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A member of the U.S. Olympic A team, "Monster" Howard was at it again this year, defending his title. At one point, leading an attack, he caught Sefton. But then Howard attempted to cross a railroad track. His front wheel collapsed. He got a new one from the support van, which would supply 50 wheels before the race was over, but the replacement cost Howard 45 seconds. Two of his Olympic teammates, Dale Stetina and Tom Doughty, dropped back to pull him on, helping him make up time.
The previous day Howard had won the first event, the time trial, which counted for 10% of the total score. If he could finish high in the road race, which counted 50%, it would improve his chances to repeat as overall champion and give his fellow Olympians the team title. Sefton had finished 22nd in the time trial, one minute 23 seconds behind Howard. So now Howard, Stetina and Doughty took turns leading, and in 1� miles they were back in the break.
The South St. Vrain Creek, which had been a rushing torrent, had quieted by the time the cyclists raced the last 15 miles into Boulder. Railings of the old Hotel Boulderado strained under the weight of spectators on the balconies, looking up 13th Street over the heads of the crowds lining the sidewalks below. After 92 miles and more than three hours of racing, it all came down to a mad seven-man sprint into town. They had nothing left at the end, these men; neither Sefton, whose front wheel crossed the finish line milliseconds ahead of the others (winning him a $1,350 savings bond), nor Howard, fifth across but in virtually the same time as Sefton.
Howard's chances looked good as the last day's event, the Criterium, came up—69 laps around North Boulder Park. He had only to avoid the kind of disaster that befell him in Montreal. Two-thirds of the way through the road race the cyclist in front of him had gone down in the rain. Howard swerved, and remembers "a slow, dragging sort of slide down Ste. Catherine's Street."
The road race just completed may have been the weekend's most dangerous event, but the Criterium was the most exciting, if only because there were more people to be excited. One official estimated the crowd at 15,000, "the biggest darn U.S. bike race crowd I've ever seen." The Red Zinger was zinging. The unofficial theme was health. A hot dog would have been quarantined. Fans and faddists alike ate alfalfa sprouts on organic bread and drank iced Red Zinger with honey.
There were no bad vantage points, but the S curve at Balsam and Alpine was popular. Curves are where things happen. The cyclists knew just how far they could lean. It always looked too far, and when it started to rain, that is how far it often was. Once three bikes went down in a chain reaction, suddenly and sickeningly, but to those involved it was a slow, dragging slide, a blur of color that never seemed to stop. Most of the cyclists bore the marks of their trade, a network of old scars and fresh contusions on elbows and knees.
Howard led only briefly in the race, and though at one point a break of three cyclists moved nearly a lap ahead of him, he was not worried. He knew that the two men who posed a threat—Sefton and England's Hayton, who had finished third in both the time trial and road race—were behind him. So he played it safe. "A fall could have cost me the whole deal," he said later, and he finished 1� minutes behind the winner, Bill Nickson, another Englishman. But for the second straight year he had won the overall championship. He went home with a $1,650 stereo system.
Tom Doughty was second overall, winning a $700 graphite bicycle frame and a $200 bond, and two of his fellow B team members, Dunn and Stetina, were fourth and fifth. Not surprisingly, the Bs won the team championship and a $1,200 bond.
After the race Celestial Seasonings treated all the contenders to a banquet featuring brown rice with almonds, steamed vegetables with salad, fresh fruit juices and, naturally—what else—Red Zinger tea.