Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Jacksonville Cycling Classic - Curtis Claims Two!

The Jacksonville Classic saw a new venue for 2008 in the town of Nocatee, FL with a 63 mile road race on Saturday and a circuit race on Sunday. Temperatures reached the mid nineties both days and there was no rain to cool the riders down either day. Team Lindner Capital recently joined forces with Sweetbay Cycling forming an even stronger force to be reckoned within the peleton. Andrew Gonzales’ excellent sprinting ability as well as Shawn Gravois’ stellar time trialing will add ammunition to the team’s already stocked quiver.

About 45 riders started the hot road race with both Joel and Daniel Chavez (Preferred Alliance) and the Herbalife squad being the biggest players to watch out for. Curtis Long, Karel Sumbal, Clint Bridier, Victor Rodriquez and Ryan Saylor joined their new teammates Gonzales and Gravois to represent Lindner Capital. The riders rolled off the start line with some trepidation but it didn’t take long before the attacks started flying. Team Lindner Capital rode well and was present in most of the threatening attacks. A group of 7 riders slipped away about 15 miles into the race with the biggest teams being represented. Joel Chavez (Preferred Alliance), two Herbalife riders including Rudy Robaina, Dan Larson (CycleScience), Ryan Saylor (Lindner Capital), Scott Giles (Velobrew) and Shane Braley (Wheel and Sprocket) formed what seemed to be a promising break as the riders rolled quickly and shared the workload fairly evenly. Amazingly, the group was later joined by a lone Curtis Long who admitted later that he held 34mph to catch the break. Panic must have struck the field as they chased hard enough to bring back the hard working break. More attacks ensued and soon it was Grant Potter (Herbalife), Dan Larson and Scott Giles who snuck away and were soon out of sight. The trio worked hard and it looked to be dangerous. Team Lindner Capital made certain to be represented in every chase attempt. Fortunately for the peleton, Giles got a flat tire and Larson couldn’t match the power of Grant Potter so the race again came back together. Another group of 10 guys formed off the front with Victor Rodriquez and Sean Gravois covering the move. The group gained some distance on the group and it was looking like it was going to stick. Karel Sumbal bridged across with Shane Braley to give Lindner Capital good representation with 3 guys in the break. This time the break would not come back. Joel Chavez would not be denied the sprint and took the win with Allison Anjos (Herbalife) and Scott Kuppersmith (Herring Gas) rounding out the podium. A cramping Sumbal still managed to take 5th place with Gravois close behind in 8th. Rodriquez and Gravois worked hard to keep the break going and it was their work that lent to Sumbal’s solid 5th place finish.

Sunday’s circuit race was composed of two 180 degree turns spaced 1.5 miles apart and almost all of the same riders began. Unlike the previous day, the attacks started from the gun. While the initial few were chased down, Scott Giles (Velobrew) and Nate Adler (Fat Cat Bicycles) slipped away without much worry from the group. However, the duo worked steadily together and it didn’t take too long before the group was regretting the gap they had given them. Curtis Long jumped and no one responded. Long, who won the Masters 35+ race earlier in the day, again put in a valiant effort to bridge across to Giles and Adler. However, bring them back by himself was tough going and after a few minutes he was only keeping even with them. Fortunately, Gunter Hermanni (Herbalife) took off after Long and Gravois was there to cover. Gravois and Hermanni closed the gap to Long and the trio then worked to catch Adler and Giles. The catch was made and the five of them put their heads down and with the race’s biggest teams represented (Herbalife, Lindner Capital and Velobrew), the five riders were not going to be caught. All bridge attempts from the field were stifled by Hebalife and Lindner Capital. The Chavez brothers grew increasing frustrated as they were marked by everyone in the field. On the last lap, strategy played into the hands of the only team represented by two people in the break away—Lindner Capital. With Long looking like the favorite in the sprint, Gravois attacked ruthlessly forcing the others to chase while Long was able to stick to the wheels of the working chasers and rest. Gravois was brought back twice before he attacked a third time and almost snapped the rubber band the final time. However, they worked again and barely brought him back—all the while Long was licking his chops at the thought of tasting victory. Assuredly, Long did not disappoint and showed no mercy as he unleashed his powerful sprint on his break away companions. Hermanni was closest followed by Adler to round out the podium. Gravois finished in 5th after a masterful display of cunning tactics. Icing on the cake came from Andrew Gonzales as he attacked hard out of the final u-turn and motored for a mile and a half with a Frank Lopez (Herbalife) to take the very next spot—sixth place. With 3 guys in the top six as well as earning the team’s first pro/1/2 win, Lindner Capital could not have had a better race.

-Ryan Saylor