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USA Crits Southeast Series - NE
USA, April 28-May 6, 2007
Race 5 - May 3: Uptown Greenwood Pro Cycling Challenge, 70/40 km (M/W)
Norris claims AEG's first Southeast win
By Kirsten Robbins in Greenwood, South Carolina
Headwinds blew against the riders on the climb to the finish line, but Keith Norris (AEG-Toshiba) and Alejandro Borrajo (Rite Aid) hunted break away rider Martin Gilbert (Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast) in an effort to catch him before the end. Norris nipped Gilbert on the line as Borrajo sprinted close behind for third place.
A shorter course with a climb through the start/finish each lap added a change of pace for the riders in the South East Criterium Series. "The course was good for me because it was fast and pretty smooth through the corners," said winner Norris. "It worked out well for me in the end. I was working for my teammate in the sprint but it just kind of worked out for me in the end. I took it from turn number four and I jumped to catch Gilbert".
"The wind was really strong in the end," added Norris. "I knew it was going to be a head wind sprint. I just made sure I stayed in the top ten the whole race and to be where I needed to be. We have been trying really hard to win a race here. We have come close a couple of times and I have a lot of faith in our team and our guys. It was just a matter of time that we would get our act together."
Adam Bergman (Colavita/Sutter Home) and Sergio Hernandez (Rock Racing) broke off the front with nine laps to go. The duo fought to stay off the front but Rite Aid worked even harder to bring them back with three laps remaining, setting up its Argentinean sprinter Alejandro Borrajo.
Kelly Benefit's Gilbert made one last solo attempt off the front with half a lap remaining and almost made it to the line, but the sprint wound up behind him and Norris passed by at the line. The Canadian opportunist admitted he was hoping his attack would stick but that it was a little early.
"Today the last lap was difficult," Gilbert said. "I was not really in good shape at the beginning of the series and I decided to go with the rhythm a little bit more today. The last lap here was really sketchy and we only had three guys here so I tried to take a move and go half a lap before the end. I didn't know if everyone was going to chase me or not so I took a chance anyway."
Rite Aid's newcomer Borrajo has landed on the podium in nearly every race since his arrival to the USA. He began the South East Crit Series on the back of two stage victories at the Tour of Virginia and having taken five podiums during the week-long stage race. Borrajo noted that while the criterium was aggressive his teammates worked hard to keep the field together. "The last five laps were hard because people were trying to move to the front," said Borrajo. "But, the last lap was not too difficult because the speed was higher and no one could pass from the back."
Tina picks the right moment
In the women's race Tina Pic (Colavita/Sutter Home) barely made it to the finish to take back-to-back victories in the South East Crit Series. Cheerwine's Kelly Benjamin and Laura VanGilder rounded out the podium places after a notoriously strong lead out form their teammates.
All teams were highly aggressive over the climb to the finish line in an effort to capture the lucrative primes on each lap. The peleton flew through a chicane on the backside of the course where most attacks were initiated but none gained more than a few hundred meters before meeting their doom.
In a scene which mimicked the previous evening's criterium, Cheerwine organized its riders at the front of the peleton in an attempt to prevent Pic from taking her third win of the series. One-by-one the Cheerwine girls pulled VanGilder and Benjamin toward the climb to the finish.
Pic found herself engulfed by the Cheerwine team with VanGilder on her wheel and Benjamin two riders in front. "There were three in a row and I was sitting in fourth and Laura was behind me and Kelly was in second wheel," explained Pic. "But, the third rider eased around the last corner and I had to jump around her to get to Kelly."
Benjamin jumped out of the last corner and gained a large gap over Pic with 200 meters to go, forcing Pic to chase with VanGilder on her wheel. "I dragged Laura up for a bit and then she jumped far left and I went far to the right," Pic said. "Kelly stayed in the middle of the road and I didn't think that I was going to catch her because she had a hug gap. It took a lot for me and I barely caught her on the line."
"They have the numbers and my team fought really hard," added Pic. "Cheerwine never stopped the attacks and we always had to work. But everyone had to work today."
VanGilder admitted that she found herself in a good position being behind Pic coming to the end. "It was an uphill finish which was a nice change," she said. "We really felt the team had the strength tonight and I wanted to capitalize off of being behind Tina. I came up a little short but Kelly almost got the win."
"This week has been good for the team and we have come together on a lot of levels and physically it has been demanding for everyone," VanGilder added. "It's exciting and motivating for the next day to have a better finish."
