Covering 140 miles from Boulder to Breckenridge, the Saturn Cycling Classic, climbs over the mountains of Colorado to 10,000 feet before descending down into the ski resort town of Breckenridge, reaches altitudes over 11,500 feet and negotiates seven mountain passes before the day is done. Not an event for the weak of heart, no race in the world equals the distance, number of climbs, and elevation.
Jonathan Vaughters narrowly defeated Chris Horner in this race in 2001, and returned this year as the defending champion; but in the end, it was Mercury's Chris Wherry whose father passed away earlier in the week, claiming an emotional victory in Breckenridge.
The race got off to a fast start with an early break getting away 10 miles out, and before the first climb began. The break of 15 men, included good representation from the big teams: Saturn's Harm Jansen, Soren Petersen, Mercury's Phil Zajicek, Henk Vogels, Jesus Zarate, and Prime Alliance's Alex Candalario, Russell Stevenson and Matt DeCanio, as well as race favorite Jonathon Vaughters' Handle Bar and Grill Team's Rishi Grewal and Mike Carter. At the first sprint at Blackhawk Mike Carter beat out Soren Peterson, crossing the line over two minutes ahead of Soren Petersen, who was later moved into the win after Carter later dropped out.
This break kept its lead, stretching it to over 6 minutes until the infamous climb of Guanella Pass when Zarate attacked at the bottom of the climb which splintered the group.
Behind the breakaway, a chase of seven formed containing Vaughters, Mercury's Chris Wherry and Saturn's Tim Johnson. Over the top three riders were solo: Wherry, Zarate, Moninger. From here the switch to mountain bikes to better handle the descent, brought a group of eight together containing Vaughters, (four Mercury riders) Wherry, Moninger, Zarate, Zajicek, Burke Swindlehurst, and one other rider.
Petersen, Walker Furgeson, and Prime Alliance's Michael Creed managed to bridge the gap up to the front group in South Park. Mercury set a blistering pace, which eventually took it's toll, shedding a Mercury and a Handle Bar and Grill rider, bringing the total riders out to eight. On Red Hill Pass Saturn's Petersen got dropped, but rejoined over the top of Red Hill Pass and attacked immediately coming through the group. Wherry responded, bridged up to Petersen and then drove the pace.
Vaughters gave chase, but to no avail as the gap built to 2:20 by the bottom of Hoosier Pass. As the grade began to bite, Petersen was dropped and Wherry, who has ridden strongly all year, went solo heading for the win in Breckenridge with a margin of two minutes. Wherry came into town all smiles, and went over the finishline into the arms of his waiting family. Swindlehurst and Moninger passed Petersen 2 km from the top of the pass, and behind them, Ferguson caught Vaughters. Swindlehurst got away from Moninger, taking second at the line. Petersen finished in fourth followed by Ferguson in fifth and defending champion Vaughters in a very respectable sixth.
Wherry, riding with a heavy heart, dedicated his win to his father, who passed away earlier this week. "Our family has had so much support this week, I couldn't ask for any more," said Wherry after the race. "Thank you dad, you made this happen for me today."
1 Chris Wherry Mercury Boulder CO USA 7:09:28
2 Burke Swindelhurst Navigators Laverkin UT USA 7:11:28
3 Scott Moninger Mercury Boulder CO USA 7:11:30
4 Soren Peterson Saturn Redlands CA DEN 7:12:14
5 Walker Ferguson Tokyo Joe's Norwood CO USA 7:14:26
6 Jonathan Vaughters Handle Bar & Grill Denver CO USA 7:14:25
7 Jesus Zarate Mercury Guadalajara JA MEX 7:16:17
8 Jose Adrian Bonilla Handle Bar & Grill San Jose CRC 7:18:09
9 Michael Creed Prime Alliance Colorado Springs CO USA 7:18:09
10 Phil Zajicek Mercury Tuscon AZ USA 7:19:51
11 Andrew Miller Trek/VW-New Belgium Flagstaff AZ USA 7:28:39
12 Tim Johnson Saturn Middleton MA USA 7:28:39
13 Marc Gullickson Tokyo Joe's Boulder CO USA 7:31:58
14 Todd Wells Tokyo Joe's USA 7:31:58
15 Tinker Juarez Handle Bar & Grill Downey Ca USA 7:34:10
16 Cameron Hughes Schwab Cycles NSW AUS 7:35:00
17 Mark Southard Trek/VW-New Belgium Boulder CO USA 7:39:19
18 Chris Baldwin Navigators Boulder CO USA 7:39:19
19 Andy Jaques-Mayer Siera Nevada USA 7:42:12
20 Andrew Bajadali Excel Sports Boulder CO USA 7:43:15
Women's Nicole Reinhart Criterium
Report Courtesy of Giana Roberge, Team Saturn
In the women's criterium race, 24 women started a race held in a miss and out format.
The short sharp laps quickly disintegrated the field, leaving a front group of eight. It was local Sarah Conrad who made the race, attacking early and holding off the three Saturn riders, Suzanne Sonye, Jessica Phillips and Anke Erlank for five laps. Soon however, Conrad was brought back and the race of attrition began.
With three laps to go it was Diet Rite's Kori Kelly, Phillips and Conrad remaining. Kelly went for a late prime and Conrad was quick to counter. Phillips gave her best effort to bring Conrad back but was unable to come to terms with her. Conrad won solo, with Phillips only meters behind. Kelly finished in third.
"I was just going for it," said Konrad. "I love this race. It has a good power climb which I really like and everything worked out. Today was an advantage for me because I really didn't have any teammates to watch out for and didn't have to coordinate attacks. Two years ago I finished fourth here and last year I was second, so this was a great day."
Women's Nicole Reinhart Criterium
1 Sarah Conrad
2 Jessica Phillips - Saturn Cycling Team
3 Kori Kelly - Diet Rite