Mercy Hospital Celebrity Classic-Ft. Smith, AR

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Catherine, Trudi and I flew directly back to Kansas City and made a bee line down to Ft. Smith Arkansas for the last 2 races of the week. Hector and the guys/gals from the Mercy Hospital of Ft. Smith have been promoting this weekend for a long time. And they have it down. Good prize money, fun course and free food. What else does a cyclist need. It’s kind of a finish to the end of the summer road/criterium season in the Midwest.

Below is what Stefan Rothe wrote for Cyclingnews.com. He had a firsthand view of most of the action and sumed it up pretty well.

“At the end of a long season, many racers made their way to the last race of the year in the region: The Celebrity Classic Criteriums held in beautiful Van Buren, Arkansas.

The Men Pro/1/2 race on Saturday through Downtown historic Van Buren saw a big group of a dozen riders escaping the field about halfway through the 75minute criterium. Having four riders in that move, the local Mercy Cycling Team pb Zero Mountain took control in the break and their rider Stefan Rothe followed through when attacking with 5 laps remaining. Only Carlos Vargas (Team Hotel San Jose) and Brian Jensen (HRRC/Trek) were able to close in on the Mercy rider. The trio stayed clear until the finish and Colombian Vargas outsprinted Jensen and Rothe for the win and a nice $1000 prize. The podium was a very international one, with Colombia (Vargas) taking the top spot, followed by Denmark (previous year’s winner Jensen) in second, and Germany (Rothe) in third.

In the Women’s Open competition, Kansas-based rider Catherine Walberg (Mesa Cycles) took the win after outsprinting her break-away companions Michelle Jensen (Mercy Cycling Team) and Shannon Koch (Compliance Depot).

Sunday’s Men Pro/1/2 race was held on the identical course like the previous day and it was only a matter of time when a break-away would roll of the front. After a number of furious attacks from Team Hotel San Jose, Mercy Cycling and mountain bike legend Steve Tilford (HRRC/Trek) the field finally let a group of 10 riders roll off the front. At this point it was clear that the winner would be one of those riders in the break. Last year’s double-winner Brian Jensen (HRRC/Trek) was again on fire, even two flat tires couldn’t stop him form attacking the break with 15 minutes to go and soloing to another win. Chad Cagle of the local Mercy Cycling Team pb Zero Mountain took the sprint of the remaining 9 riders ahead of Adam Myerson (NERAC Pro Cycling) who missed out on the break-away the previous day.

Catherine Walberg (Mesa Cycles) repeated her win from the previous day when she shot to the finish line with 3 bike length ahead of Shannon Koch (Compliance Depot) and Michelle Jensen (Mercy Cycling Team).”