MINDEN -- Not surprisingly, Debbie Allen was out front on her bicycle in the Category 1 women's race at the Carson Valley Classic's Minden Criterium on Saturday afternoon. What was surprising, virtually no one else was in sight on the homestretch as Allen won her second straight title and third in four years.
The criterium was the first leg of the Carson Valley Classic, a two-day event that has attracted entries from as far away as New Zealand. The Classic concludes today with the Diamond Valley Road Race, starting at 8 a.m. from Diamond Valley School near Woodfords, Calif.
Allen, a 37-year-old school teacher from Fair Oaks, Calif., broke away early and never looked back to win the 45-minute race that looped through downtown Minden. By the three-quarter mark of the race, she had built a lead of 32 seconds over the rest of the pack on a hot and windy day.
"Krystyna (Kras) and I attacked a couple of laps into the race; we had a good gap, but it was way too early and the pack caught us," Allen said. "You never know how the field is going to react, so you just kind of try things. I've been doing this for 10 years, you get an idea of team tactics and you get an idea what will work and what will not."
Back-to-back preme laps early on changed the complexion of this race.
"It was a back-to-back preme, I rolled to the back and when we were on the backside, I just took her up with me. I took the preme and then we just kept going."
Allen, Kras and Eryn Hanna of Stateline surged to the front after the preme laps.
"After a couple of laps, Krystyna couldn't hang in there, then the Alta Alpina rider dropped off, and there I was out there by myself," Allen said.
Allen gave credit to her Webcor teammates for helping her maintain the lead.
"The team did a great job blocking for me and controlling the pack, that enabled me to stay out for what seemed like a very long time," she said.
Among those teammates helping out was 45-year-old Linda Elgart, who won the masters women 45-49 age group criterium at the national championships three weeks ago in Spokane, Wash.
"It's really, really fun to block for your teammates," said Elgart, who finished sixth on Saturday. "I was staying in second position and every time someone would go, I would jump on them over and over again. I just wouldn't let them get up there."
Allen crossed the finish 19 seconds ahead of the pack. New Zealand's Lisa Savage and Rebecca Rose finished second and third respectively.
Savage, Rose and Brenda Clapp have spent the past month in the Carson Valley preparing for the UCI Uncle Ben's World Mountain Bike Championships Sept. 8-16 in Vail, Colo.
"It was a workout, part of our training," said Savage, 31, who lives in Nelson, N.Z. "It was great. We really enjoyed it.
"We've been based in Gardnerville for the last month to train for the
world championships," she said. "This is a great spot. We can go up to Tahoe and do a little altitude training and then come back down and recover. It's quite nice to be at altitude and yet be able to ride comfortably."
The criterium was a new experience for Savage and Rose.
"This was the first crit we've ever done. We really didn't know what a crit was," Savage said, flashing a smile. "It's a lot of hard work, 45 minutes, it's very fast, and we're going in circles."
Hanna finished 10th in the race for Alta Alpina and 14-year-old Amber Ramos of South Lake Tahoe was 11th.
Allen is certainly familiar with the Minden course.
"I like this course and I like this race," she said. "The heat wasn't too bad, but it was windier today than I've seen before. It was real hot the first year I won here. I remember that."
Allen won the 1998 Minden Criterium just 11 months after giving berth to her first child.
"Pulling a burly trailer is good training," Allen said. "I'm still pulling the burly trailer and she'll be 4 next month."
John Hunt and Matt Dubberly finished first and second in the men's pro race. Rinaldo Bullentini of the Alta Alpina Cycling Club was 11th and Rick Vandenarke of the Reno Wheelman took 12th ... Sean Robins of Encino, Calif., won the men's Category 3 race, followed by Russell Harding. Bruce Thomas of Alta Alpina finished fifth and Keith Hart 10th ... Jeff Poulsen won the Masters 35 race and Bubba Melcher was second. Melcher, who formerly played tight end at the University of Nevada tight end and later served as head football coach at Galena High School, won a national criterium championship in the men's 35 age group 1-2 pro class earlier this summer ... Glen Winkel won the Masters 45 race while Tom Regan and Pete Alexandre of South Lake Tahoe and the Alta Alpina Cycling Club took fourth and sixth respectively.