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US 100/10 Classic - NE
USA, September 1, 2008
Van Ulden descends to a victory
Health Net-Maxxis close to fifth consecutive NRC title
By Kirsten Robbins
Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly) took advantage of the notoriously fast descent to the finish to take victory. Van Ulden came around has late-race breakaway companions Andrew Bajadali (Kelly Benefit Strategies-Medifast) and Chris Harkey (Hincapie/Bianchi) to win the event.
"It was kind of a weird sprint," said runner-up Bajadali, who led the sprint with Van Ulden on his wheel. "I tried going from the top of the hill but I spun out on the way down.
"Bernard was right on my wheel and had a NASCAR-type draft right to the line," he added. "I went with 75 metres to go and he came around me easily. It was good timing on his part and he deserved the win after worked just as hard as I did."
The small breakaway gained a sizable lead over the two final laps with all four riders working well with one another. The lead slimmed considerably when Colavita-Sutter Home put forward a team effort to bring the field back together for a field sprint, a bid to gain additional points against the NRC team leaders Health Net-Maxxis.
The four-time NRC championship team HealthNet-Maxxis currently leads the national calendar by more than 100 points over Colavita-Sutter Home.
"It was funny because we went into the 2008 season not wanting to go for the NRC title again," said Mike Tamayo, director of Health Net-Maxxis. "Instead, we just wanted to win a lot of bike races and dominate that way. I think we've been successful at that and now that we are approaching the end of the season, we happen to be back in the team title again."
The powerful squad will officially claim its fifth NRC championship after next weekend's NRC finale at the Priority Health Grand Cycling Classic in Michigan. "I think it's great that Colavita was chasing the title too," said Tamayo, acknowledging the similar scenario between his team and 2007 runner-up team Toyota-United.
"People joke about the NRC until they're with in reach of winning it," he continued. "But it was great because it gives some extra competition for the end of the season."
How it unfolded
More than 100 riders lined up in the early morning to start Atlanta's 100 kilometre Classic. The men took on an 11 lap circuit race before turning onto the final two hundred metre descent to the line. An identical finish to the notorious 10 km Classic used for runners, wheel chair athletes, inline skaters and the women's cycling events.
The early morning activity was ignited by Colavita-Sutter Home on the hunt to breaking away from its NRC rival Health Net-Maxxis. However the leading NRC team played a more defensive role and shut down all of the early breakaways.
A notable breakaway of three riders containing both Toshiba and Jittery Joe's went away five laps into the race. The trio put a 1'30" distance between themselves and the field for three full laps before being reabsorbed into the peloton.
"Those three really forced Colavita to chase and effected how many guys they had in the end," said Tamayo.
The winning break of four riders resulted from some late-race activity with two laps remaining, in a counter move from the earlier break. Riders included Van Ulden, Bajadali and Harkey along with Mike Stoop (Time Pro Cycling).
"We put the pressure on in the end, but at the beginning we let the NRC teams like Health Net and Colavita duke it out - I think they fried themselves," said Bajadali. "In this race, if you burn matches in the beginning you don't usually have much left in the end."
Kelly Benefit Strategies-Medifast forced high speeds over a significant ascent on route causing the peloton to splinter from behind. "We planned a full team attack with two to go, as soon as one of the big breaks came back," said Bajadali. "That split the field and was the start of the action at the end of the race. We put everything we had into it and blew up the race."
As the field straggled behind to keep in contact with the front of the field, Time Pro Cycling initiated a second blow to the peloton. His effort forced a split of four riders.
"I followed with Bernard Van Ulden and Chris Harkey on my wheel," he said. "The Time Pro guy was strong and he went all out to establish a gap - Unfortunately he got caught by the group sprint who were just two seconds back on the descent to the finish."
Franges hits the jackpot
The lone Tibco rider Lauren Franges took on the women's 10-kilometre 'dash for cash' solo-style, winning the event just two-seconds ahead of Rebecca Larson (Aaron's) and Shannon Koch (Metro Volkswagen).
"I attacked on the last riser," said Franges. "It was all or nothing so I put my head down and kept going for the finish. In the end, it was just a couple bike lengths - they were close."
The women's field started at the Cumberland Mall and conquered three large highway grade rollers along Cobb Parkway before finishing a short 10-kilometres later at the White Water/American Adventures Theme Parks.
According to Franges, it was a slower start than previous years. "It's hard to plan for a 10-kilometre race," she said. "And everyone wants to save their energy for the finish."
Mid-race Metro Volkswagen set the stage with the first attacked on the bunch. Robin Farina (Cheerwine) quickly followed and Franges bridged across. "The official moto came up and told us we had 30-seconds so we put everything we had into it," she said.
Franges and Farina continued alone with three kilometres to go. However the winner saw her opportunity at a solo victory when Farina started to show signs of struggle over the long rollers.
"There were a lot of teams with only two riders and then a lot of local riders," said Franges, regarding the unorganized chase. "No one got organized enough. It's tricky because it's short and people don't want to burn their matches. Some chased but not a 100 percent efforts."
Elite Men (100km) 1 Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly) 2 Andrew Bajadali (Kelly Benefit Strategies-Medifast) 1 Chris Harkey (Hincapie/Coca-Cola presented by BARKLEY)
2007 Emile Abraham (Priority Health / Bissell) Tina Pic (Colavita/Sutter Home)