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North Carolina Grand Prix - Race 1 - C2
Hendersonville, North Carolina, USA, November 22, 2008
Race 2 - November 22: Elite Men
Bishop prevails in closing meters
By Peter Hymas in Hendersonville, North Carolina
Jeremiah Bishop (Trek/Volkswagen) won a tight sprint ahead of Russell Stevenson (Redline Bikes) to claim victory in a frigid North Carolina Grand Prix conducted at Jackson Park. Jonathan Baker (Vitamin College p/b XP Companies) followed closely to claim third ahead of the fourth member of the day's decisive break, Bart Gillespie (Monavie/Cannondale). All four riders were together with approximately 500 meters to go, when Baker, riding in third position behind Bishop and Stevenson, dabbed on a tricky off-camber right turn preceding 'The Wall', creating a decisive gap for the leading duo.
"With three corners to go I just dabbed and suddenly the gap was 10 bike lengths," said Baker. "I was sitting third wheel, right where I wanted to be, but when you lose the wheel in front of you with 500 meters to go there's not much you can do. I was pretty confident in my sprint. I have a pretty decent sprint from small groups."
Bishop's aggressive riding throughout the afternoon ultimately put him in a position to win. "I kind of hoped I could make a lead selection," said Bishop. "It's always safer if you can have a race among three so you know you're going to get top-three one way or another. My last-ditch strategy was to get to the last corner first [a 180 degree turn with 200 meters to go] and it worked. I heard some chaos back there [Baker's dab] and anytime that happens it's always on. It was really key that I was aggressive in coming first to the last corner. Russell probably thought, 'Sure, he wants to lead the sprint out? That's fine' but I kind of sized it up and took the opportunity."
It was clear to Stevenson that Bishop would be someone he needed to watch closely. "I was taking notes the whole race and I figured Jeremiah was the guy to beat," said Stevenson. "He had the best sprint all day. My plan was to get to this hill on the backside in front of everybody and hold it through the tight corners here [preceding 'The Wall']. There were a couple of off-cambers which were a little dicey in traffic so I figured leading was the best strategy and it was working until he reeled me in and outsprinted me on the pavement. It is what it is. One of these days I'll get a win in these things."
While the race was nearly decided in a four-man sprint, aggressive racing throughout the final lap suggested a further splintering of this lead group. An attack by Stevenson approximately half way through the last lap seemed to be the potential winning move as Baker and Bishop had what Baker described as "a fake out."
"I was leading on the downhill pavement section and then Stevenson attacked. Bishop was behind me and says, 'Hup.' To me, if I'm leading, and you see some guy coming and you've been sitting in the draft, then maybe you should have chased. So instead, I chased all the way to the hill and that was kind of a big effort. I wasn't able to make an attack on the last lap so I was banking on a sprint at that point."
Bishop called Baker's bluff, but based on the previous several laps of racing he felt justified in having Baker bring back Stevenson. "I was kind of tired," said Bishop. "I had enough snap to make a good break or close a gap, but nothing to stay or to hold a gap. When Russell went I felt like somebody else needed to chase this. I put in a really big dig with three to go and that was my Hail Mary.
"We got back into this last straight and Baker was leading," continued Bishop. "Bart was in third and I was all the way back in fourth. I thought, 'We're running out of real estate.' I was able to get around after trying to pinch between the two. It was basically a sprint up the hill in the woods but I was able to jump and have a little bit of extra snap in my legs and close the gap down [to Russell]."
The lightning fast course reminded many of a road race, particularly based on the large group of 10 which moved into the lead on the first lap and remained together strung out single file for more than half of the nine lap race. Present in the group of 10 were Jeremiah Bishop, Russell Stevenson, Jonathan Baker, Bart Gillespie, Steve Tilford (Trek), Will Black (Moots), Michael Gallagher (C3-Sollay.com), Jake Wells (MafiaRacing.com/Pabst), Charles Pendry (Inland Construction) and Travis Livermon (Cannondale/CCN).
"The course was not really your typical cyclo-cross course," said Bishop. "It's got big straightaways and pavement, all very fast, so it's hard to get away."
