The lead pack of the Nick Frangos Memorial Group Ride and Race stayed together until the end of the 24-mile cycling race Sunday along the North Douglas Highway, meaning the race was coming down to a final sprint.
When that happens, sometimes it's just as important to know when to sprint as it is to have a strong final kick.
As the lead group of 10 Juneau Freewheelers Bicycle Club cyclists approached the finish line near the Douglas Bridge, Chris Scholes looked for Dan Graves and positioned himself so he was just to Graves' left. With 200 yards to go, Graves went into his sprint and Scholes went with him. The two cyclists pulled ahead of the pack, with Scholes swinging wide to the left as he edged ahead of Graves.
Scholes crossed the finish line a half-bicycle-length ahead of Graves to claim the overall victory, with both riders posting identical times of 1 hour, 0 minutes, 26 seconds. Doug Woodby led the next eight riders across, all with the same time of 1:00:28.
"He jumped early, and I wanted to be able to hop on his wheel when he went," Scholes said. "Dan has a really fast sprint. I decided early on I was going to mark Dan's wheel."
The race marked the return to action of Julie Graves, who broke the L2 (second lumbar) vertebra in her back when she fell about 80 feet in a paragliding accident last September. Julie Graves, Dan's wife and one of the top female riders in the state, had just been recovering from major knee surgery last year when she had her accident. She had to go through two major surgeries in Seattle and months of rehabilitation to regain her mobility.
But Sunday it was like Julie Graves had never been away from the local racing scene. She was able to stay with the lead pack the entire race, even taking her share of turns setting the pace in the pack's lead. Julie Graves was in the group of eight cyclists that finished in 1:00:28, taking eighth place overall and posting the top women's time. Betsy Fischer, the only other female in the race, posted a time of 1:08:56.
"That was my first race back," Julie Graves said, adding that she still doesn't think she's quite back to the level she was before her accident. "I'm working on it. I was just thinking how nice it was to be on dry roads. Between my knee injury and my accident last year, I'm starting to think I'm klutzy. There were so many strong riders out today."
When the race started Sunday morning, Scholes said Dan Graves started pushing the pace before the pack reached the second hill. The lead pack kept up a pace of about 23-24 mph for the ride from the Douglas Bridge to False Outer Point and back along the North Douglas Highway, slowly dropping riders off the lead group. By the time the lead pack hit the turnaround, it was down to 10 riders and those 10 riders stayed together until Scholes and Graves made their sprint at the finish.
"Dan made four or five good squirts there in the lead," said Scholes, who moved to Juneau late last summer. "He was really pushing the pace."
"It was a fast pace," Woodby said. "Dan Graves and Chris Scholes were both taking their turns in the lead. They were doing them together. Chris is a smart cyclist. He was a (U.S. Cycling Federation) Cat 2 rider in Colorado before he had some back problems. It's nice to see someone new at the front of the pack."
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.