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Festival of Speed - NE

Florida, March 19-20, 2005

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Stage 1 - March 19: Downtown Orlando criterium

Hopkins and Green too fast

By Skeeler News Service

The one criterium cyclists favour in their support is the Festival of Speed, ever since it moved two blocks smack into the entertainment district, downtown Orlando. The day started of with masters and the juniors. Two times US National champion Jackie Crowell (17), who lives five minutes from the race proved again a force to be reckoned with. Racing in the 17-18 Juniors group, she quickly grabbed the lead and did not budge. Not that the competition did not try. Lap after lap the small pack came close, but time after time Crowell revved up the speed. She was going to stay ahead just far enough as not to break the wind for the rest of the pack.

The pro-am cat 1-2 women's race didn't have too many surprises either, as former National Champ Sherri Stedje of the BBC team led the pack around downtown lap after lap, switching with team mate Robin Kavan. At the end, the BBC race to the podium was spoiled by Jen Green. Kavan raced 2nd over the finish line, followed by Kristin Sanders of JCInvestors.

It was about 20:30 when racers started to line up for the men's Pro-1-2, usually the most exciting part of any criterium in Florida. The sun was down by then and so were the temperatures. South Floridians not dressed for Orlando's night temperature drop were shivering along the barricades. The line-up featured a few pro's among the hundred or so amateurs. Among them Serbian Radisa Cubric of the newly formed UCI Continental Team Aerospace Engineering, and of course redhead and veteran FOS racer Jeff Hopkins of the Jittery Joe's Bean Team, who brought neo-pro Craig Wilcox, Christian Foster and Evan Elker.

The start of the 60 minutes and five laps was slow, but after the first two right turns the pack quickly picked up speed courtesy of Dan Larson. While walking around the course in search for some java, I almost fell over a homeless person, who was lying on a reclining chair, beanie tucked over his eyebrows, an old quilted weatherproof blank pulled over his body up to just below his eyes. I was about to take out a dollar or two when he pulled his beanie up and down his blanket to free his hand when I recognized the person as no one else than five time UCI world champion sprinter Earl Henry.

As the race moved on, it was Miami's speed demon Frankie Travieso who slowly increased his distance from the chasing pack. But it was too early in the race. Travieso held a 24 second gap for a good 35 minutes. Former Travieso buddies Ricardo Hernandez, Ivan Franco and later on Foster (Jittery Joe's) kept the heat on Travieso. The strategy became clear when the first of the last five laps developed. While the pack was concentrating on the large presentation of JC Investors and their lead riders, the Jittery Joe's Team was comfortably spread out throughout the peloton. Jittery Joe's Director Sportif Ken Mills was standing next to Jorge Castro, the charismatic owner and director sportive of JCInvestors, who was talking instructions to his riders in Spanish.

Confusing as it was for the spectator, as the JC Investors team riders have practically the same colour helmets and jerseys as the Jittery Joe's Bean Team riders, it was the announcer Mike Starr who sorted it all out.

The Jittery boys were creeping up to the front to lead out Hopkins. At the last lap it was a done deal for Joe's Director Sportive Ken Mills. Does he speak Spanish?


Men Pro/1/2

1 Jeff Hopkins (Jittery Joe's)

Women 1/2/3

1 Jen Green 
2 Robin Kavan (BBC)
3 Kristin Sanders (JCInvestors)