Ina-Yoko Teutenberg of Germany held her hands over her head as she crossed the finish line of the Exergy Tour’s Stage Three on May 27. The rain didn’t dampen her spirits, nor those of the spectators cheering her on. Flags and hands waved in the air and the energy level skyrocketed at the end of the 58-mile course along scenic Highway 21 from Crouch to Idaho City.
After the first few groups of bicyclists swept past the finish line, the crowd started losing interest. A few minutes later, the award ceremony started. Teutenberg was joined by Canadian Leah Kirchmann and American Megan Guarnier on the podium, each holding bouquets of orange flowers.
But as jerseys were awarded to the most aggressive rider, the best young rider and the Queen of the Mountain, lady cyclists still filtered in past the finish line.
Rowena Fry, 29, wasn’t greeted by the crowd’s excitement as she rode in a little behind the last group of girls. Security guards looked back and forth at each other, deciding to close the gate after her. She rode the same 60 miles with the same 4,500 foot elevation climb, but without the adrenaline of a cheering audience.
But Fry didn’t seem to mind.
“It was a struggle,” she said in an Australian accent. “Tough. It was about just trying to survive.”
Fry started mountain biking in 2004. This is her second season professionally racing.
“I’m a mountain biker trying to ride a road bike,” she said. But coming in so close to last isn’t discouraging for her. “I’m not a climber.”
That’s the way bike racing works. Each team member has her own strengths—some excel at sprinting and time trials, while others shine in endurance and steep climbs.
“It’s our job just to hold the other climbers back,” Fry said. “And then when we get to the climbs, we let them do their thing.”
But not all cyclists in the race even make it to the finish line. That’s where Robert Hoene comes in. He drives the Broom Wagon, a mini van with four symbolic brooms tied to the grill.
When a rider falls too far behind in the race, Hoene has to decide, “is this rider not capable of finishing on time?”
In the Crouch to Idaho City race, each rider had to finish within 11 percent of the winner’s time or be disqualified. In the Stage Three race, he picked up six riders. The women tend to have mixed feelings when he approaches them.
“There was a German girl today who didn’t want to get in,” Hoene said. “I pulled back and looked up her number so I could know her name. Then I pulled up closer and said look, so-and-so, you know what I’m here for. I have to get you in the car.”
It’s a safety aspect of the race. If a cyclist falls too far behind, she could cause a hazard to traffic or herself.
“These women really want to be here,” Hoene said. “It’s a trying deal. They don’t come here lightly. There’s costs of travel and training. They all work so hard to be here.”
Hoene has been called “the guy who fires people,” but remains gentle and understanding in his demeanor.
“Once they settle in, after five minutes, they’re usually just relieved,” he said.
If a rider is picked up by the Broom Wagon, her racing is done and she cannot compete in any other stage of the Exergy Tour. When Hoene isn’t driving the broom wagon, he works at Bob’s Bike Shop, as well as instructing and coaching riders.
He said the race can be hardest to finish when a racer is near last place because the adrenaline from the audience is gone.
But even in that instance, Fry still said she enjoys racing because she gets to see new places all over the world, and because of the company.
“I get to race beside the best in the world,” she said.