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US Open Cycling Championships - Report & Photos
 
By Vaughn Trevi
Date: 4/8/2007
US Open Cycling Championships - Report & Photos
 

US Open Cycling Championships - Report & Photos
An epic start to an new Continental Open Championship for the Americas! Report and Photos...

Oh Canada!!
More than the arctic winds swept into the south from Canada causing the riders to start in a 18 degree weather with wind driven snow buffeting the peloton intermittently for the first 65 miles of the 112 mile classic race from Colonial Williamsburg to Richmond, Virginia.

The other Canadian element that swept into the capital of Virginia was Canadian Svein Tuft of Team Symmetrics who won the inaugural U.S. Open Cycling Championships in a last lap solo effort leaving his break mate, Slipstream's Pat McCarty on the last of the eight circuits on the cobbled Libby Hill.


Victory Svein Tuft! Kurt Jambretz/Action Images

An exhausted McCarty who attacked with four circuits to go, held off the challenge of the survivors of the wind and snow for second place.

Alejandro Borrajo of Argentina (Rite Aid) led Britain's Russell Downing (Health Net/Maxxis) finishing in third and fourth respectively; with Tuft's team mate and fellow countryman Andrew Pinfold fifth. An international podium and of further note, 7 of the top ten finishers were from outside the USA but five of those riders are on USA teams demonstrating how international the American peloton has become in the last ten years.


Kokak Gallery/Sierra Nevada arrive to prepare for the race.  Photo c. Love2ride

An Epic Start
It proved to be an epic day from the morning when the riders woke up to wind and fresh snowfall as they went to the team vans to prepare for the race. The race was very close to not being run at all as you can see by the photos of the start that the conditions were horrendous. Luckily they improved dramatically as the day went on. The team managers told the UCI officials that their racers felt conditions were unsafe. The UCI said they'd let the racers decide. Of course "live" TV coverage was the deciding factor. The teams and the racers couldn't pass up the opportunity for the exposure of a nationally televised race. The race was postponed for 90 minutes because the NBC helicopters wouldn't fly in the fast moving blizzard conditions.


Peloton leaves from Williamsburg with the snow still falling.
Kurt Jambretz/Action Images

U. S. Open Cycling Championships Competition Director Ravi Rajcoomar gave the order to start the race at 9:30 am and the 150-man field raced away from Williamsburg, past Jamestown and the James River Plantations towards Richmond with its eight, 5.5 mile finishing circuits.


Mike Sayers- BMC, Tim Duggan- Chipolte lead the peloton through the snow covered early miles. Kurt Jambretz/Action Images

Slogging through the wind and snowfall the the first sixty or so miles with few riders willing to put their face in the wind and leave whatever comfort and warmth the peloton provided. That didn't deter some from attempting a brea, those that did soon thought better of it as they measured the effort, were chased down by the pack or waited for a few riders to join them in the break; and none did. The speed of the peloton was cracking along in spite of the conditions setting a fast pace that would show in the in the riders faces and legs in latter hours of the race.


Sundt (Kelly Benefit) and Ivan Stevic(Toyota) lead the field scenic roads of Virginia as the sun starts to break through. Kurt Jambretz/Action Images

With 50 miles to go Jonny Sundt (Kelly Benefit), Eric Boilly (Valee Aluminum) and Christian Valenzuela (Successful Living.com) put their heads to the wind and got a 15 second gap on the peloton. The snow and wind buffeted the riders with the chase reduced to riders fighting to get into an echelon as the storm released its last fury.

Seven miles from Richmond the skies quit raining wrath down on the break and the city was revealed in the distance bathed in sunlight. The trio seemed inspired by the sight and continued to work well together, but with improving weather the peloton quickly organized a chase for the trio they soon had in their sights as they started the first trip up the cobbled Libby Hill and the final eight circuits.


The peloton enters the circuit with the first run up the cobbled Libby Hill.
Kurt Jambretz/Action Images

Sundt was first to the top of Libby, the peloton broke up behind the trio. At the top the chase was led by Symmetrics Dominque Rollins as the peloton strung out through the streets of Richmond and passed the finish for the first of the remaining eight circuits.  The trio were caught and Serbian Dusan Ganic (SuccessfulLiving.com) attacked and got a gap. Brought back in due course, Dusan replied with another attack, Jonathan Mumford (Kelly Benefit) bridged to Ganic and the chase was on; but not for long.  The duo were brought back as the Libby hill loomed ahead.

Ladino Vega attacks Kurt Jambretz/Action Images

Tecos rider Columbian Gregorio Ladino Vega attacks, Navigator's Phil Zajicek chases. Ladino opened up a gap of 19 seconds.. The day is starting to bite the riders; this time up Libby hill the peloton stretches and snaps. Serbian road champion Ivan Stevic (Navigators Insurance) attacked the head of the lead group, 13 riders join the chase with the rest of the peloton stretched out in the distance behind.

