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Univest Grand Prix Preview
 
By Jaime Nichols
Date: 9/20/2002
Univest Grand Prix Preview
 

Thanks to John Eustice and Sparta Cycling for this report.

First conceived of in 1997 by two-time former U.S. professional champion and former European pro John Eustice, the Univest Grand Prix was designed to aid in the development of America's future cycling stars. To that end, Eustice created a very European-style event from the ground up. The course itself wouldn't look out of place in Belgium or Switzerland, a 105-mile road race through hilly countryside that concludes with a series of four-mile circuits designed to both challenge the remaining racers and whip spectators into a frenzy of excitement. And then there's the presence of elite amateur teams from Belgium, France, and the Netherlands; composed of top prospects and former professionals, these entries are flown in specifically for the Univest in order to test the U.S. riders to their utmost - the hammer to the course's anvil. The result has been some of the best racing ever seen in North America.

The Univest Grand Prix is one of six internationally ranked races in the United States, and will be held on Saturday, September 21, with the start and finish in Souderton, Pennsylvania. Top cycling teams from North America, France, Holland and Belgium will compete. The race course winds through the 14 picturesque boroughs and townships of Salford, Upper and Lower Salford, New Hanover, Upper and Lower Frederick, Upper Hanover, East Greenville, Pennsburg, Milford, Marlborough and Franconia, culminating with 13 crowd-pleasing laps around Souderton and Telford.

A national class women's race will be held within the town limits of Souderton.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) has awarded the Univest Grand Prix a UCI 1.6 ranking. The world's best races are designated by the UCI, a distinction that only six American races have achieved in 2002. Bicycle races are rated according to difficulty and level of the teams competing. The UCI rating corresponds to points that the top finishers are given and the 1.6 ranking is the highest rank for amateur racing.

The 1.6 means that European teams are even more interested in coming to the Univest Grand Prix. They want to win UCI points so they can upgrade their teams and racers to the pro ranks. It also means that the event will be open to Division III Elite trade teams. Division III teams are development channels for top young riders, and in keeping with this tradition, these teams will only bring their best talent that's under 26 years of age. Race Director Eustice says, "The 1.6 rating shows what the international racing world thinks of the Univest Grand Prix. It also allows us to bring an even better race to the roads of Pennsylvania while keeping the original spirit of the Univest Grand Prix intact."

This year, Floyd Landis, fresh off a successful Tour de France as a teammate of Lance Armstrong's on US Postal Service Cycling Team, will ride the Univest Cyclosportif 100k recreational ride this September 21 in Souderton, PA. The European-based pro cyclist has strong family roots in Souderton, but grew up in Lancaster County. His family ties often bring him back to Souderton.

The 26-year old "Hurricane" Floyd got his start mountain bike racing in Pennsylvania. In order to pursue his racing dreams, he moved to San Diego, where his success attracted the interest of professional road teams. After two years of stellar road results, the US Postal Service Cycling Team signed him for the 2002 season. He exceeded their expectations, finishing second to Lance Armstrong at the prestigious Dauphine Libere stage race in France in June and working hard for Armstrong's fourth consecutive Tour de France victory in July. He's now finishing up his season and the Univest Cyclosportif 100k will be a chance for him to ride with the fans of the sport.

The event begins at 8:00 AM, three-hours before the start of the Grand Prix race. Riders finishing within the five-hour time limit will be eligible for over $4,000 in prizes from Bianchi and Festina. The "Cyclo's" will enjoy a post ride barbecue, shower facilities, and a 1:00 PM prize drawing before watching the final exciting laps of the international Univest Grand Prix. The Cyclosportif 100K raises funds for Indian Creek Foundation. The Indian Creek Foundation provides opportunities to people with developmental disabilities to live in and enrich their communities while meeting their residential, vocational, spiritual, and personal needs.

Men's race:
Ranking: UCI 1.6
Date: Saturday, September 21, 2002
Start time: 10:50 AM, Estimated finish time: 2:50 PM
Distance: 105 miles, 170 kilometers
Number of competitors: 150, Number of teams: 25 (6 racers per team)
Nations represented: USA, Belgium, Holland, Canada, France, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Colombia, New Zealand, Australia
Prize list: $10,000, 30 places

Men's Course Description:
A 100 kilometer (62 miles) twisting hilly race course that wins through the Indian and Perkiomen Valleys of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania (with a short trip into Bucks County) followed by 13 laps of a 5-kilometer (3 mile) course through Souderton and Telford.

Women's race:
Start time: 11:05 AM, Estimated finish: 12:40 PM
Number of competitors: about 100
Nations represented: USA, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia
Distance: 33 miles, 55 kilometers
Prize list: $6,000, 20 places

Women's Course Description:
52 Kilometer circuit race. 20 laps of a 2.6 K circuit through Souderton

Univest Grand Prix History

1998

The inaugural Univest Grand Prix set the tone for future editions, as the race-hardened Europeans largely controlled the action. In the latter stages of the race, a four-man breakaway of Jon Hamblen (USA), Andrew Randell (Canada), and French riders Eric Drubay and Jerome Gannet had the race to decide among themselves as they reached the closing Souderton-Telford circuits. However, when Randell lost contact with the group, the French riders took advantage of their numbers, attacking Hamblen constantly and forcing him to do all the chasing. In the end, Gannet won by just one second over the courageous Hamblen, with Drubay finishing third.

1999

Year two saw a reversal of the previous year's ill fortunes for the Canadians, as both the men's champion and the winner of the newly added women's circuit race hailed from north of the border. As in 1998, the race was reshaped entering the final 40 miles of racing: up until that point, the Belgians had seemed in charge, with one of their riders, Wouter Demeulenmeesler, two-minutes ahead of the field with Quebecois Alexandre Lavallee (Kissena Cycling Team). Lavellee surprised the cycling world by leaving the Belgian behind with ten miles to the finish and just holding off the hard-charging chase group led in by Belgian Tom Boonen and Joseph Papp of the Pennsylvania All-Stars Team. Meanwhile, Team Elita's Annie Gariepy made it two for Canada, as she parlayed a late attack into victory, with local heroine Laura Van Gilder beating out Barbara Gradley in the field sprint.

2000

If the previous year was an embarrassing loss of control by the wily Euros, then 2000 was a dramatic return to form, as the Belgians and French utterly dominated affairs. The race was shaped by a two-up break of Bert Dewaele (Colorado Altitude Training/Belgium) and Stephane Auroux (Alderfer Auction House/France), who escaped the at the forty-mile mark. As the men approached the closing circuits, the Kissena team of defending champion Lavallee - with five riders in the main group - was prepared to bring it all back together...until disaster struck, as Lavallee flatted and had to wait nearly two minutes for a wheel change. Though he regained the group, the impetus had gone out of the chase and the duo stayed away, with Dewaele outsprinting Auroux for the victory and the Belgians & French taking seven of the top ten places. But Canadian honor was somewhat assuaged in the women's race, as Canada's Leigh Hobson (Charles Schwab) and Sue Palmer-Komar (jane Cosmetics) were part of the winning three-rider break. At the finish, Hobson took the win over Philadelphia's own Mina Pizzini (Procter & Gamble), with Palmer-Komar placing third.

2001

Competition is cancelled due to the September 11th tragedy. The Cyclosportif is rescheduled for October 6th and is run under very cold and rainy conditions. Olympic Champion Marty Nothstein joins Amateur Tour of Italy winner Davide Frattini with more than 100 brave cyclists to ride in support of the Univest Grand Prix and to raise funds for Indian Creek Foundation.

The Univest Grand Prix is produced by Sparta Cycling.


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