It took thinking on it for most of the winter, but Steve Johnson finally decided to make a curtain call in 1988.
So far it's been an impressive one. Saturday the Salt Lake bicyclist covered the 40-kilometer time trials distance in 55 minutes and 30 seconds to win the District 34 championship.Johnson had a dream season last year, winning age-graded national and world bicycling championships. The national title was garnered at Park City last July. He went on to take first place at the world championships in Austria.
Having been to the top, he began to think about giving up championship racing. He had won most major titles in his age category, and work commitments as director of the Human Performance Laboratory at the Univesity of Utah were cutting into his training time.
But as spring neared, he decided to give it another shot.
Johnson battled a hefty wind and stiff competition all the way to win the District time trials. Second to Johnson was Salt Lake's Dell Despain with a :56:46.51 finish, followed by Cedar City's Larry Bray (56.46.51); Scott Johnson of Salt Lake (56.58); and Scott Nielsen of Provo (7:04.17).
Sixth and seventh places in the senior men's division went to Darin Hyder, a Colorado transplant, at :59.18 and Provo's Clay Jones with a :59.20 time.
Johnson's time was good enough to win both the senior men's and overall titles.
Other winners included George Veasey in the veteran's category (56.48); Anne Weiland in women's competition (:03.03); Eric Harris in 20-kilometer Juniors 14-15 (28.25); and Robert Chapman in Junior 16-17 (27:38.33). Milo Hadlock took the 55-over title (:04.40) and Martha Udall was first in girls' 13-over 20-kilometer category (41.34).
Racers arrived at Elberta Saturday morning fearing, and finding, a problem. Weather reports had accurately predicted gusty winds - certain to mess up any plans for a record time.
Johnson, who finished third last year, hit a headwind of about 20 or 30 mph about five miles into the race. Time trials - in which racers go out at one-minute intervals and winners are declared by times only - have never been his favorite, anyway. The monotony of riding alone against only yourself, and on flat ground, can make it one of the less desirable races.
"I hate time trials," he laughed. "I guess they're kind of stupid. They're hard, especially in the wind."
Johnson struggled until he reached the turn and was able to get the wind at his back. "It hurts going out against the headwind, but coming back you get going real fast," he said.
Despain, who departed the starting line about six minutes ahead of Johnson, made a dramatic jump in the past year. In 1987 he finished 16th overall. This time he was second, and cut 29 seconds off his previous time, despite the wind.
Most of the time-trials racers will continue next Saturday when they compete in the District Road Race Championship at Herriman. Johnson will move on to the national championships in July in Pensacola, Fla. However, it is unlikely Johnson will continue much longer after this year. "It gets harder to get mentally psyched up," he said.
Johnson is among the favorites to win the 114-mile road race next weekend.