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Dennis Johnson
Pro men 1 Keith Norris (AEG-TOSHIBA-JetNetwork) 1.16.34 2 Martin Gilbert (Kelly Benefit) 3 Alejandro Borrajo (Rite Aid) 4 Frank Travieso (AEG-TOSHIBA-JetNetwork) 5 Cody Stevenson (Jittery Joe's) 6 Davide Frattini (Colavita-Sutterhome) 7 Adam Myerson (Nerac) 8 Kayle Leogrande (Rock Racing) 9 Mark Hekman (Abercrombie & Fitch) 10 Rahsaan Bahati (Rock Racing) 11 Frank Pipp (HealthNet) 12 Jamile Danesh (Kodakgallery) 13 Downing Russell (HealthNet) 14 Kyle Gritters (HealthNet) 15 Dominique Rollin (Kodakgallery) 16 Todd Yezefski (Nerac) 17 Josh Thornton (Kodakgallery) 18 Yosvany Falcon (AEG-TOSHIBA-JetNetwork) 19 Oscar Henao (UCL) 20 Emile Abraham (Priority Health) 21 Cody O'Reilly (Kodakgallery) 22 Ken Hanson (BMC) 23 Casey Magner (Myogenesis) 24 Alexi Martinez (Successfulliving.com) 25 Palma Guido (Rite Aid) 26 Phil Whikoff (HealthCoach) 27 Rudolph Napolitano (Rock Racing) 28 Johnny Sundt (Kelly Benefit) 29 Jim Baldsare (Abercrombie & Fitch) 30 Jackson Stewart (BMC) 31 Craig Dodson (Nature's Path ProAm) 32 Chuck Coyle (Successfulliving.com) 33 Chris Frederick (AEG-TOSHIBA-JetNetwork) 34 Jesse Anthony (Kodakgallery) 35 Jon Atkins (Myogenesis) 36 Matt Seagrave (Compliance Depot) 37 Seth Hansley (Loco's) 38 Bill Short (Alliance Environmental/Hincapie) 39 Clayton Barrows (Rite Aid) 40 Gustavo Artacho (Colavita-Sutterhome) 41 Dan Holt (Nerac) 42 David Clinger (Rock Racing) 43 David Guttenplan (Sakonnet Technologies) 44 Kevin Attkisson (Texas Roadhouse) 45 Diego Garavito (UCL) 46 Randy Reichardt (HART) 47 Patrick Walsh (Nerac) 48 Shane Densmore (Compliance Depot) 49 Ward Solar (Nature's Path ProAm) 50 Rich Harper (Abercrombie & Fitch) 51 Todd Hipp 52 Kolt Bates (Compliance Depot) 53 Adam Bergman (Colavita-Sutterhome) 54 Dusan Ganic (Successfulliving.com) 55 Oneil Samuels (Pacesetters Steel) 56 Mark Hinnen (Kelly Benefit) 57 Sergio Hernandez (Rock Racing) 58 Christian Valenzuela (Successfulliving.com) 59 Emilio Asconeguy (UCL) 60 Aidan Charles (Nerac) 61 Tim Henry (Jittery Joe's) 62 Chris Scott (Loco's) 63 Cleve Blackwell (Myogenesis) 64 Grant Potter (Loco's) 65 Tommy Nankervis (Jittery Joe's) 66 Josh Carter 67 Curtis Gunn (Successfulliving.com) 68 David Wiswell (Nerac) 69 Luca Damiani (Colavita-Sutterhome) 70 Predrad Prokic (AEG-TOSHIBA-JetNetwork) 71 David Fuentes 0.32 72 Andrew Crater (Wheel and Sprocket) 1.06 73 Alexandre Sebastian (Rite Aid) 74 Bill Eliiston (Rite Aid) 75 Matthew Hansley (Loco's) Pro women 1 Tina Pic (Colavita/Sutter Home) 1.01.13 2 Kelly Benjamin (Cheerwine) 3 Laura Van Gilder (Cheerwine) 4 Catherine Cheatley 5 Shontelle Gauthier 6 Sarah Uhl 7 Sarah Caravella 8 Holli Steelman 9 Mackenzie Dickey 10 Chrissy Ruiter 11 Christina DeKray 12 Katharine Carroll 13 Laura Bowles 14 Kele Murdin 15 Jennette Williams 16 Elizabeth Morse-Hill 17 Nicole Bossie 18 Jennifer Bodine 19 Mandy Lozano 20 Stacey Spencer 21 Andrea Myers 22 Julie Biship 23 Robin Farina 24 Leslie Jennings 25 Elisa Gagnon 26 Kathryn Clark 27 Iona Wynter 28 Kirsten Robins 29 Hadley Trotter 30 Kathleen Billington 31 Robin Kavan 32 Catherine Powers 33 Dale Tye 34 Tara Ross 35 Shannon Koch 36 Wendy Ulmer 37 Anne Lux 38 Kristin Keim 39 Michelle Kiesanowski 40 Christi-An Hansley 41 Sheba Farrin 42 Anne Lux 43 Kristin Keim