Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Local cyclist leader of the pack on Broadway

Chris Prendergast, 16, (above left) of Winnipeg led the way for much of the race Monday

Weather put a black cloud over the final day of Bikes on Broadway in more ways than one.

Saskatoon racer Christian Jensen captured the overall title in the top combined category after Monday's rain caused an accident that led to organizers suspending the remainder of the race.

"Today was a little unfortunate," said Jensen, referring to the crash on the street circuit in Nutana that stopped the race and gave the top six racers equal times for the day.

The first two days of the race were more pleasant. On Saturday the racers kicked things off with an 8.5 km race along the downtown riverfront.

Sunday's course was more challenging: A 100 km endurance test near Biggar.

Jensen was in contention coming into Monday's street race, but his Sunday performance where he placed eighth had him frustrated.

"I almost lost the race (Saturday), because I wasn't able to get a bottle of water," he said.

"My legs started to cramp up. But I made it to the finish line, and I was able to keep in the running."

Organizer Janice Matus said despite the lower ridership numbers and unfortunate final day, the 21st edition of the annual race was a success.

"We had a really good weekend," she said. "The Saturday and Sunday weather was great.

"At the time trial on Saturday, we had an excellent turnout of spectators."

While the race organizers take pains to ensure a safe event, Monday's crash proves there are some things that can't be controlled.

"Basically, that was weather conditions. It started raining and the corner got slippery," said Matus.

"There's not much we can do about it. We hope they slow down, but it is a race."

Several racers were taken down when Bill Hodgetts of Edmonton crashed in the criterium race Monday. He was taken to hospital with unknown injuries.

His was not the only accident of the three-stage race. Michael Payment of Winnipeg suffered a broken collarbone Sunday.

Jensen, 41, credited penalties to the frontrunners along with steady effort on his part for propelling him to the win.

"I just tried to keep my head up and keep it under control, and it worked out," he said. "The biggest threat to my race was the cramped legs yesterday, and the penalties definitely helped me."

A graphic designer by trade, Jensen took up road racing 20 years ago, but began competing seriously only in the last three years.

He certainly couldn't have predicted the manner in which the race would finish, but he didn't expect to take away a title, either.

"A bit of a surprise, actually," said Jensen. "I would have been happy with top five."

Monday's section of the event is usually fairly high profile, with plenty of spectators out to see the action up close on a street loop.

With the shortened race and the lousy weather, there wasn't much of a crowd on Broadway. While Jensen and the other racers appreciate the support, the number of cheering fans isn't foremost on their minds en route.

"Half the time, you can't even see straight," he said

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