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South Carolina Heritage Series - NE
USA, April 29-May 2, 2003
Race 3 - May 1: Greenwood criterium, 50 miles
David beats Goliath
By Kristy Scrymgeour
Amongst a strong field in the third stop of the South Carolina Heritage Series in Greenwood, SC tonight Saturn and Navigators were considered heavy favorites as they have been all week, however it was the underdog's turn to steal the spotlight. Erik Saunders of Ofoto- Lombardi Sports and his teammates stole the show tonight in a show of strength and brilliant tactics when three of its member made the final cut setting up Saunders solo move with six laps to go.
Until about a half hour before the start, a steady rain poured over the town of Greenwood potentially making for a dangerous race. Fortunately, however, the clouds broke and the rain diminished as 139 riders lined up for the start. Despite wet roads, the race was once again aggressive from the get go as Saturn, Navigators, Ofoto-Lombardi Sports and 7UP-Maxxis took turns attacking, with Saturn instigating most of the attempts with Eric Wohlberg, Trent Klasna, Chris Horner and Victor Rapinksi. However it was not until lap 27, almost half way through the race, that a decisive gap formed as riders gradually bridged to Rapinksi, who had sprinted away from the field on a prime lap.
Soon a group of 14 riders distanced themselves from the peloton by 45 seconds, as the field behind shut down, each team happy with the riders they had up the road. In the group were Ryan Guay and last night's winner Oleg Grichkine (Navigators); Saunders, Jackson Stewart and Tim Larkin (Ofoto-Lombardi Sports); Ivan Dominguez and Viktor Rapinski (Saturn), Gustavo Artacho and Juan Jose Haedo(Colavita.Bolla); Antonio Cruz (USPS); Danny Pate (Prime Alliance); Jacob Erker (Schroeder Iron), John Lieswyn (7UP-Maxxis), and Eddie Hilger (Fairway Suburu/Hincapie Sportwear).
With 16 laps to go, when it looked like the break was going to lap the field, Saturn riders in the peloton quickly moved to the front and put on the pace to prevent that from happening. Confident with Saturn's chances in the break, Klasna stated "We had two of our best sprinters up there, so we figured we should let them race for themselves out there instead of getting caught up in the chaos." Wohlberg, Horner and Klansa effortlessly pushed the pace, holding the gap at 45 seconds. With 13 laps to go, riders starting attacking out of the break. Rapinski, Pate, Lieswyn, Grichkine, and Stewart all tried their hands, but it was Saunders move with six laps to go that stuck. Saturn and Navigators, looking at each other to chase, the gap quickly grew to 18 seconds.
With two laps to go and Navigators chasing hard, Saunders advantage started to fade steadily. As the bell rang signaling one lap to go, Rapinski gave chase with Lieswyn on his wheel, but it was too little too late, and the gap was too much to overcome as Saunders soloed home to take the win by five seconds over Rapinski and Lieswyn.
A jubilant Saunders said afterwards, "I felt great out there, riding by myself is my strength. It is the perfect way for me to win a race as I am a strong sprinter, but not a fast one." Of his team tactics today, he said "In the last few races, the breaks have been forming right from the start and we've missed them, so tonight we made the decision to all stay together at the front and be active. We ended up with three guys in the break of 14 and that was the perfect situation for us because we could isolate the strongest two teams (Saturn and Navigators) and we had three strong riders to use."
It was the Saturn team who was disappointed tonight with what had seemed like a perfect tactical race to them not producing the result they wanted. Cyclingnews talked to Horner after the race who disapproved of his teammate Rapinski's tactics. "Basically, Viktor screwed it up. We had the fastest sprinter in the break in Ivan Dominguez, Viktor should have been sitting on the front, bringing everything back, being 100% teammate. He should never have been attacking. I don't know what he was thinking, maybe because he is young, or because he just didn't understand."
Afterwards, Leiswyn boasted "I predicted that Saunders would win with about 15 laps to go. He was doing so much work in the break, so I told him to be conservative and give it a go later. I tried to get on his wheel, but I missed it." Of the Saturn team tactics he noted "Saturn was looking at Navigators, and Navigators was looking at Saturn, it was a game of chicken and both teams lost out."
