Great Lake Tahoe Cycle Race record falls again |

Great Lake Tahoe Cycle Race record falls again

Steve Yingling, Tribune sports editor
Steve Yingling / Tahoe Daily TribuneTruckee's Jesse Miller-Smith, left, edged teammate John Rossi of Reno in the Great Lake Tahoe Cycle Race on Saturday.

ZEPHYR COVE – A year after the Great Lake Tahoe Cycle Race title was extracted from the local road-racing community, it is back in the hands of a Lake Tahoe racer.

Truckee’s Jesse Miller-Smith and Truckee Cyclepaths’ teammate Justin Rossi of Reno crossed the finish line near Zephyr Cove Lodge on Saturday in nearly identical record times.

Although the teammates tried to finish simultaneously, a new computer-chip timing system distinguished the 31-year-old Miller-Smith as a tenth-of-a-second winner with his record-breaking time of 2 hours, 50 minutes and 21.9 seconds.

“It’s pretty hard, especially with the timing chip, to get the exact same time,” said Rossi, whose finishing time for the 72-mile race that started and ended at Zephyr Cove Lodge was 2:50:22.0.

The two raised their arms together as they crossed the finish line.

“We’re good buddies and train together all the time,” Miller-Smith said. “To try to sprint a narrow lane after you have already ridden 70-plus miles can be a little sketchy, and it’s a team victory. It’s not about one of us.”

Miller-Smith said that critical point of the race was outside of Incline Village.

“Our goal was to set a solid pace, then coming into Sand Harbor we wanted to attack multiple times to where we wore out the rest of the guys, and then we were able to ride away from them,” the winner said.

Even though Miller-Smith won the race, the prize money earned by Truckee Cyclepaths’ racers will be equally distributed among team members. Miller-Smith collected $500 for winning the race and an additional $500 for bringing down the one-year-old record of Curtis Doman of South Jordan, Utah.

“We had six riders in this race, so everybody gets the same,” Miller-Smith said. “We thought we could do pretty well. We felt if we rode well as a team and had everybody kind of work together and everybody’s feeling good today, we could break the record and potentially win. We focused on the event because it was here, and it was a fun event because it’s a really cool course around Lake Tahoe.”

Defending champion Doman made a strong bid to repeat, finishing fourth at 2:52:24.9, alongside of Truckee’s Andy Scott, who was credited with third with the same time.

Reno’s Donald Hahn finished fifth at 2:52:25.6 and pro triathlete Thomas Vonach of Austria came in sixth at 2:52:25.7.

Walter Morris, Friday’s winner of the 2.5-mile swimming event in Lake Tahoe, was the top South Shore placer, finishing eighth in 2:52:26.1. Glenbrook’s John Wagnon also made the top 10, placing 10th in 2:52:29.2.

The top-15 finishers all bested Doman’s record time from last year. Truckee’s Conrad Stover was 11th in 2:54:09.7, Truckee’s Nick Schaffner 12th in 2:54:09.8 and South Lake Tahoe’s Sean Sweeney was 14th in 2:55:12.7.

Other locals finishing near the top of the 204-participant field were Bill Hudson of Olympic Valley, 15th, 2:56:24.8; Richard Scibird of Olympic Valley, 16th, 2:57:24.8; Peter Stromberg of South Lake Tahoe, 17th, 3:00:35.7; Gardnerville’s Pike Reardon, 18th, 3:00:35.7; Kevin Willitts of South Lake Tahoe, 19th, 3:05:41.1; Michael Larson of Truckee, 25th, 3:08:03.2; Steve Cooke of Carson City, 26th, 3:10:34.9; Michael Sharp of South Lake Tahoe, 28th, 3:10: 39.6; and Randy Volkmar of South Lake Tahoe, 33rd, 3:11:19.1.

Austria’s Yvonne Van Vlerken, a 2008 Hawaii Ironman’s women’s runner-up, was the top woman at 3:03:58.6, giving her a top-20 overall finish as well.

Craig Smith of Zephyr Cove placed third in the 35-mile race, finishing in 1:49:12.9. Greg Kneisel of Blairsden, Calif., won the race in 1:42:22.6 and Nikos Mourtos of Half Moon Bay was runner-up in 1:47:13.8.

Lele Nienow of Rancho Cordova, Calif., posted the top women’s time in the 35-mile race at 1:51:01.8. Claire Grosjean of Los Gatos, Calif., was second at 1:53:24.3 and Jane Sudell of Corpus Christi, Texas, third at 1:58:24.4.

Race director Les Wright might have provide race-issue bicycles to slow down the record-breaking performances in the future.

“Hopefully more competition shows up, and it keeps getting faster, keep breaking that record and lowering that mark,” Miller-Smith said. “We were 5 minutes faster than last year, and last year was 5 minutes faster than the year before that, so hopefully more people find out about it. It’s possibly gonna be the first stage of the Tour de California next year, so it’s obviously a great course.”

The top-five finishers in the men’s and women’s divisions were awarded prize money.

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