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Publish Date: 6/20/2005

Mike Southard raises his arms as he wins the men’s Pro 1-2 Division of the Longmont Criterium on Sunday. Jeannie Longo was the senior women’s winner. Times-Call/Lewis Geyer

Age dominates at Criterium
Pair of 40-somethings show the field that experience matters

LONGMONT — Sometimes, the age of a cyclist doesn’t make much of a difference.

Sunday, 44-year-old Mark Southard and 46-year-old Jeannie Longo proved that point true, winning the Men’s and Women’s top races in the 2005 Longmont Criterium held in downton Longmont.

Longo, one of the most decorated women in road-cycling history, won the women’s SW 1-2-3 race, even though she was the oldest rider.

The 1996 Olympic gold medalist, who lives in France, said she was using the Longmont Criterium to help train for the French Nationals later this week.

She said she planned on flying back to France this morning after spending a few months in Colorado training.

“I’m used to coming to Colorado, but I have been here for a few years,” Longo said. “I like to train in the mountains.”

Southard said he had to use a little paitence and some good timing to win. It wasn’t like he couldn’t spare any, though.

“I’ve raced in 10 or 12 criteriums before,” Southard said. “But never to a victory.”

The Boulder resident earned the title of Men’s Colorado State Criterium Champion riding to victory while racing against about 80 other riders.

“It’s been a long time coming,” a jubilant Southard said. “The best I’ve done was maybe second place about 10 years ago, but never a Criterium Championship. This is a big one.”

Southard — who started as a climber when he first began racing about 20 years ago — said the victory came because of his patience during the race, something that he did differently than previous races.

“To be honest, I didn’t feel really good at the beginning of the race, and I was too aggressive early on,” Southard said. “But, later on, I timed my move perfectly.”

That move, coming on the final lap, left the the competition behind.

Southard beat out Nathan Mitchell, 20, of Phoenix, and Dirk Freil, 35, of Boulder who finished second and third, respectively.

Freil said a split-second hesitation on the last lap after Southard sprinted to the front of the pack helped prevent him from winning.

“He took off solo right there halfway through (the last lap) when I was on the front,” Freil said. “It put all the pressure on me and I was hoping somebody would take on the chase. Nobody took it so I went after him.”

He wouldn’t catch Southard, though, and Mitchell passed Freil in a sprint on the last turn into the finish line.

“It was a great move on his part,” Freil said. “He attacked at the right moment when everybody else was back.”

However, the decision not to sprint as Southard made his move was was made the difference.

“Everyone was looking at Dirk to make the sprint, and I’m not much of a sprinter, so I attacked,” Southard said. “He waited for somebody else to make a move and I had that brief hesitation. If it had gone one more block I wouldn’t have won.”

It was a half-second decision to hang back and wait that gave Southard the room to win.

“It’s that half-second I had to make a decision,” Freil said. “I would have gone immediately on his wheel. I would have attacked quicker.”

“It just comes down to instincts. Instinctively, I played it wrong and he played it right.”

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