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The 2003 Saturn Men: Team Profile
 
By Jaime Nichols
Date: 1/29/2003
The 2003 Saturn Men: Team Profile
 
Photos by Jaime Nichols except where noted.

Saturn for 2003. Chris Horner, Trent Klasna, Charles Dionne, Tom Danielson, Eric Wohlberg, Ivan Dominguez... stop it, already!Without a doubt, Team Saturn brings it on with a scary and powerful roster.

On paper, there’s no question that Saturn has assembled the strongest all-star team in on the US racing circuit for 2003. With riders fit to challenge in every discipline, and top firepower for any kind of race, the Saturn team looks for all the world like the team of destiny this season. Still, even with all that firepower, questions still raise themselves, and foremost among them is whether or not they will manage to make a team out of so many individual stars.

Last year, Chris Horner was the unquestioned leader of his Prime Alliance squad. Charles Dionne showed us all something special in San Francisco, and this year, Trent Klasna, always aggressive and powerful, will be looking to prove he still has the guns after a disappointing 2002 season. Throw into to that mix the prodigious talents of some of Saturn’s young guns and it adds up to the potential clash of a lot of egos.

What’s going to keep the rampaging wolves of id at bay?

“Professionalism,” says Horner. Klasna vows that “It’s not important if I’m the one winning, as long as one of us is.” Dionne, though obviously capable of winning the tough, one day classic races, is looking forward to the opportunities to sprint to victory, and prefers to keep quiet, letting his legs do the talking.

Danielson, who rode last year with Mercury says that Mercury rode like a band of brothers, and adds, “I feel that same chemistry here.”

A big part of the task of molding this crew of stellar talent into a team falls onto the sturdy shoulders of Saturn’s new Director Sportif, Andrzej Bek. Asked if he thinks there will trouble aligning the will of the individual with that of the team, Bek says “That will be the trick, and this is what we have to do to put everything together and prioritize. It will be quite a task, and we’ll see when everyone comes under pressure.”

With half the team riding the Tour de Langkawi, including Chris Horner, a past winner of that race, pressure is coming right up, and Saturn will be one of the best stories to follow in the coming year.

If the chemistry is right, there will be few races they can’t win.

 

The Boss

Director Sportif Andrzej Bek
Andrjez Bek - “How did you become involved in cycling?” I asked Saturn’s new Director Sportif Andrzej Bek. “It’s a long story,” he told me with a laugh, “my family’s been in cycling since the beginning of the last century.”

Formerly a world class competitor on the track, Bek was a bronze medalist in the 1972 Olympics, and again at the World Championships two years later. Bek has been coaching cyclists in the US for decades, working with the US National Team and the Coors cycling team. He was named Coach of the Year in 1996 by the US Olympic Committee.

Bek has also worked extensively with the paralympic committee, coaching athletes with physical disabilites and continues to do so. His committment to the paralympic games will take him away from the Saturn team for a time in September of 2004.

Bek has also worked as a sand-blaster in oil tanks in New Jersey, loaded and driven moving trucks across the country, and worked in an autobody shop between cycling gigs. He is a father of two grown daughters, and originally from Poland, he now makes his home in Colorado Springs, CO.

Sitting down to a team meeting next to Phil Zajicek, he asked me how I’d enjoyed two days with Bek in a slow moving follow car behind the Saturn team’s epic training rides. “I liked it,” I told him. “I like Andrzej.”

“He’s such a badass,” replied Zajicek.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

 

GC Powerhouses!

Trent Klasna
Trent Klasna - A big, powerful, hammer, Trent Klasna got his start on a bike when he was forced onto it by a suspended license due to a DUI conviction.

Kicked out of his father’s house when he was 18 for taking in a stray dog, Trent’s mother offered him a place in hers if he wanted to come home, clean up his life, and try his hand at racing a bike, along with his older brother. At his mother’s house, Trent met Olympic cyclist Bob Mionske, and his own Olympic dream began.

Klasna dominated the domestic racing scene in 2001, with victories at Redlands, Sea Otter, the US National Time Trial Championship, and first place in both the US Pro Cycling Tour and the National Racing Calendar point series. He is a strong climber, a powerful time trialist, and a relaxed, but intense team leader. His impulsive, attacking style makes him one of the most exciting riders to watch on the US circuit.

