Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood: Pearce, TIAA-CREF on track for Athens

Although the official announcement of the USA Olympic track squad wasn’t made until Friday morning, that didn’t stop TIAA-CREF from throwing a celebratory gathering for team rider/manager Colby Pearce in Denver on Wednesday evening, 36 hours ahead of the U.S. Olympic Committee’s approval of USA Cycling’s nominations. Pearce will contest the Olympic points race based on his third-place finish in the overall World Cup standings. His highlight of the 2004 season came in the season’s final World Cup in Sydney, where he took a gold medal. A bronze in the fourth round of the World Cup also

By Neal Rogers

Colby Pearce and Colby Pearce

Colby Pearce and Colby Pearce

Photo: Neal Rogers

Although the official announcement of the USA Olympic track squad wasn’t made until Friday morning, that didn’t stop TIAA-CREF from throwing a celebratory gathering for team rider/manager Colby Pearce in Denver on Wednesday evening, 36 hours ahead of the U.S. Olympic Committee’s approval of USA Cycling’s nominations.

Pearce will contest the Olympic points race based on his third-place finish in the overall World Cup standings. His highlight of the 2004 season came in the season’s final World Cup in Sydney, where he took a gold medal. A bronze in the fourth round of the World Cup also suggests that an Olympic medal is well within his reach.

Explaining his fondness for the 40km points race, Pearce said, “It’s a beautiful event. There are a lot of tactics involved. It’s more of a chess match.”

In attendance at the swanky JW Marriott event were USA Cycling CEO Gerard Bisceglia and chief of staff Sean Petty (Bisceglia presented the suit-and-tie-clad Pearce with his Team USA Olympic jersey; TIAA-CREF executive vice president Steve Goldstein; Pearce’s good friend and TIAA-CREF team director Jonathan Vaughters; area pros Mark Gullickson (Redline), Katrina Grove (RONA) and Pete Lapinto (Ofoto-Lombardi Sports); and members of the developmental TIAA-CREF U-23 squad.

With huge banners printed reading “Congratulations Colby!” adorning the walls, the evening was a bit surreal for the Boulder, Colorado, resident. Upon seeing his image on posters and the like, he said, “I feel like I’m in a John Malkovich movie.”

Pearce’s personal coach and pal Allen Lim, a doctoral candidate at the University of Colorado’s Department of Integrative Physiology, joked about the hype surrounding Pearce’s sudden Olympian status.

“All year we’ve been talking about Colby going to the Olympics, but we always viewed it as another bike race,” Lim said, gesturing towards a large “Go Colby!” banner. “We never talked about the banners.”

Presenting Pearce to the audience, Vaughters pointed out that Pearce’s success has come through years of hard work, not natural ability.

“Colby would be the first to admit he’s not the most athletically gifted rider on the track,” Vaughters said. “His success has been the fruit of his hard work, which is even more admirable. The kids on this team with Olympic hopes and dreams can look at Colby Pearce and say, ‘Wow, that guy did it.’”

Pearce agreed. “I had certain talents that I kept hammering into a wall,” he said.

The night was also memorable for the return to the team of Craig Lewis, the promising young rider who nearly lost his life at the Dodge Tour de Georgia when an elderly driver drove onto the course during the stage 4 time trial, sending Lewis to the emergency room with collapsed lungs, 14 broken ribs, a broken jaw, nose, pelvis and femur, and a concussion. Just coming off painkillers eight weeks after his horrific accident, Lewis reports to be back on the bike, riding at about “30 percent.”

The buzz around the party was the increased investment TIAA-CREF is making in its cycling program — the team intends to include more U-25 riders and triple its budget in 2005 — and in a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign for the Olympics. Executive VP Goldstein jokingly referred to his “Fortune 68” company as the “biggest company no one’s ever heard of,” but insists that will change in the coming months. (TIAA-CREF is the provider of pension funds to colleges and universities, and is reportedly one of the largest landowners in the world.)

“Two weeks prior to the Olympics, NBC will be airing a series of 30-second vignettes called ‘Hometown Heroes,’ of which Colby will be one,” Goldstein said. “We will be launching our own ad campaign during the Olympics, and we also have an ad prepared for when Colby wins a medal.”

The 2004 U.S. Olympic track team
Men

Marty Nothstein (keirin)
Colby Pearce (points race)
Adam Duvendeck (team sprint)
Giddeon Massie (team sprint)
Christian Stahl (team sprint)

Women
Erin Mirabella (individual pursuit)
Jennie Reed (sprint, 500m time trial)

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Those who have read the story in the current issue of VeloNews about Aussies Paul Rowney and Trent Lowe, two riders at different ends of the cross-country career spectrum (“Out With the Old, In With the New,” issue 11), might be interested to know that last weekend’s NORBA race at Mount Snow, Vermont, was the final race weekend in Rowney’s 10-year career.

