Roman Van Uden and Tara Whitten are professional cyclists who made their first appearances in Altoona Wednesday evening.
Both of them celebrated memorable debuts here in the first stage of the 2011 Tour de 'Toona - the Altoona Sunset Individual Time Trial.
Van Uden, of the Colorado-based Pure Black Racing team, and Whitten, of the California-based TIBCO squad, were the respective pro men's and women's winners in the time trial, a 3-mile race through the streets of downtown Altoona that started and finished at the intersection of 11th Ave. and 14th Street near the Heritage Plaza.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Jennifer Wheeler (Team TIBCO/To the Top) zips through the turn off of 11th Ave. during the pro?women’s time trial.
Van Uden, a 22-year-old native of New Zealand, finished in 5 minutes, 5 seconds and 6-tenths of a second, which was more than two seconds ahead of the men's runner-up, Frank Pipp of the Bissell Pro Cycling squad, whose time was 5:07.37. Chase Pinkham of Bissell Pro Cycling placed third in 5:12.13.
Whitten, 30, a native of the Canadian city of Edmonton, Alberta, paced all pro women's finishers with a time of 5:39.88. Her TIBCO teammate, Jennifer Wheeler, was 1.39 behind in 5:41.27, and Anne Samplonious of the Now and N vartis f r MS squad was third in 5:42.70.
Van Uden and Whitten take the yellow leader's jersey into the second stage of the Tour de 'Toona, today's 73-mile road race that starts in Richland and winds up in Blue Knob.
Tour de 'Toona
Today: Richland to Blue Knob mountain-top finish
Distance: 73 miles
Start/finish line: Richland/Blue Knob
Starting times: Men, 2:30 p.m.; women, 2:45 p.m.
Both winners were making their first trips to Altoona, and both enjoyed Wednesday's technical course through the downtown.
"I loved it,'' Van Uden said. "There are lots of fast corners, and I only used my brakes one or two times. It's a really technical course, nice and short, which is perfect for me. I'm more of a sprinter, and these prologues are my favorite races.''
Van Uden had a good feeling about Wednesday's event before he started out.
"I had a feeling that I could do pretty well,'' he said. "I wasn't sure that I was going to win, but I knew that I could definitely get in the top five.''
Van Uden sees a lot of parallels between the terrain here and that in his native New Zealand.
"There's a lot of countryside in this area, lots of rolling hills, and everything is nice and green,'' Van Uden said. "It's pretty similar [to New Zealand].''
Whitten, 30, won an individual title in the World Track Cycling Championships held in the Netherlands in March.
"I took a break after that, and this is my third race this year in the United States,'' she said.
Wednesday's individual time trial format suited her well.
"This is definitely my strongest event,'' she said. "I like the 5-kilometer distance. My main focus is track cycling, and this distance really suits me. My main focus tonight was to keep my speed going into the corners and to accelerate coming out of the corners.''
Whitten has only a few years of professional cycling experience under her belt, and she is glad that the Tour de 'Toona is getting back on its feet with four stages this year after being cancelled altogether in 2009 and holding only one event in both 2008 and 2010.
"I'm really excited that this race is back,'' she said. "I had heard a lot of good things about it. It's a great event.''