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US Air Force Cycling Classic - (1.2)
Crystal City, Virginia, USA, May 4, 2008
Younger Haedo keeps family's winning ways strong
Colavita-Sutter Home goes one-two at finish, Symmetrics most aggressive
By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor in Crystal City, Virginia
The updated Crystal City Classic, now known as the US Air Force Classic, became a UCI rated circuit race on the North American calendar this year. However, the quality of the peloton was affected by three other major races on the same day -- the Tour of Gila, Roswell Criterium and the finish of Speed Week. With only a handful of pro teams attending a half-amateur filled field meant that control of the peloton was up for grabs with no attacks able to stay away. Finally as the racers saw one lap remaining Andrew Randall (Symmetrics) rolled off the front of a small split and held a thirty second lead around the 12.5 mile course. But rounding the final turn and with less than 100 meters to go he was caught by the hard-charging Colavita-Sutter Home train, with Sebastian Haedo as the winning conductor.
"The guy was still at 20 seconds and we lost three guys bringing him back, but we were confident in the last kilometer that we would catch him," Haedo told Cyclingnews after the race. "Kelly Benefits was doing the lead out but we passed them into the corners and got the lead with two turns to go. After the last turn we caught [Randall] and went through first and second and that's how it ended."
Sebastian Haedo is the younger brother of CSC sprinter Juan Jose Haedo, and it looks like younger brother is following in JJ's American domestic footsteps.
Haedo's team-mate Kyle Wamsley, last year's winner here, was the final lead-out for Haedo, and led all the way past the final turn up to Randall. "Sebastian told me it was going to be a headwind on the final straight and that he couldn't do the whole 200 meters alone, so I made sure I took it through the final turn and gave it a little bit of gas out of the corner to give him a clean shot.
"Davide took it from four turns to go and we passed Kelly," Wamsley said. "Then we got to three turns to go and Enevio went to the front. He had a clean run and we could see Randall really close. He took me through the second to last turn, then I almost overcooked it in the last turn because I didn't want to lose any momentum and slow Sebastian down!"
Andrew Randall not only won the hard luck award, but his almost full-lap solo break earned him the Cyclingnews most aggressive rider award. He was part of a four-rider group that had rolled off the front of the field in the intermediate sprint on the start/finish line with one to go. But none of the other riders wanted to roll, and since the team was without any true sprinter he just put his head down and did not look back.
"Everyone was getting tired and it was a bit of a headwind," Randall said. "Sundt and [Chris Jones] didn't want to roll, and I think Barrajo only took one pull and rolled off my wheel. I was thinking I wasn't going to make it in that last sprint because of the last corner!"
"I thought if I could make it to the hill and have a gap I would have a pretty good shot. But they caught me right on the line!" he said, a little bit frustrated. When asked if he was too cross-eyed to see the finish line he replied, "I was crossed eyed for the entire last lap!"
Jonny Sundt (Kelly Benefits-Medifast) had the opportunity to go with Randall, but team director Jonas Carney vetoed the move to set-up the planned field sprint for Martin Gilbert. "Jonas told me not to ride, so I didn't ride. I would have like to ride but it wasn't what the plan was. In the confusion of me deciding not to ride and Chris Jones not to ride, Randall snuck off and that was that."
The result was that the team rode the front for the last lap, along with Team Type 1, to bring Randall back. This negatively affected their lead-out, which was also hampered by a last-minute switch from Gilbert to the other sprinter Alex Candelario.
"Our lead out kinda fell apart," said Candelario, who still finished on the podium in third place. "We were going to lead out Martin but Lacombe kinda panicked with about 3km to go and he hit out early. We talked about it before and knew Colavita would have guys lined up behind us. I was trying to tell him not to go, but he went and left it short -- then Martin said he wasn't good, so all of a sudden we go into the last four corners and I have four Colavita guys in front of me!"
