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Snake Alley Criterium - NE
USA, May 30, 2004
McCartney and Long tame the snake again
The Snake Alley Criterium goes NRC
By Mark Zalewski
"Jason, Jason, Jason!" That was the cheer from the crowd watching Health Net's Jason McCartney ride away from the competition on the infamous "Snake Alley" -- dubbed the "crookedest street in the world." This cobbled climb averages a 12.5% grade up 276 feet with five twisting switch-backs that has claimed countless broken chains, derailurs and even crank arms over the years.
This year the race was granted a place on the National Racing Calendar, right beside the annual Quad Cities Criterium held just up the Mississippi River on Memorial Day. This brought out a record number of racers in the pro race. However, due to the proximity to the USPRO Championships in Philadelphia, many of the top pro teams skipped this year's race. But McCartney, a native of Burlington and now nearby resident, was not going to pass up a chance to repeat his win from 2003 and to extend his climbing success after the epic stage five of the Dodge Tour de Georgia.
"It's great, my grandma's here, so it's a hometown thing," McCartney said. "I've got a lot of pressure to win here. In Georgia it was a little shocking -- I didn't have any pressure there so it was a little bit easier.
How it unfolded
The pack stayed together for the first two times up "The Snake," but as usual the cobbles and steepness quickly separated the race into many different speeds. Soon a group of five formed at the front, including McCartney, Bergman (Jelly Belly), and three Endeavor riders. The crowds sitting between the switch-backs were enthusiastic, enjoying a variety of beverages. As the laps wore on it was McCartney, Bergman and Carlos Vargas (Endeavor) leading the race.
"Jason, Adam and I were together [early on] and they tried to make me work because they knew I had teammates coming up behind," said Vargas. "When Jason went to the front, Adam tried to make me follow him -- and them when Adam went to the front, Jason would try to make me follow him."
Then McCartney made his move. Up near the top around the final switchbacks, McCartney dropped the hammer and rode away from his two companions. The race was decided -- it was that clear. Over the following laps, McCartney maintained his lap times of around two minutes, as the rest of the field slowed. He eventually caught be back of the field and began to pick his way through the field to the front again.
Adam Bergman then made his move to lock-up second place, all while riding through the pain of a crash in a road race the day before. " I was super sore today after yesterday's crash [in the Burlington Road Race.] I slid far -- I was pretty much saved by my heart rate sensor -- it was ground down to about nothing! ['The Snake'] was hard. Last year I got fourth. It was pretty much a race for second I think -- Jason was in a league by himself."
Rounding out the breakaway were the two from Endeavor, Vargas and his teammate Garrett Peltonen. "I had a 12-25 today," Peltonen explained. "The 25 was really nice! Though I could have used an 11 coming back down the hill."
McCartney flies out tomorrow morning to join his Health Net team as they prepare for the USPRO Championships. "I'm only doing Lancaster, which suits me, and Philly. We'll see who is riding well. They could send me in an early break. I'm not a big fan of [the Manayunk Wall] because it's a field sprint to get in it every time. But I'll try to be a little more aggressive.
Images by Mark Zalewski/www.showchoir.net/
Men - Pro/1/2 1 Jason McCartney (Health Net) 2 Adam Bergman (Jelly Belly) 3 Garrett Peltonen (Endeavour) 4 Carlos Vargas (Endeavour) 5 Bryan Smith (Endeavour) Women Open 1 Magen Long (OBRU/The Bicycle Store) 2 Rebecca Much (XXX Racing - Athletico) 3 Elizabeth Morse (OBRU/The Bicycle Store) 4 Megan Monroe (TDS - Schwalbe) 5 Alison McNulty (Mercy-Specialized)
2003 Jason McCartney (Team 7 Up/Maxxis) Magen Long (Obru/The Bicycle Store) 2002 John Lieswyn (7UP/NutraFig) Magen Long (OBRV) 2001 Jason McCartney (JellyBelly) Catherine Walberg (Trek-VW Midwest)