Going out in style, Rowney won the short track cross-country race to end his career on top. By way of commemoration, here is a read of the final installment of Rowney’s infamous “Rowney Report” e-mails, reports that were also read over the radio in his hometown of Sydney during the Olympic year of 2000, when Rowney finished 10th in the Olympic cross-country:

Welcome one and all for the last Rowney Report … sad but true. This weekend was my last weekend of international competition, spanning a 10-year career with more pain and suffering than I care to remember, but given me a lifestyle that has been adventure-filled, taking me around the globe to some of the most amazing places I could ever imagined. Without a doubt the greatest thing about this job is the friends, fans and freaks. You will be missed.

Cross-country: Nothing much has changed in 10 years coming to Vermont, a really good course but as per usual it rains two days out and the sweet technical single-track becomes a muckfest. Didn’t have a great day; actually if you compressed my years of racing into one day I pretty much had one of those days, a little bit of hope dashed with a little bit of suffering but still had some fun and was glad when it was over. Had a terrible start and was back in 50th … get going, move up into eighth, kinda bonk a bit third lap, drop back to mid-teens and feel like pulling the plug, bite the bullet and finish my last lap for old times’ sake. Ended up 14th … nothing flash, but you do what you can with what you got.

Short track: Waking up and realizing today would be the last time to line up as a pro at a NORBA was bit strange … my legs were a bit shot from the running through the bog of the cross country, but a good road ride in the morning and the legs came around. Today I could be special. At the call-up I got a bit of a wrap and good-bye, it was almost a little emotional, but we could kiss and cuddle after the 27 minutes of hell was done … it was time to bust out. The course was similar to previous years, fast and flowing with a short punchy climb. I had a blinder of a start, got the hole shot for the first lap or so, then time to sit back in the bunch as my team mate Treva went on the charge … it has been great having the firepower to 1-2 the front of the race, so we stayed front-five most of the race and with three laps to go I thought this was it … waiting patiently I made my move. Geoff Kabush managed to come with me. There was a bit of a head wind up the finish straight and we had to work together to stay away … bell lap and Kabush made his move on the climb, I gave it everything to hang with him and on the descent made a move around him … it only just stuck and that was that … another short-track win! Oh, boy, and was I happy, the fairy-tale ending…

So that’s it, kids. To all my sponsors, supporters, family, friends and competitors — I can’t thank you enough.

Cheers, Paul

Rowney’s final words of advice: “Life moves pretty fast … if you don’t stop to look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

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Just got wind of a pretty cool happening. Outdoor Life Network, Regal CineMedia, and The Tyler Hamilton Foundation have joined together to present stage 13 of the Tour de France on the big screen with live simulcasts in 19 Regal Entertainment Group movie theaters across the U.S. — and it’s a fund-raiser for multiple sclerosis.

The event will showcase one of the race’s most exciting stages, a treacherous, 135-mile journey through the Pyrénées. OLN will provide the satellite feed to the REG movie theaters. Regal CineMedia, a wholly owned subsidiary of Regal Entertainment Group, which operates more than 6000 screens in the U.S., is coordinating the theater space and use of the company’s high-definition satellite network.

To register and learn more about the events, including locations, times, and ticket prices, people can visit the THF Web site, www.tylerhamiltonfoundation.org. There will be door prizes at each theater, and all participants will be entered in a drawing to win great cycling-related prizes. Additional sponsors for the event include Bell Sport, Clif Bar Inc., Kryptonite, Louder Than Words, Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI), Speedplay, and VeloNews.

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Points have been tallied following the Nature Valley Grand Prix, the second installment of the Women’s Prestige Cycling Series. Participating in the series helped bump the NVGP women’s peloton from 80 riders in 2003 to 104 this year, a record for women’s racing in Minnesota.

The goal of the Women’s Prestige Cycling Series is to highlight women’s racing by providing them a spotlight that they don’t have to share with the men. The series grew out of meetings that began in Minnesota last year at the first Yoplait Women’s Cycling Summit Conference hosted at the Nature Valley Grand Prix. The summit continued in October at Interbike, with an overwhelming number of women’s team managers and riders requesting that promoters develop a race series that included most of the top women’s races.

The series began at the Redlands Bicycle Classic. It continues at the Tour de Toona/International (July 26-August 5) and concludes at the Bermuda Grand Prix (September 23-26). Visit www.womencyclists.com for more information.

Women’s Prestige Cycling Series standings
Overall

1. Lyne Bessette (Quark Cycling), 440pts
2. Katrina Grove (RONA), 197
3. Geneviéve Jeanson (RONA), 165
4. Christine Thorburn (Webcor Builders), 132
5. Susan Palmer-Komar (Genesis Scuba), 121

Best young rider (U26)
1. Katherine Sherwin (Team Kenda Tire), 242pts
2. Geneviéve Jeanson, 220
3. Erinne Willock (RONA), 220
4. Lauren Franges (Victory Brewing), 209
5. Stefanie Graeter (Webcor Builders), 154

Best sprinter
1. Gina Grain (Victory Brewing), 385pts
2. Laura Van Gilder (Genesis Scuba), 220
3. Andrea Hannos (RONA), 165
4. Lyne Bessette (Quark Cycling), 142
5. Amy Moore (Quark Cycling), 132

Team standings
1. RONA, 886pts
2. Quark Cycling, 683
3. Genesis Scuba, 312
4. Victory Brewing, 233
5. Webcor Builders, 204