Startline - Klasna, Hincapie, Gaggioli
The First Union Classic in Trenton, New Jersey got off to a late start today when a traffic fatality, caused when a stolen vehicle hit a pedestrian, blocked the race route.
The riders, who had just set off, were called back to the line while police cleared the accident off the road. The start came 50 minutes later. By then, hot humid weather had given over to hard rain, promising a dangerous day in the saddle, as the wet brought the oil on the road to the surface. One section of rough, cobbled road passing in front of Trenton's city hall was closed altogether, and the race was cut from 13 laps to 8 on the shortened course.
Commenting before the race, USPS's Dylan Casey said that Postal was "going for it," but that their "Big objective is Sunday, so we're not going to take huge risks today. If it starts raining, you may see a lot of us head for the car." But, with the race offering a big prize pay-off and 60 valuable UCI points, there were a lot of riders ready to face the elements and go hard. "I would take a crash for this win," said Schroeder Iron's Hilton Clarke, "I'm not thinking about Sunday today, I'm thinking about today."
Once underway, the race started fast, despite the deluge, with USPS and Prime Alliance driving hard. Heavy cloud cover and rain rendered the technical course slippery and treacherous, and amid numerous crashes, (Schroeder Iron's Ken Toman described the race as "Total carnage,") the peloton split into three groups, with a lead group of about 30 riders, including the likes of George Hincapie, Gord Fraser, and Chris Horner, and gaining enough time on the course to stay away.
By the last lap, Fraser was covering moves by the big guns of the race while strong sprinters like Jonas Carney sat in the pack, waiting for the charge. "When a sprinter has to cover the other team's top guys, that's a disadvantage," said Fraser, who moments later almost resigned himself to a loss when the Prime Alliance star speedster "took an amazing risk" to shoot by him.
Carney didn't have the gas to hang on to it, and teammate Chris Horner was next off the front, followed by Ciaran Power, in a last effort for tactical victory. Fraser, using Power "as a target," attacked the last corner full on: "it was just a matter if I had enough gas to hold off whoever was behind me, so it was all or nothing, and it paid off."
As Power's break failed, teammate Oleg Griskine had Fraser's wheel, and describes the last turns of the course as "crazy." He was suprised on the last turn by an attacking Gord Fraser, who drilled in for a clear win over Grishkine, with Lotto's Wesle Van Speybroeck bringing up the third podium place.
Van Speybroeck said that while the course was dangerous, the rain did not dissuade him: "All Belgian riders love to see the rain," he said, "In Belgium it is raining all the time. It's dangerous, but that's the job. We go for it!"
Bad luck has plagued Fraser and the Mercury team in Trenton in years past, and Mercury has never won this race. "Trenton has been eluding us for all these years. I can't describe how good it feels to win here," Fraser said.
Top Ten Results
1 Gord Fraser MCT 1:45:48
2 Oleg Grishkine NVG "
3 Wesle Van Speybroeck LOT "
4 Ciaran Powers NAV "
5 Tom Boonen USPS "
6 Robbie Ventura USPS "
7 Chris Horner PRI "
8 Gorik Gardeyn LOT "
9 Marty Nothstein NVG "
10 Soren Petersen SAT "