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Gragus Wins U.S. Pro Cycling Event

June 9, 1996

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Eddy Gragus charged from a pack of 12 riders with about one-third of a mile to go and sprinted to victory Sunday in the 12th annual CoreStates U.S. Pro Cycling Championship.

Racing for the U.S. Postal Service team, the 28-year-old from Boulder, Colo., completed the 156-mile race in 6 hours, 2 minutes, 32 seconds, beating 1988 CoreStates winner Roberto Gaggioli of Italy by 25 feet. Fred Rodriguez of Broomfield, Colo., was third.

``It’s the greatest moment in my life right now,″ said Gragus, who won a $25,000 first prize. ``Something I’ve dreamed about for five years.″

Gragus said he lacked the confidence to win a big race until recently.

``I worked on that with a sports psychologist, my girlfriend, Kelly Gooden,″ he said. ``We worked on relaxation stuff and some visualization. When I start to have doubts about myself, I try to think positive.″

But it was his calculated risk in the race’s final sprint that caught the rest of the lead pack off guard.

``Nobody was going to the front,″ said Gragus, one of four Postal Service riders to place in the top 12. ``Our team had good numbers, so I told (teammate) Darren Baker I had the legs for the sprint.

``When I went, nobody reacted. I knew if no one reacted immediately the race was over.″

Gragus was right on target.

``The four Postal guys were there,″ Gaggioli said. ``When he started to jump, there was nothing I could do. Eddy saw the opportunity. I lost a moment. By the time I started my sprint, it was too late.″

Moments later Gragus crossed the finish line with both arms raised, then told the cheering crowd, ``It feels awesome!″

The race was contested over a 14.4-mile course from the wide Benjamin Franklin Parkway of downtown Philadelphia to the city’s Manayunk section, where a 285-foot rise in four blocks is known as The Wall. The cyclists must climb it 10 times.

The team title went to the Postal Service, 109-86 over Saturn, followed by Nutra-Fig with 76. However, Nutra Fig’s Chris Horner of San Diego, who took fourth in the race, became the Tour of America champion by virtue of having the best combined finishes in a five-race series.

The Manayunk Teamwork Challenge went to Cantina-Toro-Cobo of Italy, with Stefano Dante becoming ``King of the Wall.″ Last year, that honor went to Gragus.

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