While riding in large groups for multiple laps isn't the norm for many of the riders, there was definitely an expectation of a further selection. "In that big a group there are plenty of guys who're just sitting on," said Baker. "I wasn't worried with the size of the group. I knew who the danger men were and I just kept an eye on them."
On the sixth lap the group began to splinter from attacks by Bishop. By the end of the lap the group of 10 had been reduced to six with Bishop maintaining a slight solo lead with Stevenson, Wells, Gillespie, Baker and Gallagher in pursuit about five seconds back. Tilford flatted out of the group while the remainder were unable to handle the accelerations.
"Right after I got away when Jeremiah caught me I kind of felt my rear wheel washing out every once and a while and right after I passed the pit I realized it was flat," said Tilford. "Then I had to ride half a lap on a flat and by then I thought, 'I'm going to get no UCI points.' Luckily a friend of mine Jed Schneider was here and he put some Shimano pedals on another bike. So I rode half a lap on that and got my bike back. I came back by four guys. I thought I was riding well and within myself, but when I was done my lungs were hurting. Maybe it's just the cold weather."
During the seventh lap Gallagher was jettisoned and during the eight lap Wells came unglued leaving a final selection of four to fight it out on the last lap.
The first 10 riders across the finish line earned UCI points and all but one travelled from out of North Carolina with several from the western states such as Washington, Utah and Colorado. The decision to travel to North Carolina, particularly when there was also another UCI race on the East coast further north in New York, proved worthwhile for many. "It's a really great race with some strong competition," said Bishop. "I wasn't sure of which race I would do this weekend but this one was close and my mom lives down here in North Carolina. It was a great chance to see her and the competition was almost more than I could handle."
Rich Hincapie made an appearance at the venue as a spectator due to the presence of Washington's Russell Stevenson. "I've been dong some national races and I have some friends in Greenville, South Carolina," said Stevenson. "Hincapie Sports is based there, the company I work for, and it's an easy drive from Greenville. I figured I'd come out here [to the East coast], do some races, maybe sneak some points in while everyone else is racing up north [at Whitmore's]. "
Steve Tilford added, "I'm glad that Jeremiah and Baker came. I think it's better riding with faster guys. I wish every weekend was the world championships. It's good there are all these enclaves around the country that have super-good cyclo-cross and promoters. "
The elite men's racing will continue at Jackson Park for the second day of the North Carolina Grand Prix on Sunday.
1 Jeremiah Bishop (USA) Trek/Volkswagen 1.01.55 2 Russell Stevenson (USA) Redline Bikes 0.03 3 Jonathan Baker (USA) Vitamin Cottage p/b XP Companies 0.06 4 Bart Gillespie (USA) Monavie/Cannondale 0.50 5 Jake Wells (USA) MafiaRacing.com/Pabst 1.27 6 Michael Gallagher (USA) C3-Sollay.com 1.50 7 Stephen Tilford (USA) Trek 2.16 8 Travis Livermon (USA) Cannondale / CCN 2.19 9 Oscar Clark (USA) Kudzu.com U23 2.21 10 Nathan Chown (Can) 2.22 11 Will Black (USA) Moots 2.25 12 Eric Thompson (USA) Lees-McRae 2.29 13 Andrew Applegate (USA) cannondale / ccn 3.18 14 Bradford Perley (USA) Lees-McRae College 4.37 15 Andrew Llewellyn (USA) Calistoga Bakery & Cafe 5.16 16 Greg Wittwer (USA) ALAN North America Cycling Team 5.36 17 Andrew Reardon (USA) Krystal Cycling Team 5.53 18 Ryan Leech (USA) visitPA.com 6.09 19 Justin Hines (Can) 6.48 20 Scott Jackson (USA) DLP Racing 8.30 21 Alex Ryan (USA) Cannondale/CCN 8.37 One lap behind 22 Nathanael Wyatt (USA) Carolina Fatz pb Santa Cruz Bicycles 23 Mitchell Peterson (USA) Monaviecannondale.com 24 Aaron Bradford (USA) Lees-McRae College 25 Stuart Louder (USA) ALAN North American Cycling Team 26 Phillip Gaimon (USA) Fiordifrutta 27 Matthew Rotroff (USA) Inland Construction 28 Bryan Schoeffler (USA) TEAM OSP