Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Atlanta Criterium Series/100K Classic

Labor Day weekend saw no less than FIVE bike races in the ATL. The first four consisted of the Atlanta Criterium Series organized by Spincycle and spread across Friday, Saturday (2 races), and Sunday. While these races were standard, local race-sized fields, Monday's 100K Classic was in stark contrast with a field of 175 riders containing many of the nation's top professional bike racers including riders from Rock Racing, Jelly Belly, Colavita, Team Type 1, Kelly Benefit Strategies, Jittery Joes, Health Net and Rite Aid just to name a few.

Race 1
Lindner Capital was represented by Karel Sumbal in the first of the weekend's four crits. Two riders gained a lap on the field, and Sumbal was able to take second in the field sprint...just missing the podium with a respectable 4th place finish.

Race 2
In the second criterium of the weekend, Sumbal was joined by one of Linder Capital's newest acquisitions: University of Florida student Shawn Gravois. Sumbal was happy to have some help in covering the moves led mostly by DLP Racing's Tommy Nankervis and ever-strong Myogenesis rider Eric Murphy. This time around, a break did form. Eric Murphy, James Lanham (Marx and Bensdorf), Diego Garavito (Latino Cycling) and Shawn Gravois snuck away and gained some time on the field. Sumbal won the award for best supporting teammate covering all of the bridge attempts from the field thereby ensuring Gravois' successful breakaway. Gravois tried very hard to play his best hand attacking his group of 4 in the final laps, but it was not to be. In the end, Gravois brought home another respectable 4th place for Lindner Capital.

Race 3
The third of the four races gained yet another Linder Capital rider with Ryan Saylor bringing the team's tally to three. Attacks flew from the gun, the first being covered by Saylor. As soon as it was brought back, Gravois went with the next and again found himself in a group of 4 gaining time on the field. Similar to the break away in the previous race, the group consisted of Mike Niemi (Metro Volkswagen), James Lanham (Marx and Bensdorf), Diego Garavito (Latino Cycling) and Shawn Gravois. Before the group got too far ahead, Daniel Larson (CycleScience) jumped hard out of the peleton and managed to get across to the breakaway bringing the lead group to five. Seventeen-year-old Mike Niemi had a short moment of weakness and fell off of the pace of the hard charging breakaway and quickly found himself back with the rest of the peleton thus bringing the breakaway group back down to four. Many of the remaining riders were not happy with the breakaway and many more attempts to get across were made. The duo of Sumbal and Saylor made certain none would go without them having to drag a Lindner Capital rider with them--thereby stifling all attempts. Eventually, Saylor was able to slip away with Fucundo Bazzi (Latino Cycling) and race for 5th place. The peleton continued to see attack after attack and each took their toll. Many of the racers fell off the pace and soon Sumbal found himself in a group of 5 chasing after Bazzi and Saylor. Just as in the morning, Gravois again tried his best to suprise the breakaway with an attempt to go for the win solo. Unfortunately, the group would not let him go and brought him back in the final few hundred meters of the race. Four seemed to be Lindner Capital's lucky number for the weekend as Gravois brought home yet another 4th place finish. Saylor could not match the sprint of Bazzi and took 6th place. Super strong Tommy Nankervis (DLP Racing) drug the next group of five as hard as he could toward Saylor and Bazzi and nearly caught them with 600 meters left in the race. Fortunately, Sumbal managed to both sabotage the catch as well as take 8th place for an overall good showing for Lindner Capital with 4th, 6th and 8th places.

Race 4
Team Lindner Captial's Sumbal, Gravois and Saylor were joined by Jeff Kopp and Curtis Long for the last of the criterium quartet. With five riders on the same team, Lindner Capital was fully expecting to easily control the final race of the series. Surprisingly however, they were matched by 5 Locos riders and overrun by a throng of Metro Volkswagen riders. No less than 9 riders wore the blue and black outfits of the Texas based Metro Volkswagen squad giving them roughly one third of the entire field. Controlling this field was not going to be as easy as Lindner Capital had hoped. The race began and immediately the pace was high as attack after attack flew from the field. Within the first two laps, the field has already split into several groups with Long and Saylor representing Lindner Capital in the front group. Long was feeling very feisty and would not rest as the lead group displayed lack of cohesion despite having a decent gap on the next group. Long attacked numerous times until he broke free with Locos rider Oniel Samuals. Saylor was unable to cover all chase attempts of Metro Volkswagen and Mike Niemi was able to slip away with Seth Hansley (Locos). Once the big teams of the race had represenatives off of the front of the race, the pace slowed and Kopp, Gravois and Sumbal were able to regroup with the main front group. For the remainder of the race, Metro Volkswagen set tempo in the field content with just one in the top four. Long, who is having a stellar year, gave Linder Capital another great finish to add to their record with 2nd place behind race winner Oniel Samuals. Hansley bested Niemi for third and Sumbal put in another great sprint in the field to take 7th.

US 100K Classic
("Czech" out Karel on the far right!)

Finally, the 100K Classic was held early Monday morning. To give perspective, the previous 4 races posted $500 prize money for each race to the top 10 finishers. The 100K Classic gave away $20,000 to the top 35 finishers. With no less than 40 professional racers, this was easily going to be one of Lindner Capital's toughest races of the entire year. While most ameteur road races take place on back country roads, the 100K Classic takes place on main Atlanta thoroughfares. Out-gunned by many of the nation's best, Lindner Capital's main goal was simply to finish. If anyone was able to get near the front in the end, it would be a resounding success. Oddly, while there was tons of depth in the peleton the pace would remain fairly civil throughout much of the race. However, there were several times during the race that were very, very hard just to keep contact with the group. Attacks regularly blasted out of the peleton but almost all were fairly short lived. There were a couple splits that saw groups of 20 or so riders gain some ground, until one of the pro teams decided they didn't like their representation in them and would bring it all back together. Heading into the final miles of the race, all five of Lindner Capital's riders remained present in the race despite 50 or so other racers abandoning. Teamwork in a field of this size and depth was exceedingly difficult for an ameteur team. Despite this, Karel Sumbal proved that he could mix it up with the nation's best and nabbed an outstanding 14th place ahead of countless guys who make their living from racing bicycles. Curtis Long also finished a very respectable 38th place—just outside of the prize money. Two more very solid performances showed again that Lindner Capital can perform even at the highest levels of American racing.

P.S. (Thanks to Marni Rakes for the great pictures!)

-Ryan Saylor