Sitting on the sidelines, taking in the action tonight, was Greenville native George Hincapie, whose brother Rich happens to promote the South Carolina Heritage Series. Cyclingnews caught up with him to learn about his recent progress combating his sickness. "At the moment I am trying to be patient, taking it day by day. Generally, I am getting healthier. Once I am 100% I can focus on my training program again, my health is the priority right now. Reports from Hincapie's USPS teammates who are staying at his house in Greenville mentioned that he did manage to put in about ten hours on the bike in last two days, so things must be looking up. Tomorrow's final race of the series is in Aiken, SC where will the riders will battle it out before heading to Shelby, NC on Saturday for the Shelby Criterium.
Images by Bill Parsons/North Chattanooga Cycle Club
1 Erik Saunders (Ofoto-Lombardi Sports) 2 Viktor Rapinki (Saturn) 3 John Lieswyn (7UP-Maxxis) 4 Ivan Dominguez (Saturn) 5 Danny Pate (Prime Alliance) 6 Tony Cruz (USPS) 7 Jackson Stewart (Ofoto-Lombardi Sports) 8 Tim Larkin (Ofoto-Lombardi Sports) 9 Jacob Erker (Schroeder Iron) 10 Oleg Grichkine (Navigators) 11 Eddie Hilger (Fairway Suburu/Hincapie Sportswear) 12 Todd Littlehales (Sierra Nevada -Clifbar) 13 Henk Vogels (Navigators) 14 Robbie Ventura (USPS) 15 Chris Horner (Saturn) 16 Alex Candelario (Prime Alliance) 17 Brent Dawson (Jelly Belly) 18 Jonas Carney (Prime Alliance) 19 Ryan Guay (Navigators) 20 Nathan Russell (Colovita/Bolla) 21 Jason Waddell (Mathis Brothers) 22 James Taylor (OLP Racing) 23 Ryan Dewald (Lite Bites) 24 Garrett Wonders 25 Adam Meyerson (Sportsbook.com) 26 Ryan Oelkers (Sportsbook.com) 27 Chuck Coyle (Vitamin Cottage) 28 Steve McUjeak (US Armed Forces) 29 Svein Tuft (Prime Alliance) 30 Siro Camponagora (Navigators) 31 David Olaughlin (Ofoto-Lombardi Sports) 32 Michael Proctor (Fairway Suburu/Hincapie Sportswear) 33 Joshua Carter (Spin City Cycles) 34 Mark Light (Lite Bites) 35 Radisha Cubric (Team Easton) 36 John Murphy (Krystals) 37 NA 38 Karl Bordine (Colovita/Bolla) 39 Dane Jankowiak (Schroeder Iron) 40 Patrick O'Donnell (West Virginia Pro Cycling Team) 41 Cameron Hughes (Schroeder Iron) 42 Jeff Orr (US Armed Forces) 43 Eric Wohlberg (Saturn) 44 Matthew Svatek (Sportsbook.com) 45 Corey Fisher 46 Boyd Johnson 47 Steve Spencer (Locos/PTI) 48 AT Stamp (Fairway Suburu/Hincapie Sportswear) 49 Chandler Weekes (Fairway Suburu/Hincapie Sportswear) 50 Tim Henry (West Virginia Pro Cycling Team) 51 Joey Coddington (Cane Creek) 52 Dan Larson (Cycle Science) 53 Joe Papp (UPMC) 54 Haydon Godfrey (7UP-Maxxis) 55 Mark Walters (Navigators) 56 Jason Snow (Cycle Science) 57 Derek Kidd (Reality Bikes) 58 Jeremy Conn (Fairway Suburu/Hincapie Sportswear) 59 Joe Fernandez (Cycle Science) 60 Jason Bausch (Schroeder Iron) 61 Peter Knudsen (Schroeder Iron) 62 Kevin Monahan (7UP-Maxxis) 63 Joshua Seldman (Krystals)