"We screwed up the lead out," the rarely cryptic Sundt said plainly. "Usually this is a perfect course for us to lead-out being so technical. I don't think there is any other way to put it, Colavita snuck around and we just didn't execute."
Regardless of the outcome Candelario, who won the first race for the team at Speed Week this week, said he was happy with the team's performance on the day. "It was a little frustrating, but we got on the podium. And the guys are riding a lot better now. Our team is so young - we have really talented guys so this was a great race to get some experience!"
How it unfolded
The day began at the US Air Force memorial with a send-off from the Air Force's Vice Chief of Staff General Duncan McNabb, who followed an impressive fly over from two F-15 fighter jets. The riders began a long 3.6 mile neutral parade lap. This was half of the course, but since it was mostly a two-way run course, it gave the riders a view of the entire circuit. And this information was useful as there were many tight and technical turns, including a perilous three-turn chicane that was barely wide enough for the race caravan to manoeuvrer.
With the half-lap complete it was off to the races. Each lap was a points sprint and Toshiba-Santo's Colombian sprinter Carlos Alzate Escobar made an early run at the first sprint. He followed that with four more first places of the eleven sprints over the day to seal the points jersey with a double-digit lead.
The speed was not necessarily blistering, mostly due to a hefty wind, but also with the plethora of regional pro and amateur teams chasing any break attempts down. The lack of a significant climb, plus the lack of a high-speed peloton, kept many of these teams in contention well into the race.
"The wind made it hard, but you need more of a selection," said Alex Candelario about the small hill up to the memorial on the back end of the circuit. "With the amateur teams in there it's not full-on racing either."
The most any break would get was 10 or fifteen seconds before the wind, or a highway on-ramp ascent, would allow the field to catch up. No clear organization took hold in the first half of the race, except for the relentless attacking of the entire Symmetrics squad -- earning them the most aggressive award on the day.
Later in the race a break with all the major pro teams except Team Type 1 formed, and it looked like the real racing had begun. But Team Type 1 knew this was likely to stick and six of their riders got on the front and chased the escapees down.
Entering the final turns with the bell lap looming it was four riders rolling off the front for the sprint, including Chris Jones (Team Type 1), Jonny Sundt (Kelly Benefits-Medifast), Alejandro Barajjo (Colavita-Sutter Home) and Andrew Randall (Symmetrics). The main field had shrunk significantly to about half the starting size and it seemed that this break might have a chance.
"All the amateur guys wanted to weld things back together, which is pretty typical of them," said Sundt. "After 100km they have no legs left and that is when the real racing starts. That was real racing but it just didn't work out for us."
But Sundt was under orders and sat-up, as did Jones. Barrajo thought about it for a moment, but saw the chances of a two rider break succeeding in the day's wind as rather small.
Randall soldiered on along and quickly built a 20 second lead. The reaction from the depleted field was slow and the gap went up to 30 seconds out on the open part of the course, when the wind finally helped cap the gap. On top of the memorial Randall managed to keep his 30 seconds, the biggest break of the day, and the hopes for a spoiler grew.
Back around the Pentagon Randall's lead began to slowly recede, down to 20 seconds and the field could see him ahead on the long road stretches. But back into the city the twists and turns helped hide Randall. With 2km to go he had 15 seconds and the field smelled blood in the water. Around the four 90-degree turns inside the last kilometer the Kelly Benefits-Medifast lead-out was trumped by Colavita-Sutter Home -- as was the solo effort by Randall, who managed to hang on long enough to see the finish line before the sprinters passed him like he was standing still.
On the line it was Sebastian Haedo off the wheel of team-mate Kyle Wamsley, who hung on to beat Alex Candelario (Kelly Benefits-Medifast) for second place. Randall was close enough to the line that he still finished fourth. The aggressive riding by Symmetrics all day was reflected in winning the team classification, ahead of Colavita-Sutter Home.
Also see: Live coverage of the US Air Force Cycling Classic.