Phillips steals the show in Fall Century/Gran Fondo

The first timed High Sierra Century race featured some blazing performances by cyclists who finished the 100-mile-plus course in less than five hours.

But in many respects, the day belonged to Mammoth’s Dennis Phillips.

It’s not that the longtime Mammoth resident won his 60-69 age group, or that he did it by nearly an hour, placing ninth overall in 5-hours, 9-minutes and 39 seconds.

What made the day special was that the 64-year-old real estate agent within the past year has undergone replacement surgery on both his hips, yet still was in top shape last Saturday at the High Sierra Century and Gran Fondo—a combination ride and race among 700-plus riders that started and ended in The Village.

“I had a pretty good day,” Phillips said, “and I was able to claw my way back after being dropped after the first two big climbs.”

To do it, Phillips hitched onto a group of seven other riders, forming an eight-man, double-pace line that blistered its way across Adobe Valley, over the feared whoop-do-doos near Wild Rose Summit, and then fought a stiff headwind to the finish.

“If I had been riding alone,” he conceded, “I would have been 20 percent slower.”

But once he latched onto the eight-man train, the only thing left for him was the brutal finishing stretch from the Whitmore Ball Fields to the Village—an all-uphill slog against strong westerly headwinds.

“I was just good enough to collapse right at the very end,” he said.

“From U.S. 395 to the finish was actually the real crux of the ride. It just stretches you out. You never know if you’re just going to explode.”

Other Mammoth and Eastside riders also figured heavily in the standings.

Todd Hensley, who like Phillips is a member of the Eastside Velo Cycling Club, rode the route in 4:50:30, finishing third overall behind Chris Lyman of Napa (4:35:47) and overall winner Neil Shirley of Valencia (4:35:46).

Other area riders finishing well included Bill Ossofsky, 43, of Bishop (5:09:36) and Mammoth’s Tim Flynn, 38, who finished in 6:08:02.

Among the women riders, McKenzie Long, 29, of Mammoth, finished in 6:13.37, while Mammoth’s Julie Dietrich, 36, finished in 5:56:09.

Still, the race belonged to Phillips, who averaged about 20 miles an hour over the course.

To warm up, so to speak, he, his wife Barb and other friends took a trip to Europe in June to ride some of the famous passes in the Swiss Alps and the Dolomites.

“It all worked out by the time June rolled around,” said Phillips, whose hip surgeries occurred just three weeks apart last November and December.

“I never thought it was going to be the end of my cycling career, even though there sure were plenty of days that I was looking for close-in spots in the Vons parking lot.”

Once the weather cleared, though, Phillips said he rode four times a week, and did some strenuous hiking in Europe, as well.

It paid off for him last Saturday on the Gran Fondo route, where the most of him other people saw was the back of his jersey.