Monday, May 15, 2000

Wheelchair winner: Wrong turn to finish line

By Pete Holtermann
Enquirer Contributor

Franz Nietlispach is escorted by a bicyclist down Edwards Avenue.
(Gary Landers photo)
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        The race itself wasn't too difficult for Franz Nietlispach. In fact, the hardest thing for the Flying Pig Wheelchair Marathon champion was finding the finish line.

        Nietlispach followed the lead vehicles Sunday morning as he neared the finish on Yeatman's Cove in downtown Cincinnati and stayed behind them as they veered off the course just before the finishing chute.

        “I just pulled off with the bikers,” Nietlispach said. “I saw the finish line, but I had no chance to get over there.”

        After rolling past the line, Nietlispach turned around and came back through the chute to break the ribbon and officially win the marathon.

        “It was kind of funny. I was happy we were not too close,” Nietlispach said.

Nietlispach foiund the finish line on his second try.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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        Nietlispach, 42, finished with a time of 1:35:59 to beat defending champion Saul Mendoza by 2 minutes, 33 seconds.

        Mendoza, 33, used his strength of hill climbing to open a lead on Nietlispach in the early stages of the race.

        “I think I lost more than one minute on the uphill,” Nietlispach said.

        Nietlispach made up most of the time on the downhill portion of the race, and caught up to Mendoza as the course flattened out over four miles on Eastern Avenue, seven miles from the finish.

        It was the second win in two days for Nietlispach over Mendoza. On Saturday, Nietlispach set a world record in a 25-kilometer (15.5 mile) race in Grand Rapids, Mich.

        Last year in Cincinnati, the course configuration put the uphill part of the race near the end. Mendoza beat Nietlispach in that race.

        Ken Carnes finished third with a time of 2:06:47, beating his training partner Vern Achenback by one second with a sprint for the finish.

        “If you hug the middle of the road, it's too narrow to pass,” Carnes said. “I made the chair real wide at that point.”

        The racers said they enjoyed the challenge the hills and turns offered.

        “It was a thinking course, you always had to pay attention,” Carnes said.

        “It's exciting because there were some hills that we were taking at 40 mph," Mendoza said. “The only bad part is you have to climb them.”


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