Lancaster, PA, June 3, 2003 - It was a wet one in Lancaster, Pennsylvania today, as the Wachovia Cycling Series and the 2003 Pro Cycling Tour got off to true hardman's start in stormy weather. Over 160 riders took the start, prepared for the miserable weather in raingear and smelling of horse lineament, but after 91 miles, only 23 survivors were left, as CSC's Jakob Piil soloed to his second Lancaster victory.
Domestic racing's most dominant force, the Saturn team, started the race off in aggressive fashion, with Trent Klasna firing the opening salvo; but it was his teammate, Nathan O'Neill who made the first significant move, going free of the pack during the second lap and building a lead of over a minute on the field. In true hardman fashion, O'Neill did three laps solo, but with the horsepower assembled in one of the strongest fields this race has seen, he was never a real danger.
With seven laps to go, it was Navigators, Prime Alliance and CSC on the front of the pack to bring back O'Neill, with CSC's Andrea Tafi leading the charge through the start/finish line. Newly crowned National Time Trial Champion Chris Baldwin was the first to catch O'Neill.
By this time, riders were dropping like flies, and the real hardmen were starting to show themselves. Saturn's Chris Horner, Trent Klasna, and Mark McCormack, 7-Up's John Lieswyn, Prime Alliance's Danny Pate and David Clinger, Postal's Michael Barry, Matt White and Max Von Heeswik, CSC's Jakob Storm Piil, Julian Dean and Geert Van Bondt, Navigators Oleg Grischkine and Ciaran Power, and Freddy Rodriguez were among the riders that made the bridge to O'Neill as the tough course, weather and pace began to take their toll. Behind them the peloton splintered.
In the leader's group, CSC - three men strong in the break - turned the screws, and weeded out all but the strongest. Those who had made a big effort earlier in the race were lost - Saturn's O'Neill was dropped, Klasna followed, and the selection continued on the following laps until only a small group remained, including CSC's Piil, Van Bondt and Dean, last year's Lancaster champion David Clinger, 7-Up's tenacious John Lieswyn, Navigators Oleg Grischkine, Chris Horner and Mark McCormack of Saturn, USPS's Matt White and Formaggi Pinzolo's Uros Murn.
Piil had launched an attack on the flat with three to go, but was caught. With just over two to go, Piil launched again and stayed clear, quickly putting a minute into his nearest rivals. No one else had anything left.
"I think everyone was kind of content to race for second place, at that point," said Saturn's McCormack. "I think everyone was almost relieved to see him go."
Piil hammered on to a solo victory 1:18 ahead, as the chasers set up the sprint with rear wheels scuddering around the corners on the wet and oily streets. In the sprint, it was Saturn's Mark McCormak taking the victory over Julian Dean after McCormack and Dean tangled wheels in the final stretch, resulting in Dean losing some spokes as McCormack came over the top of him. McCormack was apologetic: "I try to ride a clean race, and I never intend to harm anyone. I wasn't sure what had happened, and thought it was my wheel. I'm just glad he didn't fall."
Mark McCormack takes the sprint over Julian Dean
Even so, CSC made their point, drilling it hard to a decisive victory. "They did their best to put on the pressure," said Saturn's O'Neill. "It's not fluke this guy won." O'Neill's teammate Chris Horner agreed: "I haven't gone that hard in three years!" he said, shaking his head.
For Piil, the win was his second in Lancaster; his first was in 1999, when he went on to victory in the US Pro Championship in Philly. 1999 was also the last time it rained in Lancaster for the race. Asked if he liked racing in the rain, Piil, whose middle name, as race announcers pointed out about 1000 times, is Storm, replied "No, I don't like the rain. I suffered the whole time. No one felt good out there."
The Schroeder Report:
For Schroeder Iron, the race was a tough one, with all but Adam Livingston seeking shelter before the day was done. Livingston soldiered on valiantly, carrying the torch for the Schroeder team and riding the last two laps completely alone, in pouring rain, while his teammates waited, warm and dry in the van.
Livingston finished 17th, 3:30 behind Piil.
The Navigators' Report
Hackettstown, NJ, June 4, 2003 - The first event of the Wachovia series kicked off this evening in Lancaster, Pennsylvania with a demanding 145-Km (91-miles) circuit race that winds its way through the downtown and outlying areas of this historic city. With temperatures in the 50's and a steady rain falling, the event would become even more difficult than it usually is.
Known as a hard-man's course, it is usually the tough guys that are fighting it out in the closing laps, and this year was no different. After a 1-lap warm-up, of the 13-lap race, an attack by Nathan O'Neill (Saturn) got the blood flowing with a solo move that gained him a gap that hovered between 30 and 45-seconds for the next several laps.
With 8 laps remaining, the first serious break got away containing 9 riders, including Navigators' newly crowned National Time Trial Champion, Chris Baldwin, scooped up O'Neill and continued to lead for the next 2 laps. The rapidly diminishing field continued to keep the pressure on the escapees until another series of attacks and counter-attacks resulted in another group of 4 splitting off. Over the next 4 laps, small chase groups made their way up front until a total of 23 were going up the road, for good. Included in this group were Navigators' Baldwin, Ciaran Power, Oleg Grichkine and Jeff Louder. Also in the group were 4 each from CSC and Saturn, as well 3 each from US Postal, Prime Alliance and 7Up.
As the race entered the final 2 laps, attacks from CSC resulted in a split of the breakaways, with nine of them rolling ahead, including 3 of the CSC riders. Jakob Piil (CSC) then attacked again and went solo, leaving the rest behind. Over the next 2 laps, the front group was reduced further to just 6, while behind them, the chasers were now down to 5, including Navigators' Grichkine.
Reaching the twisting, turning final kilometers of the soggy racecourse, Piil's gap was 1:20 over the chasers, so he made it look pretty easy as he soloed in for his second victory in this race (1999). 2nd place went to Mark McCormack (Saturn) while Julian Dean (CSC) rounded out the podium. This week's world-class racing action picks up in Trenton, New Jersey on Thursday.
Blurry Podium (or is it art?)
Wachovia Cycling Series: Lancaster - Full Results
1 Jakob Piil - CSC - 3:23:42
2 Mark McCormack - Saturn - 3:25:00
3 Julian Dean - CSC
4 Matthew White - USPS
5 John Lieswyn - 7-Up/Maxxis
6 Uros Murn - Formaggi Pinzolo
7 Geert Van Bondt - CSC
8 David Clinger - Prime Alliance - 3:27:01
9 Chris Horner - Saturn
10 Jimmi Madsen - CSC - 3:27:35
11 Oleg Grischkine - Navigators
12 Michael Barry - USPS
13 Danny Pate - Prime Alliance
14 Max Van Heeswik - USPS
15 Viktor Rapinski - Saturn - 3:29:31
16 Charles Dionne - Saturn
17 Adam Livingston - Schroeder Iron - 3:30:55
18 Matt Dubberly - Sierra Nevada - 3:33:58
19 Alan Iacuone - Flanders/IteamNova - 3:34:03
20 Jeff Louder - Navigators
21 Chris Baldwin - Navigators - 3:36:51
22 Ciaran Power - Navigators
23 Troy White - Sierra Nevada
Saturn's Nathan O'Neill won the sprint competiton.