Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Atomic Race Weekend Road Race

Thirty five pro/1/2 racers headed to Quincy, Florida April 6, 2008 to race in the Team Atomic Race Weekend Road Race. After the criterium was cancelled the night before due to lightning, the racers were chomping at the bit to get on their bikes and mix it up. Lindner Capital was represented by Jeff Kopp, Clint Bridier, Curtis Long, Karel Sumbal and Ryan Saylor and was the largest team in the field with five riders. Other major teams present were Naples Cyclery and Velo Brew out of Jacksonville. Though they were there without strong team representation, the men to watch were obviously going to be Joel and Daniel Chavez (Preferred Alliance) as well as professionals Emile Abraham and Joe Eldridge of Team Type-1.

The race started under overcast skies. Lindner Capital decided to be aggressive right from the start. Since Curtis Long had been under the weather the last couple of weeks and it was questionable whether he’d be able to finish well, he decided to go out on the attack early to put pressure on the other teams. Someone attacked hard right off the start line but the group reluctantly followed and chased him down. Then Long counter attacked and with such a long race ahead, the group decided one person could not make it on his own and let him go.

Over the next 10 miles, Clint Bridier and Jeff Kopp set tempo on the front to discourage chasing and bridge attempts up to Long while Karel Sumbal and Ryan Saylor focused on going with and sitting on every attack. Eventually, Gary Yates (Naples Cyclery) recognized that, being on one of the largest teams in the field, catching up with someone from the largest team would provide lots of support in the field to discourage chasing and stifle attacks. Lindner Capital had the same thought and let Yates go to help their lone teammate up the road. Sure enough, Yates caught Long and the two worked well together and were quickly out of sight from the field.

Bridier and Kopp continued doing an outstanding job setting tempo and covering attacks until Kopp suffered a flat tire. He drifted back through the pack and waited for the wheel truck. Bridier dropped back to help Kopp pace back up to the field while Sumbal and Saylor continued their jobs of covering attacks. The value of Bridier’s and Kopp’s presence was immediately felt once they were absent from the group.

Sumbal, who has had bad luck in many of the races so far this year, was determined to get a good result today and was covering almost every single move that came from the field and eventually found himself off the front with current Master’s National Criterium Champion Jason Snow (YSG/Metrahomes/Wendy’s) and Daniel Domingo (Velo Brew) and worked diligently to stay away and catch up to his teammate.

At this point, it was looking very good for Lindner Capital with 2 guys in the top 5 on the road. However, the Chavez brothers were none too happy with racing for 6th place and chased and attacked relentlessly to bring back the chase group. Saylor successfully stifled these attacks for probably 15 miles but they were taking their toll on him. Finally, Joel Chavez attacked and Saylor cracked and could not answer. Chavez gained a gap on the field with a couple cohorts. With perfect timing, Jeff Kopp sprinted past the field and up to Chavez group. Kopp had just caught back up to the field after chasing for 15 miles with the help of Clint Bridier. Unfortunately, the mammoth effort required to get Jeff back to the field cost Bridier his race as he selflessly sacrificed himself for teammate Kopp.

Unfortunately, despite the efforts of Kopp and Saylor the Chavez brothers were eventually successful and almost single-handedly brought back Karel’s chase group of three while Long’s and Yates’ lead had grown to 4 minutes. After several more moves were unsuccessful, a group of seven riders slipped away including Jason Snow, Emile Abraham and his teammate Joe Eldridge, Joel Chavez, a Velo Brew rider, Andy Holland (Naples Cyclery) and Ryan Saylor. Because Saylor and the Naples rider both had teammates up the road, they had a free pass to not help in the effort to chase down the breakaway. Even still, the five others in the chase group worked together enough to bring back the dog-tired legs of Yates and Long bringing the breakaway to nine riders with 15 miles left in the race.

The miles were taking their toll on everyone, especially Curtis Long and Gary Yates who had spent almost the entire race off the front. With about 5 miles left in the race Emile Abraham attacked on one of the climbs causing Long to lose contact with the break. Only Joel Chavez could respond to Abraham’s attack and the two were not to be caught by the remaining 6 breakaway riders. Abraham, who has won many national level races out sprinted Chavez to take the win. Eldridge attacked on the final rise before the finish and no one could respond to him either, leaving the remainder shooting for fourth place. Young Andy Holland put in his last dig at the top of the same rise. S aylor followed but could not come around him in the final meters and took third 5th place finish of the season. Impressively, a spent Long was able to hold off a chase group of three and hold on to 9th place while Sumbal was only bested by Daniel Chavez for the group finish and took a respectable 14th place.

-Ryan Saylor