A Hill Country Classic
April 30 - May 1, 2011 Juan Pelota Ranch, Dripping Springs, Texas
When you're racing in the backyard (literally) of cycling legend, Lance Armstrong, there is an added ingredient of legacy and nostalgia that gets thrown in to the mix. The 2011 Mellow Johnny's Classic is held at the Juan Pelota Ranch over the weekend, located just outside of Austin...the place that Lance calls home when in the area. In just it's second year, the Mellow Classic has drawn a lot of attention and is already one of the premier mountain biking events in the hill country.
This year's event also included a Pro race that makes up part of the Pro XC series, so there was even more to be excited about over at Juan Pelota. The Pros started things off on Saturday and kicked up a lot of dust under the hot Texas sun. Specialized Racing's Max Plaxton came out on top in the Men's Pro division with his teammate Todd Wells taking second place. Sam Schultz of team Subaru-Trek rounded out the podium with his third place finish.
On the Women's pro side it was Georgia Gould of the Luna Pro Team, Lea Davison from team Specialized, and Turbo Bike Team's Daniela Campuzano rounding out the top three. The excitement in the Women's division came in the battle to capture this last podium spot with Daniela just narrowly edging out Krista Park for third place.
The Pros always grab a lot of attention, and the spectators on hand were made up of racing fans as well as the competitors who would be ripping up the track in the day to follow. The night prior to the Pro racing, many of the competitors were on hand at Mellow Johnny's Bike shop where the kick off event took place and also served as a fundraiser for the Texas High School Mountain Bike League.
The Cat 3 division was also held on Saturday, prior to the Pros hitting the track. it was once again the incredible young rider, Jorge Munoz Jr making things happen and taking home another first place victory in the Men's 19 -29 category. Other Cat 3 winners included Ryan Helms (age 30-39), Dave Sheltraw (age 40-49), and John Worzel (age 50 +). On the Women's side, Rhiannon Smith (age 19-29), Amber Tune (30-39), and Candace Mann (age 40 +) all took home top honors. In addition, the Cat 3 Juniors champions included John Madden, Summer Bewick, Nathan Baldwin, Holly Dierschke, Claire Boatman, and Steven Dearman.
On Sunday, the Cat 1 and 2 riders were ready to take their turn on the Juan Pelota track and they were greeted by hot winds and blowing dust clouds across the ranch. The smoking hot conditions definitely made for some over-heated competitors by the time the Cat 1's had taken a couple loops around the course.
With spring temperatures in the low 90's, it's difficult to complain about the conditions presented for this year's Classic. But it's easy to say that this Sunday's day of racing can go down as being hailed the dust bowl Classic. The combination of sweat and dust definitely had the competitors looking to hit the showers after the day's events had concluded.
In a strong group of Cat 2 riders, there were so many impressive rides taking place during the race, but in the end only one winner could emerge from each of the categories. In the Men's 19-29 year-old division, Brady Stewart took home the victory. Wes Jerman took top spot in the 30-34 division, while Steven Horvath captured first in the 35-39 category. John Meegan, Scott Shepherd, Robert Willcox, and Carson Lange also took top spot in their respective age divisions.
An impressive series of races were held within the Women's Cat 2 division. Erin O'Neill had an impressive win by over four minutes in the 19-29 year-old category. She's definitely on her way into Cat 1 next season and has been having a great racing year and enjoying herself along the way.
Additionally Nadina Junuzovic got first in the Women's Cat 2 Junior, Mary Gilmer first in the 30-39 age category, and Margaret Nolen in the 40+.
Once again, Payson McElveen (Team Bicycle Sport Shop) continues to impress and quite easily captured the Junior Cat 1 division. Payson explains how things went and what the course conditions were like at Juan Pelota:
An equally impressive finish was brought in by Jason Sager of Team Jamis who took first in the Cat 1 Pro division. Following the race, Ted Arnold from Mellow Johnny's interviewed Jason and talked about his victory:
Additional Cat 1 Men's winners included Garet Steinmetz, Travis Donn, Paul Sacket, Eric Jordan, and Andy Kathan.
The Women's Cat 1 Pro division was taken by Linnea Koons of Embrocation Cycling Journal. Other Cat 1 Women's first place finishers included Kara Uhl, Lisa Uranga, Kimberly Chance, and Kimberly Kieffer. Each of these Cat 1 women gave it all they had, making it a great race for the competitors as well as the fans.
Thanks to Lance Armstrong for inviting everyone over to his ranch, and to Mellow Johnny's for organizing an incredible weekend of racing. The 2011 Mellow Johnny's Classic was a very well put together event that is sure to be a classic race in the years to come.