All That Glitters Is Grieco--7 Times

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Maybe they should have made it like a horse race. Maybe they should have added some weight to Jessica Grieco's bike before she entered the road race for 16-17 year-old girls at the U.S. Cycling Federation Junior Nationals.

Better yet, maybe they should have made Grieco wear the six gold medals that she had won in the previous seven days of competition so that she wouldn't have been such a heavy favorite to win her seventh.

As it was, Grieco completed the 28-mile course on Sorrento Mesa in 1:21:18--one minute and 11 seconds ahead of the next rider--and became the first junior cyclist ever to sweep all seven events.

Unlike that of Eric Harris, who clinched the gold on the final sprint of the boys' 17-18 race, Grieco's victory was not contained in a fleeting moment.

It was apparent she would win with one 3.5-mile lap to go when she began pulling away from a four-cyclist break. For an entire lap, she knew that victory was her's.

But after eight days of riding, Grieco was not ready to savor anything.

"I was just relaxed," she said of her final lap. "It was a long week."

It started July 5 with a gold medal for winning the criterium. Over the next four days, she was draped with four more gold medals for winning the four velodrome events. On Friday, she placed first in the individual time trial. Six down, one to go.

"I wanted to win everything," she said. "And I felt I had a chance if I rode well. My goal has always been to be an all-around rider; I've always wanted to do everything."

Now Grieco must come up with some new goals.

Top on her list is a gold medal at next year's Junior Worlds. She won four silvers this year, but to improve on that, Grieco needs a rule change. On Friday she turned 17. At 18, girls become senior riders. But there is talk of aligning with the boys, and keeping 18-year-old girls in the junior ranks.

Grieco, of Emerson, N.J., isn't going to wait for next summer, though. She's going to align with the boys this week at Tour of the Future, a six-stage, four-day race in Bisbee, Ariz. for junior boys. Grieco was invited to ride, too.

Harris, of Colorado Springs, finished the 62-mile boys' 17-18 course in 2:36:27, just ahead of a pack of five: David Francis, Teton, Idaho; Kevin Livingston, Glencoe, Mo.; Nathan Long, Lima, Ohio; Greg Strock, Anderson, Ohio; and Jon Vaughters, Englewood, Colo.

Livingston, Long and Strock were in a group of riders who led from the sixth lap on and held as much as a one-minute, 15-second lead over the field.

But with four laps to go, Harris and Vaughters decided to leave the field.

"George Hincappie made this awesome attack, and everybody chased it down," Harris said. "Right after that, (Vaughters and I) started a chase and no one countered it."

They closed a gap of a minute in just over a mile.

"When we caught (the leaders), I knew they were dead," Harris said. "But we just used them to get to the finish."

A lead pack works together by drafting off one another.

Vaughters, however, felt somewhat betrayed, having done much of the work that kept the break ahead of the field, only to be spent at the end.

"I'm not a sprinter," he said. "And every time I tried to get away, Eric Harris reeled me in."

Steve Meilicke of Santa Rosa won the boy's 15-16 race by inches over San Diego's Vincent Ones. Meilicke finished the 31-mile course in 1:19:53.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
54°