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Gerlach coasts to win

A confessed "bike bum" rode like the wind and left the rest of the inaugural Rogue Valley Mayors' Cup field far behind Saturday afternoon.

Chad Gerlach seized the lead 20 minutes into the hour-long criterium that looped through downtown Medford and was unchallenged the final 30 minutes after averaging better than 25 mph.

He finished 30 seconds ahead of fast-finishing Dean Meyer of Monterey, Calif., earning $1,200, which he will share with two Sierra Nevada teammates.

"Because there were so many turns on the course, it was out of sight, out of mind," Gerlach said. "Once I was up by 30 seconds, I felt pretty confident."

After wresting the lead away from three other breakaway front-runners - Aaron Olson, John Brady and Russel Hamby - Gerlach strained to distance himself quickly.

"It was an instantaneous decision," admitted Gerlach, a Sacramento, Calif., native. "When the other three showed they weren't as strong and started messing around, it created a little gap and I decided to go. I kept up a steady pace and it worked out to my advantage."

It wasn't long before Gerlach started closing in on slower riders on the L-shaped course covering six blocks between Oakdale Avenue and Fir Street. Those lagging too far behind were whistled off the course by Oregon Bicycle Racing Association officials. At least six of the more than three-dozen riders exited the track early.

Gerlach turned pro at the age of 20 and formerly rode for the prestigious U.S. Postal Service team. He'll turn 28 next month and yearns to return to international competition.

"I would actually love being on a team," Gerlach said. "Not being on a team is my own fault. I was smoking cigarettes over in Europe, not knowing what life was about."

More recently burnout and personal problems sidetracked his career.

"I had a lot of personal stuff going on," Gerlach said. "I hardly touched my bike for six months."

After a vigorous two months of training, Gerlach has won three of four starts, winning the Modesto Criterium and Lighthouse Criterium in Sacramento.

The lure of a nice payday induced Gerlach and his Sierra Nevada team to go north for the weekend.

"I've been riding more in amateur races and cherry picking," Gerlach admitted. "Besides, $1,200 is a lot of money to win in an hour."

Gerlach had no trouble coming up with his top three career victories: Two Tour De Langkawi (Malaysia) stages in 1998, a Tour of China stage in 1996 and Tour of Solidarity (Poland) stage in 1996. But he figures there's more to come.

"My strongest years are ahead of me," Gerlach said. "I know I'll be back, because the best years are from 28 to 34. Criteriums don't take a huge toll."

The pro 1-2 category event was scheduled for 90 minutes, but was trimmed because the barricades keeping cars off the track had to come down at 5 p.m.

"My only gripe was that the race was shortened," said Gerlach's teammate David Fuentes.

Portland's John Leonard, one of ORBA's top riders this year, placed third. Maurice Torano of Medford was the top Rogue Valley performer, placing 14th.

* * *

Melissa Erion of Eugene, the reigning Oregon Race champion, won in a close finish among six women. She earned $205.

Unlike Gerlach, the 29-year-old Erion is a newcomer to the sport.

"I never picked up a race bike until August of '99," Erion said. "I commuted a little bit but never rode a bike for exercise."

In the intervening time, she has won a dozen races.

"Is it a surprise?" Erion says. "Yes and no. The field hasn't been that large and there are so few strong women riders.

"There was never a doubt in my mind that I couldn't win when I started. I believe in my ability as an athlete."

She hopes to take time off from her computer job to pursue high level races next year.

"I'm hoping I can work part-time so I can get 10 or 12 weeks off," she said.

John Brady, who placed fourth in the pro 1-2 race, captured the masters 35-plus race. He earned $310 for the victory.

The 36-year-old web designer lives in Sacramento, but lived most of his life in Ireland.

He participated in the 1988 Olympics in the pursuit events and competed for the 7-11 team a decade ago.

Mikkel Bossen won the junior division. Debbi Allen of Sacramento won the women's masters, Tony Halford won the 4-5 category. Brian Martin captured the — category event.

Rogue Valley Mayors CupJUNIORS

1, Mikkel Bossen, $160; 2, Marty Cahill, $120; 3, Donnie Vizzini, $90; 4, David Robinson, $75; 5, Chris Hopkins, $65; 7, Stephen Gann, $55; 8, Kelly Cahill, $35.


