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Saturday's Historic Treadwell Mine mountain bike race was supposed to be free from the technical difficulties that sometimes appear in other Juneau Freewheelers' Association mountain bike events.
Using a course that is wider and follows along nearly paved bike trails, the Historic Treadwell Mine race was considered so easy some riders even thought about using their combi- or cross-training bikes on the 2-mile course (the bikes that are in between being a road bike and a mountain bike).
Instead, Saturday's race turned into a battle of attrition as half of the riders either damaged their bikes or hurt themselves riding a course that proved to be a little bit more technical than they originally thought.
Even winner Mark Griffith, who is home from college, had to battle mechanical problems during the race. And Janice Sheufelt, the only female in the race and the third-place overall finisher, thought she'd broken a finger on the course, which was set by her husband Jim, the race director.
Griffith broke his front shifter on the final lap of the four-lap race, leaving him with just two gears as he tried to fend off runner-up Terry Ward. Griffith posted a time of 38 minutes, 57 seconds, while Ward covered the course in 41:13 and Sheufelt had a time of 43:56.
``I just thought it would be cool to go out and race,'' said Griffith, who added that he has been rowing for Pacific Lutheran University's varsity crew team. ``I did the race last year and I won my age bracket, but I also got a few flat tires.''
The course started at the old mill press, near Sandy Beach, then wound through the woods toward the Treadwell Mine site. For the most part it followed the bike trails, which are wide and smooth with some loose gravel. But there were times when Jim Sheufelt took the course off the main trails so riders could get some single-track riding in.
Sheufelt also added a nice steep hill just past the midway point of the course, and that's where Griffith said he won the race.
``I noticed when we were riding the course in warm-ups that everyone seemed to back up going up the hill,'' Griffith said. ``I wanted to control the race by getting to the hill first and trying to stay ahead of everyone when things bogged down. I thought Terry was closer behind me. This was a nice smooth, flat course, and I like loose gravel because I feel confident on it. It was nice to see some uphill, too.''
Ward said Griffith got the jump on him early in the race, and then Griffith didn't slow down as the race progressed. The leaders had to deal with some moved cones at one first-lap turnaround, but other than that Ward had a clean ride.
``He (Griffith) rode a real steady race,'' Ward said. ``I thought I'd catch him on the rocky, fast section because of his rigid frame, but he rode well. It was a fun track, though it was confusing at times.''
After crashing twice on the first lap, Janice Sheufelt seemed to finally work her way into a rhythm as the race progressed. But when she finished, Sheufelt, who happens to be a doctor, was feeling the effects of the two crashes.
``I think I broke my finger,'' Sheufelt said. ``I'm going to have to go to the clinic and x-ray it. I've broken it before, so I know what it feels like. I crashed in a section of the road where it was rocky, and one time was left just sitting there. But I figured I could still ride and I passed a couple of guys. I was trying to catch Terry, but he was too far ahead.''
One of the other casualties of the course included Dennis Travis, who broke his chain early in the race and fixed it, only to have it break again on the final lap so he finished carrying the bike over his shoulder. Another casualty was Dave Ringle, who broke his derailleur on the first lap of the race and wasn't able to finish.
HISTORIC TREADWELL MINE RACE
Results from Saturday's Historic Treadwell Mine mountain bike race, sponsored by the Juneau Freewheelers' Association, a four-lap race over a 2-mile course.
Overall standings - 1. Mark Griffith, 38:57; 2. Terry Ward, 41:13; 3. Janice Sheufelt (first female), 43:56; 4. Ken Keim, 46:09; 5. Mike Heumann, 48:03; 6. Tim Travis, 48:06; 7. Dennis Travis, 54:50; DNF: Dave Ringle.