Triple triumph for Park City cyclist
July 14, 2009
Parkite Melinda Berge returned from Louisville, Ky., last week with some extra hardware in her luggage.
From June 28 to July 4, Berge competed in the USA Cycling National Masters Road Cycling Championships and brought home gold medals in all three events the road race, time trial and criterium.
What makes Berge’s accomplishment even more impressive is that, at 65, she could be classified as a senior citizen. But that’s the last term that comes to mind when watching her tear around a course.
Although Berge started bike racing only four years ago, her competitive spirit was instilled at an early age. She started out with running and endurance riding in Aspen, Colo. She later moved to Annapolis, Md., where she raced sailboats for 15 years. "I’m quite competitive and I’ve been competitive in different areas at different times in my life," she says.
In 2005, Berge relocated to Park City and joined the biking culture after sustaining a foot injury that curtailed her running habit. Once she was back on her feet, she began to enter triathlons. "I found I was really lousy at swimming, so I went to duathlons, which is running and biking, and also exclusively cycling events."
This year marked Berge’s second run at the Masters, which is USA Cycling’s national championship for cyclists ages 30 and up. In 2008, she took first in the road race and second in the time trial in the 60-to-64 age division. Moving into the 65-to-69 group this year, Berge knew she would be going up against the reigning champion and multiple national-title winner, Julie Lockhart from Dunstable, Mass.
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During the 25-mile road race, the two women were neck and neck much of the time, but Berge pulled ahead in the final stretch and clinched the title by just over two seconds. "It was definitely a tough competition," she says. "She’s quite good."
The scenario repeated itself in the 24-mile time trial, in which Berge edged her competitor by less than seven-tenths of a second. She says that living at high altitude in Park City may have given her the advantage over Lockhart. "I was used to training on hills and the road course and time-trial course were fairly hilly."
Berge captured her third win of the week in the criterium race, which involves completing an unspecified number of laps around a short circuit. "It essentially goes around in circles for a certain amount of time and then they tell you that you have three more laps until the racing ends," she explains. The 65-to-69 age group raced for 19 miles and 39 laps, and Berge crossed the finish line nearly five seconds faster than Lockhart.
Now that Berge has clambered to the top of the cycling hierarchy, her main focus is on training for the Duathlon World Championships, which will be held in North Carolina in September. She says she trains about 10 hours per week, but doesn’t force herself if she’s not feeling up to it. "I just go by how I feel."
Berge will also compete in the National Senior Games at Stanford University in August and the Huntsman World Senior Games in St. George in October.
When she’s not crushing the competition at foot races, cycling contests or duathlons, Berge enjoys mountain biking, skiing and exploring the trails near her home in Silver Springs. She’s also the editor and webmaster for publications for the International Star Class Yacht Racing Association, a relic from her days on the Chesapeake Bay.
Berge’s husband also partakes in cycling competitions. "He’s competitive, not as strongly as I am, but he’s very supportive," Berge says. "He’s also a wonderful bike mechanic."
As for people being surprised to find out her age, "I get that all the time," Berge says. "But there’s a lot of other people my age who are still as active as I am." She has made friends in the Park City community as well as among those who travel to the same competitions year after year. "The older group can still get up the mountains and ride bikes and go running and have a great time," she says.