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Golden Hams at the T-Mobile International
 
By Locutus
Date: 9/14/2004
Golden Hams at the T-Mobile International
 
Golden Hams of the Day
  • Chris "Hardman" Horner (WebcorBuilders). To say that the powerful Health Net team and Chris Horner's Webcor squad are "rivals" would be a polite understatement. These guys have gone at it all year, both on and off the bike. When Health Net launched five men into that early break, they sent some of their aces, while Webcor only had two of their working men out front (John Kelly, who holds down a job as a Cartographer for Contra Costa county, and James Mattis, who is a Senior Mechanical Engineer for Kollabra Consulting). When Health Net played their cards and Jason McCartney got that huge lead of over 4', I said to one of the Webcor support staff, "Horner's not going to like this." Sure enough, Horner went to the front of the peloton with a couple of the Posties and rode like a man possessed to haul McCartney back and give his teammate Dionne a chance to seize the day. In the process, Horner sacrificed his own chances of repeating his win of last year, and all to help out the team. While he didn't win, we saw Chris Horner at his best in San Francisco: he was an incredibly powerful rider who played a decisive role in the race, and he was a selfless teammate who gave his all to help his teammate.


Webcor in action
Photo by Scott Schaffrick

  • Charles "In Charge" Dionne (Webcor Builders). His attack to bridge the final gap to McCartney on the Taylor Street climb was awesome. He had kept himself quiet all day, saving himself for the perfect moment, and when the moment came he did exactly what he had to do to win. This was sweet vindication for Dionne, who struggled through 2003 with injuries. This victory put the perfect cap to a strong 2004 campaign, and Dionne now has his sights set on Europe. With such a quality win over such a strong field for the second time in three years, I'd be surprised if the young Canadian isn't hammering up the Muur and flying through the Ardennes next Spring.


Charles in Charge
Photo by Scott Schaffrick

  • Freddie "American Flag" Rodriguez (Acqua e Sapone). This race was a comedy of errors for the American Road Race Champion. Decked out in his full Stars and Stripes team kit and astride his custom Stars and Stripes Moser bike, Rodriguez looked fresh and ready to rock at the start line. However, a crash with about forty miles to go saw Fred's team kit shredded and his custom bike broken. For some inexplicable (and inexcusable) reason, Fred's team didn't have his spare bike ready. Fred had to jump on another bike and then hang back in the teams cars while the mechanic tried to make adjustments (like raising the seat post) on the fly. This replacement bike had mechanical problems the rest of the race, which meant that Fred and his teammates kept having to drop back to the cars and then burn their energy chasing back to the peloton. Fred's back, right hip, and right leg were bleeding, and his left leg was ailing even worse than the right one. Still, when Dionne attacked it was Rodriguez who had the best response. He didn't have quite enough to catch Dionne, but he toughed it out to take an impressive 2nd place only 8" back. Clearly frustrated with what could have been, Fred now heads back to Europe for a few more races before the World Championships. He has good form, and if he can overcome his new injuries and bad luck, he could be exchanging that Stars and Stripes Jersey for a Rainbow.