2002 was a quiet year on the bike for Trent, who struggled with back pain from an old injury sustained in a run-in with a car years ago; but if it was a quiet year on the bike, it was anything but on a personal level. In 2002, he married his wife, Tracy, and the two of them spent the year on the road in a motorhome, before settling down in a new house in aptly named Cool, CA, at the end of last season.

A slow year hasn’t taken the shine off the job; Trent loves to race his bike. He looks forward to a strong season with a great team in 2003.

 

Chris Horner
Chris Horner - Last season, Chris Horner was unstoppable, striking fear into the US Peloton with back to back wins in Redlands and Sea Otter, with the Solano Bicycle Classic thrown in for good measure. Riding with a dedicated and powerful Prime Alliance squad, Horner was a dominating force, and never felt pushed to the edge of his powers, even while he had all the competitors on the ropes.

Mid season injuries stopped him from riding away with all the late season glory in 2002, but all is mended now, and by all accounts, he is ready to rumble. Supported by a roster including some of the top talent in the US, Horner is poised to make good on the promise of last year’s victories.

Horner has extensive International experience, and can count overall wins in the Tour de Lankawi and last year’s NRC points Championship to his credit. Almost universally liked and respected by his peers, Horner is a G.C. man, and a time trialist to be reckoned with. An intmidating force when he is on top form, Chris can’t be underestimated even when he isn’t.

He lives in Bend, OR, with his fiancee, Aisha, and three children.

 

Sprinting Rockets!

Rashaan Bahati
Rashaan Bahati joined the Saturn cycling team in 2001, and returns this year for a second season in the yellow and black.

A strong sprinter who has raced full time since 1998, Bahati is a former Junior National Road Racing Champion and Criterium Champion, both of which he won in 2000. The same year, still a junior, Bahati also took the National Elite Criterium Championship. He has represented the US in ther World Championships as a Junior and a Senior.

Bahati is a student at Indiana University, where he studies computer animation, and especially enjoys history classes.

The Saturn team will look to him in the final meters of fast races for excellent lead-outs and blistering finishing speeds.

 

Ivan Dominguez
Ivan Dominguez - In the 1998 Pan Am Games, Cuban native Ivan Dominguez won a gold medal, rolled off the track, and was never seen again by his Cuban National Team. Leaving behind his friends and family in Cuba, he was discovered a year later in Miami by the Saturn team.

Last year he scored Saturn’s biggest win of the season in the inaugural running of the NYC Cycling Championships, polishing off the best of the US peloton with a killer sprint.

Dominguez is a four time Pan Am Games Champion and a current Pan Am record holder. Training hard this week at camp, Dominguez looked comfortable on the climbs, and the top brass at Saturn says this will be the year to test him in some of the biggest races on the US circuit.

 

Charles Dionne
Charles Dionne turned a few heads in 2002 with his victory in San Francisco. Dionne led the chase that brought back defending champion George Hincapie’s solo move, and then chased nearly every attack that followed, taking on the likes of Vlatcheslav Ekimov and Lance Armstrong to stay in the action. After a long day in the saddle, he came to the line with the gas to relegate 2002 Pro Cycling Tour Champion Henk Vogels to second place.

Dionne’s San Francisco victory was a suprise to some - Lance Armstrong declared in the post race press conference that he had never even heard of him - but not to anyone who knew Dionne. His 7-Up teammates all knew that it was only a matter of time before young Charles made his mark in a big way.

A native of Quebec, Canada, Dionne started racing BMX at the age of 7, and was on the road by 15. Since 1999, he has dedicated himself to racing his bike, and has Tour de France aspirations. He brings good all-around talent and a powerful sprint to the Saturn Team.

Viktor Rapinski
Viktor Rapinski - Belarussian rocket Viktor Rapinski makes the jump from Saturn’s development team to the pro ranks this year. Last year he rode and won the 4 Bridges of Elgin and the International Cycling Classic’s overall and five stages wearing development team colors.

Rapinski is a former Junior World Champion on the track points race, has a strong time trial presence, is able to tough out the climbs, and has killer finishing speed which will make him a go-to man in the lead-outs and final kilometers. Only 21 years old, Rapinski handily and regularly beat sprinters like Australia’s Hilton Clarke on the US pro circuit last year, and will be a significant threat on this powerful team.

 

Tough Climbers!

Tom Danielson
Tom Danielson - Making the transition from the mountain bike to the road, Tom Danielson began last season as a Cat 3 road racer, and made quick work of finding a place on what is arguably the strongest professional men’s team in the US peloton.

