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Live on TransWeb...1998 US Transplant Games

Cycling the Pros' Course
Story and photos by Robert Fox, audio by Doug Armstrong

See Bicycling Results at

The site of the Wendy's International Cycling Classic later in the day August 8, and on Sunday August 9, the City of Grandview Heights hosted the 1998 U.S. Transplant Games Cycling Time Trials and 8-Mile Criterium Saturday. The Time Trials were conducted on a 1k "L-shaped", flat course while the 8-Mile Criterium took place over 10 laps on a .8-mile loop. Transplant participants were riding the same course as would be the Wendy's pro's.
The Time Trials are a test of speed -- flat out speed with the cyclists competing against the clock. No more than four riders on were on the course at any one time throughout the trials. Riders, with their feet in the clips and held upright by an assistant, began from a standing start. Normally time trials are conducted with riders starting every ten seconds. Due to the "short" course used for the Games, riders were sent out every 30 seconds. The Criterium is a race against competitors within an age group and involves strategy and speed. Both races were administered by the U.S. Cycling Association.

Riding on bicycles ranging in cost from $400 to $5,000 and on types ranging from mountain to racing, the participants matched their skill levels with the bikes they were riding as well as to their personal goals. Many of the cyclists were competing at a high level while others rode the race for the thrill of the competion. The participants arrived at Grandview Heights in parade style from the Ohio State University campus after being led by a police escort. One hundred four cyclists participated in the Time Trials while 107 competed in the Road Race.

Stephan Yencha (Nation's Capital) posted the fastest time of the day, 1:36.4, in the Men's Time Trials to win the Gold in the 26-35 age group barely edging out Jim Heptinstall, 1:38.2 (East Tennessee), who earned the gold in the 36-45 age group. Jeanne Prince (New Hampshire) led the Women's Division and won gold in the 46-55 age group with a time of 2:10.6.

The Criterium portion of Cycling was divided into five starts with the Women's Divisions leading the way. On a course that featured a long incline on the back third of the 10 lap .8-mile course, Jeanne Prince (New Hampshire) and Mary Pierce (Michigan) were close together on the first two laps. Prince, however, gradually increased her lead and with three laps remaining was ahead by two minutes. Prince lapped all except one rider of her way to victory.

In the men's races, the 56 & Over and 17 & Under age groups were grouped together for the starts as were the 18-25 and the 26-35. The 46-55 age group was led the entire race, although by a close margin, by Kurt Merzog -- 54 years of age from Canada. Merzog, a kidney recipient of 3 years, averaged 33 kph on his way to the gold. Indicating that it was wonderful to be competing, Kurt indicated that he never thought that it would be possible. Robert Sheppherd , 47 years of age earned the U.S. Gold in the 46-55 age group. Robert received his kidney five years ago from his biking companion and neighbor. Sheppherd says that transplantation is a lonely experience and that the Games brings everyone together.

Braulio Mejias (Puerto Rico) and Ryan Condon (Mass/RI) exchanged leads seven times in the battle for the gold in the 18-25 age group with Mejias prevailing in a final sprint to the finish line. Also exchanging the lead throughout the race in the 26-35 age group, Stephan Yencha, (Nation's Capital) and Jeff Snodgrass (Arkansas), each earned the gold medal finishing hand-in-hand as they crossed the finish line together.

The most exciting race of the afternoon took place in the 36-45 age group between Jim Heptinstall (East Tennessee), Steven Ruox (Central NY) and Randall Stafford (Mass/RI). Heptinstall led throughout race drafted by Ruox and Stafford until the first corner on the final lap of the race where he crashed. Ruox edged out Stafford for the gold medal with Heptinstall climbing back on his bike to finish and capturing the bronze. Ruox received his liver transplant 12 years ago while Stafford was the recipient of a living related kidney from his brother 14 1/2 years ago.

Paul Cox (Maine) won the gold medal in the 56 & Over age group while Thomas McDonal (Iowa) took home the top honors in the 17 & Under age group.

The transplant cyclists competed against the clock, each other and the heat (mid 90's) while meeting their own personal goals. The pro's would be going for the cash later on in the day; the race for life, however, had much more importance. A great race and a great day for organ donation.


Listen to 65 year-old George Thibault from Virginia (The Nation's Capital Team), discuss the 1 Km Time Trial.


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Last modified: 11 May 2000