Freddie in action
Photo by Scott Schaffrick

  • Jason "Beatle" McCartney (Health Net) and Doug "E. Fresh" Ollerenshaw (Jelly Belly Aramark). These two were the strongest and survived the longest from that early break. Ollerenshaw drove it up the climbs of Fillmore and Taylor Streets and put some of the Health Net riders in difficulty more than a couple of times. McCartney was ultimately the only one stronger than Ollerenshaw, dropping him on the final big lap with 25 miles left. McCartney almost pulled off the victory, but fell just a mile or so short. Still, he got to take home the Master of the Mountains prize for his efforts. All in all, this was a great effort from two of the best on the American scene.
  • George "Big Hink" Hincapie and the team of the United States Postal Service presented by Berry Floor. This was the final race in the U.S. for this team under the sponsorship of the Postal Service. While some might suggest that the Posties should get a ham-gazing award for not winning the race, that would be an insult to both the quality of the American peloton and the other riders from the European peloton in attendance. The ever-gracious Hincapie, clearly disappointed with what he saw as a sub-standard day, was quick to give credit to Dionne for his powerful ride. Hincapie won the field sprint for 3rd at 16", which in my estimation is still one helluva performance for a man who has been going hard since March. Given what George and the Posties have done over the last several years and what they did in this race, I really don't think that the Postal Service has anything to complain about.
Ham-Gazers of the Day
  • Lance Armstrong. El Jefe was scheduled to ride this one, but pulled out at the last moment with a case of tendonitis. With the Tour de France in the bag, this part of the season never ranks very highly on Armstrong's schedule, and it seems he's always suffering something by the time this one rolls around. Prior years have seen some stomach flu galore, and lord knows we all hope he recovers from that tendonitis in record time. Meanwhile, Armstrong spent the day pressing the flesh, signing autographs, posing for photos, and yes; literally gazing at the hams as they suffered up Fillmore, all chamois-ed up, while he was in comfy civilian clothes. He looked as trim and self-possessed as ever, and I hope San Francisco showed His Royal Higness a good time.
  • Threshold Sports & the San Francisco PD. The people at Threshold have done incredibly great things for American cycling over the last few years, not least of which was the creation of the T-Mobile International. This is a fantastic race with a great course and a quality field, and we bike faithful can only be grateful for their exemplary efforts to give us more and better events all the time. This year, though, there were quite a few snafus and loads of stories about the right hand (the race organization) not knowing what the left hand (San Francisco's finest) was up to, and that added up to some difficulty in covering the race. Here's hoping that the Threshold folks can iron out the kinks continue as it rolls into the future.


Casual Lance
Photo by Scott Schaffrick

Crazy Jane's San Fran Hamstravaganza!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm coming clean: The T-Mobile International is this reporter's favorite single event on the US Calendar. The race is non-stop thrills, the city is gorgeous, and the Italians are always in force with their insane fashion. The T-Mobile International features the best of the extra-delicious US Pro Bike Racing field, and never fails to give us some juicy Euros to size up in person, as well. As usual, when you suit up close to 200 fellas who look good in lycra and send them forth to do some crazy shit like climb Fillmore St. on a bike 10 times, I'm in. You will receive no complaints whatsoever from me.

Let's get straight down to delicious business:

  • Chris Horner & the Webcor Builders Boys. This has been a great year for the Webcor Builders team. They've won a healthy portion of the biggest events of the US season, and they've done that by stepping up to the plate big time. On Sunday, Chris Horner drove it like we all know he can (hard), and served the T-Mobile International to his teammate on a silver platter, and with his usual smile. Charles Dionne stepped up, and Webcor took a huge victory in the toughest single day event on the US calendar. That has got to stick in the craw of all them bigger teams that are chock-a-block with superstars and big expectations. Horner, let's be real, is a superstud, and while he may take that occasional drubbing from the press for his straight-talking style, he's rarely wrong, and no one can read a race, or get more out of a team than this guy. He's an incredible athlete, a born leader, he rocks a big, delicious sense of just who the hell he is, and on top of that, he's a swell guy with a charming smile. Personally, I loved seeing him give it up to his teammate, and it's performances like Chris Horner's last Sunday that make me love this brilliant sport.


    Chris Horner's famous smile
    Photo by Scott Schaffrick

    • Fast Freddie Rodriguez (Acqua e Sapone). I think my readers all know that I never waste an opportunity to mention the ample charms of this little rooster, but I don't even need an excuse this time, because Freddie demonstrated his quality in spades on the roads of San Francisco on Sunday. As my partner in crime notes above, the T-Mobile International was a comedy of errors for our dapper US Pro Champion, but he's a tough man, both physically and mentally, and as he always says he will, he rose to the occasion. Freddie likes to be the king, and coming in first loser was a big disappointment for him, but after a crash, a broken bike, and on the road adjustments that kept on comin' until the last lap, plus a reactivated injury and some back pain, I think second in the toughest race on the US circuit is pretty damned good. People, we can all be proud of our National Champion. He's a truly bitchin' bike racer, and oh, so charming.


