ringle, USACycling official and race coordinator.