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Sitka's Smith climbs into Tour of Juneau top spot

Posted: Sunday, August 12, 2001

Gary Smith of Sitka hasn't done much cycling this summer, so he was a little bit surprised after winning the first two stages of the Tour of Juneau.

Smith spent the month of June climbing Mount McKinley, and he's only been back in his bike saddle for three weeks. But he held a six-point lead over 15-year-old Dave Fleischhauer of Olympia, Wash., entering today's final stage -- a 40-mile road race from the Auke Bay ferry terminal to Mile 33 Glacier Highway and back to the Auke Recreation Area with a detour along Lena Loop Road.

Smith had 82 points to lead the unofficial men's overall standings, while Fleischhauer was second with 76 points. Defending Tour of Juneau champion Dan Graves of Juneau was in third place with 72 points, followed by Mike McCann of Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, in fourth with 69 points and Juneau's Chris Scholes in fifth place with 68. Julie Graves led the women's standings with 76 points, followed by Angie Wright with 74, Betsy Fischer with 70 and Tara Jeans with 69.

"This is my first time in the Tour of Juneau," Smith said. "I was doing McKinley all summer, and I'm so happy with how well I've been riding. I was hoping my climbing would transfer over to the bike."

Smith's climbing had a direct effect in Friday's opening stage, the Eaglecrest Hill Climb, a five-mile climb up Fish Creek Road to Eaglecrest Ski Area. The mass-start event featured a Tour record 37 cyclists riding in a pack up the road. There was still a large pack as the race headed toward the finish line, when Smith got a nice leadout from Sitka's Dan Kelliher to win the state by one second.

Smith posted a time of 17:49 to win the stage, followed by Graves in 17:50, Fleischhauer in 17:51, Scholes in 17:53 and McCann in 17:57. Julie Graves posted the top women's time of 20:44, followed by Wright in 22:04, Jeans in 25:20 and Fischer in 26:08.

"Yesterday was great," Smith said. "We all took off together, and there were still 20 of us in a group about halfway through the race. We started breaking it up, and then there were four or five of us at the end. I had been in the very back, and I got away as soon as I could. It was a close race."

In Saturday's stage, the 9.9-mile False Outer Point Time Trial, the 39 riders left in 30-second intervals with the slower riders taking off first. Smith was the last to hit the road, but along the way he passed Graves. Smith posted a time of 23:27 to win the stage, with Fleischhauer second in 23:34, Dan Harrington of Haines third in 23:50, McCann fourth in 23:55 and Steve Williams of Haines fifth in 24:14. Julie Graves won the women's race in 27:07, followed by Wright in 28:40, Morgan Davis in 28:41 and Fischer in 29:09.

"It was definitely fun, getting to start in the back and chasing people down like that," said Smith, who competed in the Ironman-Lake Placid triathlon last summer and also plays basketball for Sitka during the Gold Medal basketball tournament.

Fleischhauer is in town visiting his uncle, but he competes for the Rad Racing junior developmental cycling team when he's back home.

"These races are a lot more low-key than what I ride at home," Fleischhauer said. "I've been in Under-18 races where there were 30 people just in our age group. That's how many people are in this whole race. But it's fun. I wish I'd have been able to get into a better rhythm today."

There are three bonus-point sprints in the middle of today's road race, so Smith's lead is vulnerable.

"Tomorrow will be amazing," Smith said. "There are 10-12 guys who can be a factor."

Several of the Out-of-Towners met after Saturday's stage to discuss strategy against the Juneau riders.

"We're scheming already," Harrington said as he, Williams, Smith, Kelliher and McCann chatted after the stage.

"We all plan on this race each summer," Kelliher said.

In the women's race, Julie Graves has a solid lead but at this point she has more important priorities. Last fall she broke her back in a paraglider crash and she only returned to racing last month. She said she was happy to see more women in the race than usual.

"This is great, everybody's got someone to ride with," she said. "I'm feeling fine. I'm just happy to be out there."

Complete results can be found on the Scoreboard on Page B2.

******

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



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