Rare loss prompts Sharp to dominate road race
Stars and Stripes June 16, 2007
STUTTGART, Germany — James Sharp of Hanau turned Sunday’s portion of the Tour de Stuttgart bicycle races into a tour de force.
Sharp, a 46-year-old veteran of the military cycling circuit who spent last year in the desert, rebounded for a rare mountain bike loss on Saturday to obliterate the field in Sunday’s 24-kilometer Stuttgart Criterium road race.
Sharp clocked 35 minutes, 6 seconds Sunday, lapping the field on lap 23 of the 30-lap event. None of the other racers was on the same lap as Sharp when he crossed the finish line.
"I wanted to enter two races today," Sharp said Sunday, referring to the open race designed for riders 18-29 years and one the same distance that followed, for riders 40 years and older. "It would have been a good training ride. I promised just to stay at the back, but Debra (Ponzio, the road race series director) said it wasn’t in me to do that."
Sharp, who lost a year’s training time to deployment last year, didn’t hang back in the race he did enter, which followed his first open-division loss of the year on Saturday.
Sharp clocked 1:10:12.2 for Saturday’s 18.2-mile mountain bike event, second overall behind 18-year-old newcomer Jeff Andris of Schwäbisch Hall. Andris clocked 1:08:28.5. Sharp, who had won the three previous 2008 open mountain bike races, seemed unfazed by his rare second-place finish.
"I’d never seen him before," he said Sunday after Andris failed to show for the road race, "but for (age) 18 compared to (age) 46 it isn’t so bad."
Andris, who said he had only been racing mountain bikes since last year, was riding his first U.S. Forces cycling race.
"It was very flat," he said about the course, which race organizers said had a 1,500-meter elevation change. "You had to sprint all the way."
Sprinting was the name of Sunday’s game, especially in the masters’ race for 40-year-olds. Martin Heinz of Spangdahlem took the gold in 35:58 ahead of three other riders who finished in the same time.
"It was a tough competition," Heinz said. "You couldn’t drop anybody."
Heinz is looking forward to the next road cycling event, a 50K event July 12-13 in Spangdahlem, where the laps are much longer than Sunday’s .8-k circuits.
"I like the longer distance," he said, "and the longer laps help. Once people lose sight of you, they sometimes quit trying to catch up."
Spangdahlem rider Seth Lininger took the four-entrant seniors event for riders aged 30-39 in another close finish. Fellow Spangdahlem rider Brian McRory was clocked in the same time as Lininger, 39:30.
"I’m a mountain bike racer," said Lininger, who won that event on Saturday.
"There’s too much politics in road cycling. Guys will shake your hand and say, ‘You help me in this part of the race and I’ll help you there,’ " Lininger said. "They don’t always do it. I’m not a politician."
Like Sharp, Sunday women’s champ Theresa Michal of Stuttgart, a triathlete, was rebounding from a Saturday loss in mountain bikes.
"I prefer road racing," she said. "Mountain bikes are too scary. My husband’s the Stuttgart fitness director, so I had to enter."
Michal’s off the hook for the next stop in the 11-race mountain bike series, this Saturday at Hohenfels, stop five for that circuit. Next up for the road racers is Spangdahlem, stop three.