MASTERS 35-PLUS - 1, Debbi Allen, $160; 2, Kelly Cruiser, $120; 3, Lynn Holland, $90; 4, Gwen Turos, $75; 5, Juliana Johnson, $65; 6, Angela Rose, $55; 7, Renee Rickert, $45.


CATEGORY 4/5 - 1, Tony Halford, $160; 2, Alex Hughes, $120; 3, Richard Fox, $90; 4, Sal Colura, $75; 5, Doug Perrin, $65; 6, Neil Loung, $55; 7, Jim Ferreira, $45; 8, John Siwinski, $35; 9, David McHugh, $30; 10, Pete Piva, $25; 11, Travis Grappo; 12, Donnie Vizzinni; 13, Curt Shaffer; 14, Ron Frerichs; 15, Rich Billin; 16, Charles Curtis; 17, Peter Tamashiro; 18, Paul Iendre; 19, Mark Lansing; 20, Eric Iversen; 21, Michail Maaz; 22, David Ensy.

CATEGORY — - 1, Brian Martin, $175; 2, Josh Conner, $135; 3, Doug Ollerenshaw, $110; 4, Sam Richardson, $90; 5, Mikkel Bossen, $75; 6, Chris Hopkins, $60; 7, Marty Cahill, $50; 8, Matt Mahoney, $40; 9, Russ Rickert, $35; 10, Timothy Evans, $30; 11, Damian Schmitt; 12, Brad Farnand; 13, Adam Cortell; 14, Randy Mason; 15, Rob Schultz; 16, Eric Kytola; 17, Nathan Hobson; 18, Sean Passage; 19, Brian Oheal; 20, Carl Hafer; 21, Robert Nobles; 22, Dave Weber.

MASTERS 35-PLUS - 1, John Brady, $205; 2, Don Vizzini, $155; 3, Maurice Torano, $130; 4, Peter Allen, $110; 5, Steve Holland, $100; 6, Glen Gann, $90; 7, Tom Sanborn, $80; 8, Steve Yenne, $70; 9, John Stavoto, $60; 10, Ed Garfield, $50; 11, Ed Roberts; 12, Bill Groves; 13, George Jones; 14, Richard Fox; 15, Doug Perrin; 16, Mark Damon; 17, Randy Mason; 18, Michael Manning; 19, Ron Magnus; 20, Russ Rickert; 21, Richard Randleman; 22, Ron Frerichs; 23, Mike Murray.

WOMEN - 1, Melissa Erion, Eugene, $205; 2, Noreen Godfrey, Beaverton, $155; 3, Debbi Allen, Sacramento, Calif., $130; 4, Larssyn Staley, Beaverton, $110; 5, Kathleen Moore, Beaverton, $100; 6, Darren Curl, Portland, $90/

PRO 1-2 - 1, Chad Gerlach, Sacramento, Calif., $1200; 2, Dean Meyer, Monterey, Calif., $630; 3, John Leonard, Portland, $400; 4, John Brady, Sacramento, Calif., $310; 5, Chris Beaman, Sacramento, Calif., $240; 6, Evan Elken, Portland, $200; 7, Jamie Mikami, Portland, $170; 8, David Auker, Portland, $150; 9, Russel Hamby, Sacramento, Calif., $140; 10, David Fuentes, Sacramento, Calif., $135; 11, Justin Morgan, Sacramento, Calif., $130; 12, Aaron Olson, Eugene, $125; 13, Zac Houghton, Portland, $120; 14, Maurice Torano, Medford, $115; 15, Damien Shanks, Eugene, $110; 16, Dan Burklow, Sacramento, Calif., $105; 17, Shannon Skerrit, Portland, $100; 18, Corey Stayton, Portland, $95; 19, Peter Allen, Sacramento, Calif., $90; 20, Donald Reeb, Portland, $90; 21, Don Vizzini, Gold Hill, $85; 22, Brian Martin, Portland, $80; 23, Bill Groves, Portland, $75; 24, Steve Holland, Portland, $70; 25, Chris McGovern, Nevada City, Calif., $65; 26, John Lombard, Portland; 27, Nick Skenzick, Eugene; 28, Craig Demarj, Eugene; 29, Mike Rosenberg, Eugene.

Riders make the turn at the inaugural Rogue Valley Mayors' Cup race on Saturday. - Mail Tribune / Drew Fleming