Merced County Times Newspaper
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Cycling event a big win for Merced


The acclaimed Gran Fondo Hincapie cycling series made its way to downtown Merced on Saturday, complete with hundreds of riders, fans, and local dignitaries.

The big event marked the first Hincapie series on the West Coast, and it challenged cyclists to take on this valley’s gritty gravel — from the rugged ranch land on the countryside, and through the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

A highlight for many was the appearance of former pro and world-renowned cyclist George Hincapie, who joined the other cyclists on N Street in downtown Merced at the start of the 84-mile course. Others enjoyed seeing so many visitors converge on Main Street to celebrate the race and see what Merced has to offer.

Local organizer Doug Fluetsch said the day was an overwhelming success.

“There were riders literally from all over the country here, and I didn’t hear one negative comment,” he told leaders at Monday night’s City Council meeting. “As they rolled out of town, up into the foothills, they had creek crossings, long sections of mud — things that you think would demoralize people, but these riders just absolutely embraced it. And they all returned downtown safely — which is a testament to our Police Department. There weren’t any large crises out there, but our fire and rescue teams were ready the whole time, and the riders really do recognize that.”

Fluetsch added, “An event like this is so important to a community. It builds community pride, but more so, it brings in visitors from out of town, and they go back to their corners of the U.S., and they say ‘Wow, what a great town Merced is.’ [Our image] is something a lot of us here struggle with as Mercedians, but these people come from out of town, and they recognize some great things that even we may not.”

As for the competition, the top 84-mile route was won by Adam White, 42, of Livermore who finished in 4:24:05, followed by Andrew Sanders of Livermore at 4:47:39, and Elliott Petterson of Reno at 4:48:16.

Eleanor Wiseman, 34, of Palo Alto won the women’s Gran Fondo in 5:00:33, followed by Jennie Phillips of Danville, and Marin Voth of Grover Beach.

In the shorter, 50-mile “Medio Fondo,” Steve Heaton of Santa Cruz won overall for the men, and Aimee Baker of Napa took first overall among the women.

Of note, Matthew Rowan, 59, of Merced placed 10th overall in the 50-mile course, and placed fourth in his age division.

Also, Charlotte Olson, 45, of Merced placed 10th overall among women in the 50-mile course, and placed third in her age group. Amy Mauzy, 49, of Merced placed sixth in the same age group.

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