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VN Archives: Red Zinger Bicycle Classic 1979

In 1979 Velo-News interviewed Dale Stetina after his overall victory at the Red Zinger Classic

The last half century has produced countless amazing moments in pro cycling, and VeloNews has been there for almost all of them. This year we celebrate our 48th birthday. With 48 years worth of archives, we want to present some of the more memorable VeloNews covers, feature stories, and interviews from our past. Our hope is these curated snippets will help motivate you to pursue your passion for the sport you love.

The August 24, 1979 issue of VeloNews (then called Velo-News) featured an in-depth interview with Dale Stetina, who just won the Red Zinger Bicycle Classic, which would go on to become the Coors Classic. In this interview, Stetina takes readers inside his victory. 

Dale Stetina, who has competed in all five Red Zinger Classics and never finished outside the top five, captured this year’s event in a most unusual way—without winning any of the nine stages. As he tells Velo-news publisher Barbara George in the following interview, conducted during the national championships in Milwaukee, he owes his success to crafty riding and unselfish help from Iris Indy/Ultima/Exxon team. The members-were his brother Wayne, David Mayer Oakes, John Howard and Roger Young.

VELO-NEWS: What was the Ultima/Exxon team strategy and your personal strategy for the Zinger?

STETINA: Our strategy was to have as many people high on GC as possible. And in the very first road stage, Dave Mayer-Oakes got three and a half minutes up the road and Jacques Boyer (Grab-On) got a five-minute penalty for crossing the centerline. The policeman said they were permanently not going to allow racing in Colorado if the pack was drifting across the line, and the penalties were stiff-five minutes -and disqualification. So Jacques got caught in what I would consider a flagrant violation, and I felt sorry for him that the penalty was that stiff, but everybody knew it. After that he wasn’t considered a GC man anymore, so Wayne and I happened to breakaway with him and we caught Dave Mayer-Oakes. After that stage we had first, second and third in GC; Wayne being first, I being second and Dave being in third. Wayne held the leader’s jersey -for two stages and lost it on Morgul Bismark, having a mediocre ride that day.

Jacques Boyer took off and Dave Mayer Oakes kept up to him, so Dave took over the leader’s jersey. But then at Estes Park, Dave was chasing Boyer again, and George Mount who had broken away, and he blew up and lost the leader’s jersey. I took it over, with Wayne in second, just at the right time because I only had to defend for two days. The Boulder Mountain road race was a safe place to defend because I’m a good climber and there’s 40 miles of flat-even had I not kept up, which· of course, on that day was not possible because I was flying. I only had to defend by jumping on everybody’s wheel in the final criterium.

VELO-NEWS: So you did achieve your goal.

STETINA: From day three of the race we had either the first three or the top two places on GC and a convincing overall team lead for the entire race. We totally controlled it. The biggest threat was Jacques Boyer because he rode so hard and so consistent to move up from his penalty. Had Jacques not had the penalty we would have continued to block for Dave Mayer-Oakes on the first road stage to Hoosier Pass and Dave would have won by a couple minutes and probably would have won the Zinger.

VELO-NEWS: That would have been a surprise.

STETINA: Well, we got him off in the first road stage and it was an excellent move because everybody was watching Wayne and me. The only reason we ever caught him was because we were with Boyer who had no GC. And had he had GC, Dave would have won by a couple minutes that day. Also, Dave could have kept up more at Estes Park but he just lost the jersey and got demoralized.

VELO-NEWS : Did you have a deal about how you were going to share the prizes?

STETINA: Of course, yes. It was obvious we were all riding very well.

VELO-NEWS: So you would ride for David? I mean it sounds funny to have the Stetina’s riding for David Mayer-Oakes.

STETINA: He ‘s on our team and if he’s in a position to win the race, and we are not , then he wins it.

VELO-NEWS: Do the people who win a lot of primes and win the stages end up winning more money than the overall champion?

STETINA: Yes, definitely. Philip Anderson won twice as much as I did by winning the last criterium. Our team barely broke even on expenses. There was not the money. About one-fifth of the total race budget was prizes, which is quite a small percentage, and unless next year the U.S teams are helped to some extent and not just the foreign teams, I think the Zinger will suffer. For me, one of the most pleasing things about the results of the Zinger was that Wayne was wanted for the national team but I wasn’t considered good enough for it.

VELO-NEWS: The national champion? You were the defending national champion.

STETINA: I hadn’t had real results in France and I was in disfavor until I rode reasonably well in Puerto Rico, and so it was really important for me to win the Zinger. But at the same time I want to thank Mike Neel for coaching us so well all year and when we were in France, because the trip to France played an important part in my development this year. I have to thank his coaching over there and all the time the coaches spent—he and Eddie B—with us in Puerto Rico for my having the fitness to win the Zinger. Other than that, I’d just mention that I wasted no energy in the Zinger as many other riders did. Philip Anderson went on a suicide move in Hoosier Pass and he finished something like six minutes down that day, so that eliminated him. The time penalty eliminated Jacques Boyer and, therefore, for the rest of the race, even though he was movers up, we rode just to contain him like other riders. I’ve complimented Jacques as being possibly type most consistently tough rider in the Zinger. But at the same time, we rode only to contain him and, had he had the race lead without the penalty, he would have been defending and possibly our team was very strong we could very possibly have done something in the last several days. Especially in the Boulder Mountain road race, because I flocked that even the supermen-the pros-seemed to get tired. Jacques worked so hard from day one in the criteriums when I just sat back and conserved.