Ladino Vega defied the peloton for ten miles gaining a max 20 seconds getting his Teco's team some valuable TV time as the peloton regrouped behind him. With the Navigator and Health Net led peloton on his heels, as Ladino Vega starts the cobbled climb (Libbyberg as our Belgian friends might name it...), Navigator's trio Zajicek, Kirk O'Bee (Health Net) and Ivan Stevic (Toyota/United Pro) led the chase. But after 2 laps in the wind the catch is on and Ladino Vega is reeled in as the riders reach Main street.

This last time up the Richmond berg broke the pelotons back as the peloton at the top of the climb is shattered into three groups. The lead group looks like it would rather wait for the rest of its team mates than chase an escape again. But the action at the front never stops.

Next to attack is another Successful Living rider Alessandro Bazzana he gets a gap, but Alessandro is closed down, no problem for the Italian, he attacks again. Toyota/United's Henk Vogels Aussie Iron man and Shawn Milne of Health Net bridge to the Italian, the trio work well together; but in short order both abandon the effort leaving Bazzana to fight until he is eventually gathered up by the peloton. A brave effort but ill fated. Bazzana and Vogels


Alessandro Bazzano (Successful Living) leads one more attack as he winces over the cobbles on Cary Street Shawn Milne (Health Net), and Henk Vogels (Toyota United) in tow. photo c. love2ride

Back to Libby berg with just over 20 miles to go and Slipstream's Pat McCarty gives the peloton the slip on the final part of the climb, this time it looks like the final blow has been dealt to the peloton as it arrives at the top of the climb with three chasing groups and seemingly unable to connect after the climb. McCarty expands his gap to 25 seconds but a group of survivors give chase led by Svein Tuft, including Tim Johnson, Ivan Dominguez, Jackson Stewart, Kobzarenko, and Trent Wilson.


Pat McCarty on his first trip up the Richmond Libbyberg.
Kurt Jambretz/Action Images

4 miles later the gap comes down to 15 seconds and Tuft attacks and bridges to McCarty. The two work well together while the teams behind faltered. Tuft leading McCarty over the berg each lap. The other teams, preferring perhaps to wait for more support in hopes of catching the duo in the closing kilometers and setting up their sprinters. A good strategy any other day, today it turned out to be a tactical gamble as Tuft and McCarty sailed on at the front.


Two laps to go Tuft and McCarty driving it hard. Kurt Jambretz/Action Images

Meanwhile at the front the Slipstream and Symmetrics duo built a one minute gap. Last time up Liberty Hill the duo led by 48 seconds as the lead chase group grew from 7 to 22 riders now having some semblance of organisation with Health Net's Vogel, sharing the chase with Toyota/United's Wherry and Stevic.


Tuft and McCarty in the gutter on Libby Hill. Kurt Jambretz/Action Images

Svein Tuft attacked on the final trip up the cobbles on Libby Hill big gearing the climb in the gutter, gaining 10 seconds on McCarty. At the top the gap was 37 seconds to the lead chase group, but that did nothing to deter McCarty and Tuft on their mission to evade capture before the finish. Behind the duo Health Net's Downing attacked the break, Argentine Alejandro Borrajo of Rite Aid responded, but it was too late the Canadian had crossed the finish line.

Tuft powered on with a struggling but defiant McCarty behind him to finish 41 seconds ahead of McCarty who held off the charge by inches followed to the line by Alejandro Borrajo for third and Brit Russell Downing just off the podium.

Tuft the recent Tour of Cuba winner may have taken his best career win to date. Svein started his pro career for John Worden's Merury/Viatel outfit as a stagiare and went on to join Kirk Willet and Chris Horner on the Prime Alliance team during the 90's. Svein joined the Canadian Symmetrics team in 2004, one of the few North American teams that competes on both continents in the UCI America Tour.


Podium: Alejandro Borrajo, Svein Tuft and Pat McCarty.
Kurt Jambretz/Action Images

Results Top Ten:
1 151 Tuft Svein Symmetrics 4:19:10
2 26 Mccarty Pat Team Slipstream Powered By Chipotle 0:00:41
3 141 Borrajo Alejandro Rite Aid 0:00:41

4 8 Downing Russell Health Net P/B Maxxis 0:00:41
5 154 Pinfold Andrew Symmetrics 0:00:47

6 174 Parra Celada John Fredy Tecos 0:00:58
7 91 Wilson Trent Jittery Joe's 0:00:58
8 16 Rapinski Viktor Navigators Insurance 0:00:58
9 82 Candelario Alex Jelly Belly 0:00:58
10 14 Kobzarenko Valeriy Navigators Insurance 0:00:58
Complete results and more photos to follow.

What a race! Who could have predicted that the tour of Flanders would be blessed with sunny skies this weekend while usually sunny Virginia would be dealt a wild card blizzard for Easter morning by mother nature? A quick look at the statistics show it was not only a tough race fought under extreme conditions but a fast race as well. Tuft finished the 112 miles in just over 4 hours. There were 86 abandons out of 141 starters, very similar to the results in Flanders the next day.

Kudos to race director John Eustice and the State of Virginia for a well organized race with an international cast of riders, and pulling it off in spite of the unfavorable weather conditions. I think we have a new Spring Classic and UCI Tour of the Americas event; and a new major race for the future.
 

 
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