By JAMES COOK
---- — CEDAR — Forty is the new 30. Or 20.
And also the decade of choice for Cherry-Roubaix road race champions this year.
Chris Gottwald, a 42-year-old from Richland, and 41-year-old Dori Leib claimed the men’s and women’s professional championships at Sunday’s Cherry-Roubaix road race.
Each pocketed $500 in prize money for their efforts.
Leib plans on using the $1,000 she made this weekend — she also won Saturday’s Old Town Criterium — on a new bike.
Gottwald said he plans on donating his split — after dividing some of it among his teammates — to a charity.
“I like to give me race winnings away to Active Water, which is for the global water crisis,” said Gottwald, who rides for Team Priority Health. “I’m 42 years old, and I’ve won dozens of races. I’m a dad, a husband, a pilot. I’m not doing this for another win. I’m doing this to use my God-given talent and show people that there’s people in need.”
Activewater.org is a Portage-based charity that builds wells and sand filters in third-world countries.
“It’s something I’m pretty passionate about,” Gottwald said. “Especially us cyclists, we drink water like it’s nothing in this country. We’re so far removed from that. But when you realize a child dies every 15 seconds under the age of 5 someplace in the world because they don’t have clean water, it’s like, ‘Dude, do you think you can drill it for four hours like I did today so a guy can have a clean drink of water?’”
A Farmington Hills resident, Leib said her kids are already clamoring for the cash.
“My kids want presents and iPhones,” Leib chuckled. “I told them I was going to buy a new track bike.”
It marks the second straight year that the same woman has both the criterium and road race.
Gottwald said he hasn’t won a race since last summer in West Branch, although he’s claimed several King of the Mountain titles recently, including last year’s hill-climbing honor at the Roubaix.
“The KOM was nice, but boy, I’ll take the win over the KOM any day,” Gottwald said.
Late in the race, Gottwald, Ryan Cross Cross, Robert Smallman and Kevin Depasse broke away from the peleton and surged ahead.
“I told my team, ‘I don’t have the legs to do this completely solo, so I have to take some guys with me,’” Gottwald said. “My intent was to take guys with me until about eight miles to go and then do what I need to do. I threw in some attacks and lost all three guys, and then Ryan Cross bridged back up on a descent with about five miles to go. And then Ryan said, ‘Dude, I’m cramping up. Just give me a respectable second.’ Ryan is no slouch, and I was concerned that he was playing games with me. I really thought he was trying to mess with me and beat me at the line, because he’s a phenomenal sprinter. Lo and behold, I came up the last climb and started easily pulling away. So I had plenty of time to relax, which is rare for a guy that’s 42 years old. If I win, it’s (usually) by inches.”
Cross finished second, Smallman third and Depasse fourth. Defending champion Sven Baumann was sixth, with Mike Anderson fifth.
Gottwald said in two weeks he’s renting the velodrome in Indianapolis and hopes to set new 100-mile time trial world record.
“Hopefully that goes well,” said Gottwald, who has raced in the area since the 1990s, including a Tour de Leelanau third-place finish in 2006. “This is a great prelude into that.”
Leib was third in the women’s Category 3 last year. This time around, categories 1, 2 and 3 were all included in one women’s pro division.
“I was in a break and last year I got dropped from the break,” Leib said. “This year, I was able to contend at the line for a sprint, whereas last year someone rode away from the field.
“We got into a break today. There were six of us. Everyone was super strong. We worked very hard together and it came down to the finish. We were at about mile 14, and there were nine of us. And then about mile 20, there were six of us. The six of us stayed together the rest of the race. I think we knew it wasn’t going to break up at that point. People tried to a couple times, but they realized that the six of us were pretty strong and we were going to work together well to the finish. I just had to decide when I wanted to attack on that last hill. That last one is a bit uphill, so I just knew I had to attack and go and not look behind me.”
The Wolverine Sports Club rider won the May 18 road race at Winona Lake, Ind. and was second in Das Tour De Frankenmuth a week later.
Like Saturday’s Old Town Criterium, the road race course was the same as last year, but run in the opposite direction.
“It’s much harder, I thought, in terms of the finish, because it’s an uphill sprint finish” Leib said. “Whereas last year, you had a straightaway to really get your sprint. This year, you really need to attack (the hill) to get your sprint.”