Monday, May 12, 2008

2008 Sugarloaf Road Race - Ryan Saylor

The weekend of May 3rd and 4th saw racers from around the state gather in central Florida for possibly it’s most difficult road race of the year. The Pro/1/2 race consisted of a 75-mile race with 7 times up the notorious Sugarloaf Mountain. Being in Florida, Sugarloaf is obviously not actually a mountain but it is about a one-kilometer leg-breaker of a hill.

As usual, Florida’s finest lined up for the tortuous test of testosterone. Ricardo Hernandez (Blue Star), Joel and Danel Chavez (Preferred Alliance), Ivan Franco (Toshiba/Santo) and Alison Anjos (Herbalife) were among the tough men to keep an eye on. Ryan Saylor was the sole representative for Lindner Capital.

Soon after the group rolled out the attack began. With a few miles, a group of four slipped away including Ivan Franco, a Preferred Alliance rider, a Blue Star rider and Shawn Gravois (Team Florida) who won the time trial the day before. With a long race ahead of them, these four riders had their work cut out for them. The rest of the field saw many attacks to try and establish a chase group, but with all the biggest teams represented in the break, nothing was getting away.

The first time up Sugarloaf had anxious riders practically sprinting up the difficult climb. The break away split apart as Ivan Franco and Shawn Gravois dropped their break away companions. However, they continued to fight and were soon completely out of sight of the field. During the next 4 of 7 laps, the race largely remained unchanged. There were countless attacks but all were brought back. Ivan Franco and Shawn Gravois maintained their lead on the rest of the field.

Finally, Daniel Chavez snuck away with Jorge Perez (Toshiba/Santo), put their heads down and headed toward Franco and Gravois. Another chase group formed within a lap of Chavez getting away which contained Ricardo Hernandez, Brett Miller (Naples Cyclery), Nat Faulkner (Epic Cycling), Adam Baskin (Team 19), Andy Holland (Naples Cyclery), Alejandro Bello (Blue Star), Alison Anjos (Heralife), Maikel Matos (Preferred Alliance) and Ryan Saylor (Lindner Capital). This group shared the work to try and bring back the four people up the road. Strangely, as the group pedals around a bend they came across Ivan Franco sitting on the side of the road, out in the sun on a hot day looking as if he were in pain. It was unclear if Franco had cramped up, crashed or suffered some other ailment. Nonetheless, the group started to become unhinged as riders were starting to bonk and others were getting anxious and wanted to break up the group. Soon, the chase group split apart into smaller group as Holland and Faulkner rode away from Anjos, Baskin, Maikel, Bello and Saylor while Miller, Hernandez were dropped.

Meanwhile, Gravois who had been off the front since the beginning of the race was completely cooked and was passed by many of the front groups. Holland and Faulkner caught Chavez and Perez to form a lead group of four with half a lap to go and were chased by a group of 5 including Anjos, Baskin, Bello, Matos and Saylor. Chavez out-climbed Faulkner who was just ahead of Perez and Holland. Matos and Bello outpaced the rest of the chase group while Anjos, Baskin and Saylor traded punches up the final climb. Saylor managed to drop Baskin and came around Anjos in the sprint at the top of the climb to take 7th place.