A natural talent on the mountains, the pro scene took notice of him last year when Danielson smashed the Mt. Washington Hill Climb record by over a minute. He also won the Time Trial in the Tour of Qinghai Lake in China, and continued to show his mettle in the mountains for the remainder of the race.

Just finishing his studies at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Co, the Connecticut native has enormous, god-given potential which he is in the process of honing, and also posesses the skinniest ass this reporter has ever seen (and don’t think for a minute that I haven’t seen some very skinny ass in my travels).

Danielson is excited about his opportunity to ride for Saturn, and eager to learn the ways of the road from his experienced teammates, and by all accounts will be a quick study.

 

Tim Johnson
Tim Johnson - Tough climber Tim Johnson has won four National Cyclo-Cross Championships, one as a Junior, two as an U23, and in 2000, his first Elite National title. He was a bronze medalist at the cyclo-cross World Championship in 1999.

Racing full-time since 2001, Johnson continues to improve his game year after year. Last season, Johnson represented the US at the World Championship road race in Belgium. Throughout the 2002 season, Johnson demonstrated his strength on the climbs and dedication to team success.

A reliable and talented support man, Johnson is a valuable asset in stage races.

 

Time Trial Hardmen, and Good Solid Support!

Nathan O'Neill
Photo courtesy Tour de Langkawi

Nathan O’Neill - Australian hardman Nathan O’Neill has been racing his bike since 1992. Known for toughness above and beyond the call of duty, he won a silver medal in the Oceania Time Trial Titles riding on a broken pelvis.

In 1993, O’Neill was forced into a temporary retirement in by health problems, but came back to win the Australian National Time Trial title. An Australian Junior Championship gold medalist, and an endurance track rider in the 4,000 meters pursuit, for which he took a bronze in the 1992 Jounior World Championships, O’Neill represented Australia in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, and took eigth place at the World Time Trial Championships in 2001.

Experienced and tough both physically and mentally, O’Neill is a powerful time trialist and will provide stalwart all-round support to an already super strong Saturn squad.

 

Eric Wohlberg
Eric Wohlberg - It’s unanimous! Seven-time and reigning Canadian Time Trial Champion Eric Wohlberg wins the prize as the handsomest member of the Saturn Cycling team.

In addition to that, and to his TT title, Wohlberg is a two time Olympian and a Pan Am Games Champion. At 38 years of age, Wohlberg continues to improve and is a factor in every race he rides. Quiet and self contained, he has matured into a tough all-rounder, and is equally at home as a confident leader, or giving everything up in service to the designated captain.

A member of the Saturn squad since 2001, competitors have said that Wohlberg’s presence on the Saturn team “is like having several more Saturn teammates in the field.” Wohlberg brings a steady, consistent strength to the Saturn squad.

 

 

Will Frischkorn
Photo courtesy of Saturn Cycling
Will Frishkorn joined the Saturn team in 2001 at the age of 20, and with an impressive record. He won four National Titles as a Junior, and capped off a brilliant 2000 season, in which he finished on the podium in Redlands, the McClane Pacific Road Race and the tour of Williamette by joining the pro ranks.

In 2002, Frischcorn overcame injury to take the National Espoirs title, and finished with the leading group in the San Francisco Grand Prix. Not bad for 21 years old! A strong climber, and good, all around support, Frischkorn hopes he can be a go-to guy in support of his teammates when the going gets rough.

 

Mark McCormack
Mark McCormack has been with the Saturn team for 8 years, and carries on this year without older brother Frank. He brings the team a maturity, confidence and professionalism borne out of long experience.

Last season, Mark’s strength and experience was instrumental in delivering teammate Ivan Dominguez to the line in the New York City Cycling Championships, and delivering the Saturn team its biggest victory in 2002. He also won stages in the 2002 Tour if the Gila and Sea Otter Classic.

 

Phil Zajicek
Phil Zajicek - New to the Saturn team this year is Phil Zakicek, who joins the yellow and black from Mercury. Along with all that natural charm, Zajicek brings Time Trial strength and steady support to the team for 2003.

Racing full time since 1998, Zajicek placed third in last year’s Valley of the Sun race, and is a former Arizona State Time Trial Champion.

He also has rather unusual taste in cycling socks... he swears the socks add wattage.

 

Oh dear.

With riders and socks like these, what can go wrong?

 

 
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