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Mud, Sweat and Gears

Weather, holiday keeps field small for Mother's Day mountain bike race

Posted: Monday, May 12, 2003

There were spills and chills during the Juneau Freewheelers Bicycle Club's "Mud, Sweat and Mother's Day" mountain bike race held Sunday at Dimond Park.

The first break in Juneau's unusual stretch of nice weather meant a the few hardy riders who showed up for the race were greeted by a blustery wind and a temperature about 15 degrees colder than what they'd experienced in recent days.

Only seven mountain bikers showed up for the race, well below the expected 15-20. A cycling road race on Friday saw the club's largest pre-July showing for an event with 22 racers, but that was with sunny skies and no wind.

"Ah, this was perfect weather and a nice course," runner-up Wayne Leighty said.

Steve Box won Sunday's race, but he had to overcome a big spill midway through the first lap of the six-lap course around the edges of Dimond Park. Box forgot there was a sharp turn off one of the access roads near the back of the soccer field, so when Leighty slowed to make the turn Box, who was trailing, had to slam on the brakes and went flying over his handlebars.

Box was able to pass Leighty during the next lap and, a couple of laps later, Leighty went down and Box was able to open up a wide gap that he'd carry to the end of the race. Box finished the course, estimated to be about nine or 10 miles, in 41 minutes, 19 seconds, while Leighty took second place in 42:38.

"I guess we equaled out on the wrecks," Box said as he massaged a sore finger that had been jammed in his spill. "But I guess that's standard for mountain bike races. It wouldn't be a mountain bike race if you didn't wipe out at least once."

"We both wrecked a few times, but he was really hammering out there," Leighty said of Box, who usually competes in cycling road races.

Even though the course was just about 1 1/2 to 2 miles a lap, it gave the riders a good sampling of terrain.

There were some straightaways next to the soccer field and softball diamonds where the racers could use their power, but there was a selection of singletrack through the woods where the riders had to show some technique. Add in a spot where the riders go through a couple of sand dunes and a creek crossing, and it was a good bet that most of the riders would be muddy and sweaty by the time they reached the finish line.

"I needed more places where I could hammer," said Dave Bartlett, who had to quit in the fourth lap when his back tire went flat. "I'm not too big on that technique stuff. ... It was definitely a relief to get a flat, so I didn't have to face the humiliation."

Most of the riders said the toughest part of the course was the sand dunes.

"That quicksand, it feels like you're riding through snow," Leighty said.

"That sand, you're going 10 miles an hour, then you hit it and you're going two," Box added.

Stefan Ricci took third place, but he was fourth until he passed Ryan Siverly midway through the last lap. Ricci and Bartlett were late arrivals for the race, so they missed out on the pre-race lap where the riders got to inspect the course. Both late arrivals had to be persuaded to race.

"Aren't you glad you saw me in the store and I told you to do this race?" race volunteer Joe Sorenson asked Ricci after Ricci finished the race.

"Otherwise I would have been home, eating cookies and drinking coffee," Ricci said.

After Ricci passed Siverly, one of two teenagers in the race, they had a long sprint for the finish line. They were about even as they came around the final bend, but Ricci was able to jump a small puddle and get his bike through the boulders lining the parking lot before Siverly could.

"He got me right on the hill," Siverly said. "Coming off the bridge, he got some speed. It was luck, all luck."

Ricci's time was 44:23, while Siverly finished in 44:27. Tim Travis, the race's other teenager, finished in 48:43.

"I put too much money into this bike to give up," Travis said.

Mike Baxter, who was racing for the first time, was in a novice-rider division that only did three laps of the course. His time was 26:56.

All the other riders were regulars on the local race circuit, but Baxter was making his first foray into the sport. Baxter rode in Friday night's 22.5-mile Tee Harbor Short Course Road Race, then entered Sunday's mountain bike race for a full debut weekend.

"I mountain bike all the time, but I don't push myself like this," Baxter said. "This is a lot tougher."

Charles Bingham can be reached at cbingham@juneauempire.com.

MUD, SWEAT AND MOTHER'S DAY MOUNTAIN BIKE RACE

Results from the Juneau Freewheelers Bicycle Club's "Mud, Sweat and Mother's Day" mountain bike race, held Sunday at Dimond Park. The course was six laps around a 1 1/2- to 2-mile loop around the outskirts of the park.

Long course (six laps) - 1. Steve Box, age 35, 41 minutes, 19 seconds; 2. Wayne Leighty, 25, 42:38; 3. Stefan Ricci, 30, 44:23; 4. Ryan Siverly, 16, 44:27; 5. Tim Travis, 18, 48:43; DNF: Dave Bartlett, 38, mechanical.

Short course (three laps) - 1. Mike Baxter, 32, 26:56.



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