VELO-NEWS: What, was the most important stage for you? And what was the most difficult one?

STETINA: The most difficult stage for me was the Estes Park race because I was not riding well that day and I had to suffer a lot to keep George Mount and Boyer ‘s breakaway contained within the time that I needed to remain race leader. I would not really say that I had a most important stage because ….

VELO-NEWS: It was your whole team’s effort, it wasn’t just you.

STETINA: Because our team tactic was to control the first three places so that… It’s dangerous to have only one person who has a chance to win a race because if that one person flats or has trouble, then your whole team is shot, and you’ve lost. And that one person has to be in every single breakaway. But we had the top three places on GC, so no matter who went, with any break we still had the race lead. This was our tactic, just to have so many people up on GC that we had the race totally under control. My Ultima team managed to do this.

VELO -NEWS: That’s a very good point about stage racing if you ‘re depending on one person. It doesn’t always work out.

STETINA: For example, last year I was depending on Wayne and helping him out. But Wayne had a bad day on Morgul Bismarck and so we lost everything. This year our team was so strong that we had the top three places on GC for the middle half of the race.

VELO-NEWS: When did you know you could win?

STETINA: When I took over the leader’s jersey in Estes Park I was reasonably confident about my climbing ability in the Boulder Mountain road race the next day, and so all I did was keep up and I had little trouble controlling all the attacks. Also, Dave Mayer-Oakes got out ahead in that stage and took all the pressure off of us. So all I had to do was block. And the national team was blocking as well because Tom Doughty took off and caught Dave and won the stage. So, we had the race effectively shut down then and I rode just to maintain my leadership.

VELO-NEWS: How do you feel personally about the way Boyer lost. It did have a lot to do with the penalties.

STETINA: Jacques Boyer rode absolutely tremendously until he was probably the most consistent strong rider in the race. And without the time penalty for the centerline violation he would have definitely been the race leader at some point. But even had Jacques taken the lead, which was very possible, he would have had to contend with aggressive, team riding in the Boulder Mountain road race instead of just containment. And so, nobody really knows what would have happened.

VELO-NEWS: But, you know, sometimes you feel like you hate to win because someone else gets penalized.

STETINA: I was feeling that way for a while until… Well, I received enough verbal abuse that I no longer feel sorry for his penalty, although I was definitely feeling sorry for it initially. But I really respect him as a powerful rider, I must say that.

VELO-NEWS: What about the race itself, compared to previous years? Quality of the competition and the organization? 

STETINA: The organization was definitely better than last year when they didn’t know who was on what lap in the criteriums. I must commend Artie Greenberg’s officiating because no matter whose side was upheld in any decision, Artie listened to all people concerned in a fair and non-judgmental way until he made his decision. I’ve never seen such an open-minded official as Artie was. He was willing to listen to Jacques, to AMF, to absolutely everybody at all times. And he was not closed to certain people just due to previous experience, as some other officials often are.

VELO-NEWS: You had been in Colorado early to race in the Coors event.

STETINA: Yes. I was third, Bob Cook won it. It’s really a shame that Bob Cook broke his collarbone in the first stage, second lap (of Zinger). We saw him sitting on the sidelines there, holding his shoulder, for about an hour after he fell as they were ministering to him. I think everyone in the race was really sorry to see that happen because Bob Cook’s mountain climbing prowess definitely would have affected the race in many ways.

VELO-NEWS: You see it happen in European races where somebody who hasn’t won any stages will win the whole thing.

STETINA: That’s right. It means you cannot make a serious mistake which moves your time down at any point. And this year I didn’t. I felt the Zinger was mainly-besides Jacques’ time penalty, which affected tactics. I felt the Zinger was mainly tactical this year.

VELO-NEWS: People are. saying that it was very tactical as was the women’s race, and there was a lot more team riding than last year.

STETINA: Definitely was. If you’re not riding with or for a team you’re not in the race. That’s the way stage races are now in the U.S. as well as elsewhere.

VELO-NEWS: People paid such attention to George Mount in the Zinger last year because he won the Volkswagen. But there wasn’t any such big prize this year.

STETINA: Because the U.S. riders deceived little or no help from the promoter, I’d especially like to thank my sponsor; Ultima, for making it p possible to have the money to race and train this year. And I’d also like to give credit to my team, to the entire team, for backing me up toward the end of the race. Dave Mayer-Oakes had a good move in the Boulder Mountain road race which took pressure off me, and Wayne in Estes Park was absolutely fantastic at helping me defend and contain Jacques and George.