      Double the charm
      Photo by Jaime Nichols

    • Big George Hincapie (US Postal Service, presented by Berry Floor). What is there to say about Big G that we haven't already said in this column? As usual, George was all hopped up on charm enhancers, rocking his big smile and those crazy glasses that only look good on him. He looked tall, dark and matinee idol handsome, and rode his bike around San Fran like a superstar. George told the assembled press (which included a lady or two that looked about ready to blow a gasket) that he didn't have a great day on Sunday, and that it seems the legs just haven't been the same since the Tour. I guess putting the screws to the Tour de France peloton every damned day for a three weeks can really take it out of a guy. Go figure! Still, he won the field sprint for third on Sunday, and there were some good guns in there, so it was a steady, impressive ride, as usual. Press conference George was gracious, humble and eloquent, especially on the topic of how pleased he is to have been blessed with the woman of his dreams, and a baby due in November. It doesn't get more delicious, my friends. I'm going on record: George is the best.
    • The Italians!. You know I love 'em! As usual, the fashion was inexplicable, the hair was frosted, and this time, in a dimension I hadn't noticed previously, the cologne was dialed up to 11. All I can say is "Impressive!" In Freddie Rodriguez's own words on the topic of his teammates' efforts with the ladies: "I can't take these guys anywhere!" And people, Andrea Tafi was there. I'm just sayin'.


      Andrea Tafi climbs Fillmore
      Photo by Scott Schaffrick

    • Russell Hamby (Sierra Nevada). One of the ladies of Crazy Jane's panel had a special feeling for this little bike monkey. I think it was the hot hairstyle, and the way she could pick him out in the crowd because it was sticking out of his helmet, all red and spikey, in that charming manner. God knows I'm not running a dating service here, but Russ, I think I could hook you up, dude.


      Russell Hamby with members of Crazy Jane's Panel of Experts!
      Photo by Jaime Nichols

    • Retirees Trent Klasna (Sierra Nevada) & Jonas Carney (Jelly Belly). Woe is me! Two of my very favorites are calling it a career at the end of this season! Both of these two leave behind illustrious histories in kicking ass on the bike, and Carney retires in the US Pro Criterium Champion's jersey. Alrighty, then! I guess, after a long slog on the bike, it's nice to take one's life in another direction, but gentlemen, we will miss you! Trent Klasna will go down in history for some serious rock-star style bike racing, and for being American cycling's Marlboro Man. Trent's always been good for a laugh and a crazy pose, and people, he is definitely not limp-wristed in the slightest degree. As far as Jonas Carney goes, it was touch and go for awhile there, back in the hair days, but seriously, Crazy Jane's got, let's face it: a bit of a crush. Jonas is just so sharp, and he's been making it happen on the road forever. There's no better man for the Crit Champ's jersey than this guy.


    Trent Klasna, superstar!
    Photo by Scott Schaffrick

    • Chechu Rubiera & Viatcheslav Ekimov (US Postal Service, presented by Berry Floor). Oh yeah, ladies, I know how you all love Chechu, and I cannot blame you for that. How bitchin' is it that he brought those sparkling baby blues and that beautiful smile to San Francisco? And Eki (-licious)? Sweet Jesus, is there a bigger stud in all of professional bike racing? I think not. Gentlemen, it was an honor and a privilege. Please come back soon!


      Chechu Rubiera on Fillmore
      Photo by Scott Schaffrick

    • The Entire US Peloton. Who am I kidding! Can I really get through this article without mentioning HealthNet monkeys Mike Jones, Danny Pate or Ofoto's ultra-charming Jay Bausch? Is it possible for me to get through an American race review without calling your attentions to the charms of Siro "Blondie" Componogara or John "Hard Ass" Lieswyn? I can't forget to mention that I saw a civilian Gord Fraser at the top of Fillmore hill and that he was as saucy as ever; or that newlywed Tim Johnson was there, proving conclusively that all of the good ones are taken? No damned way. I could never do that!


    Tim Johnson hams it up at the start
    Photo by Jaime Nichols

    Here's the bottom line, people: the entire North American peloton is just so damned delicious. I must tell you that I love the bejesus out of the entire project! Week after week, year after year, these guys get together every weekend and ride their hearts out for little more than the rewards of the sport itself. If only every sports fan in America could see the awesome athletes and brilliant personalities that are to be found on every one of the teams that took part in the T-Mobile International!

    In related news, here's what's going to be awesome: Jamie Paolinetti's latest, Pro, the Movie, which brings you up close and behind the scenes as this awesome crew takes on the Wachovia Philly week races, culminating in the USPRO Championship. I've seen some of this one, my dears, and I can tell you that in all seriousness, all of us bike racing fans are in for a great big treat. The film will debut at Interbike next month, and all the updated news will be posted here as the days wear on. Cheers!

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