Cycling the Pros' Course
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.