Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Georgia Cup #1 - Albany

Once again, here is another great race report from Ryan Saylor:

Regions Bank Albany Stage Race
Team Lindner Capital made their way up to Albany, Georgia the first weekend of March for the Regions Bank Albany Stage Race, the first stop of the Georgia Cup race series of races. Jeff Kopp, Curtis Long, Karel Sumbal, Clint Bridier and Ryan Saylor were in attendance to represent Lindner Capital. The weather was nice all weekend which made for some great racing. The stage race consisted of three stages—a prologue, a criterium and a 85 mile road race. Some big teams were represented in the race including Jelly Belly, Health Net and Jittery Joe’s.

Time Trial
The time trial snaked around the crit course in downtown Albany and ended up being a little less than 2 miles with no less than eleven 90 degree turns and one 180 degree turn around a roundabout. John Murphy (Health Net), who just two weeks prior tied Tom Boonen for 20th in the Tour of California Prologue (and finished one second faster than Bobby Julich), smoked the Albany course with a time of 4:07 to win the opening stage in a field of 70 Pro-Am starters. Notably, Florida’s own time trial specialist, Grant Potter (Herbalife), just missed a podium spot and took 4th. Curtis Long again proved he’s a force to be reckoned with in the race of truth with his 9th place finish. Jeff Kopp also had a great ride and missed a top ten by less than one second taking 11th.

Later in the day, 74 riders lined up for the criterium. The race had eight 90 degree turns per lap with some brick crosswalks thrown in for good measure. Attacks were fast and furious throughout the race but none could gain any significant gap.

Criterium start and Karel sprinting for the line

In the end, the group was destined for a field sprint and Curtis Long again came through for Lindner Capital. Long led the pack through the last two turns and opened up a massive sprint but Emilio Esconeguy (Latino Cycling Team) edged him out by the width of a tire. Floridians Chris Scott and Seth Hansley (both of Locos Grill & Pub) rode well to take 4th and 7th respectively and Lindner Capital’s Karel Sumbal avoided his string of recent bad luck an d finished a strong 8th place thus giving two riders in the top ten for Lindner Capital.

Curtis on the podium after taking 2nd in the criterium

Congrats for Curtis...and the ever popular Czechoslovakian, Karel Sumbal

Road Race
The road race course showed the riders the fantastic roads just outside of Albany. The roads were relatively flat and lined with many open pastures with which the breeze tended to pick up speed. The race started off at a cool 51 degrees, but the sun brought the temperature above 60 in the first hour of racing. For the first 5 miles or so, the cool weather kept the pace easy. As the riders warmed up, so did the race. It seemed as if alarms sounded every time John Murphy (Health Net) or Nicholas Riestad (Jelly Belly) attacked as the group quickly reacted to each of their moves. Within the first 10 miles of the race, a group of three formed off the front including 16 year o ld Floridian Mike Niemi (Metro Volkswagen). Niemi, just a junior in high school, is the training partner of Lindner Capital’s Ryan Saylor. While the field didn’t seem too concerned with the break away, the three kept their heads down and worked relentlessly to stay away. The field continued to see attacks which even brought the break away trio to within two hundred meters at one point. The three would not give in and continued their fight. As the apathetic field started to dally, the gap opened again and the break was soon out of sight. About 30 miles into the contest, a chase group of 10 formed containing Lindner Capital’s Ryan Saylor. By the 40 mile mark, the chase group caught the break away and the break was then 13 men strong. One of the 13 poorly took a musset bag in the feed zone, crashed and ended his race early bringing the break away down to 12 riders. The gap continued to grow between the break away and the field and swelled to over 4 minutes. Saylor nabbed two time bonuses during the race for a total of 4 seconds in intermittent “king of the mountain” sprints. While the break away rotated steadily for mile after mile, attacks continued in the field and eventually another 10 riders slipped away to form a chase group. However, the break away was not to be caught. Saylor, not known for his sprint, could only muster 7th place in the end just edging out his tra ining partner Niemi who is required by the USA governing body of cycling to race the pro/1/2 races using junior [smaller] gears. Karel Sumbal (Lindner Capital) finished strong taking second in the field sprint.

Team Lindner Capital ready to start...as Jeff wonders why he can read his arm warmers, and nobody else can...

Karel takes 2nd in the field sprint

The overall standings were overshadowed by the road race with the lead group of the road race finishing 4 minutes faster than the chase group and six minutes faster than the field, thus neutralizing time gains in the time trial except for the twelve who were in the road race break away. In the end, Mike Niemi (Metro Volkswagen) took 7th overall and Ryan Saylor (Lindner Capital), just four seconds slower, took 10th overall. Fifth place and tenth place overall were separated by just 5 seconds. Stage races often make riders think about where they could have saved a second here and a second there and the Albany edition of the Georgia Cup was no different!

Results for all races can be found

- Ryan Saylor

Note: The race leader going into the road race, John Murphy, was disqualified for multiple "center line rule" violations. From what I hear through Curtis, he got into some kind of shouting match with a motorcycle official...and some obscene gestures and language were used, and the official DQ'd him...strange turn of events for such an incredibly gifted rider.