Thursday was the start of the POA summer series of races held at the BMW Performance Center in Greer, South Carolina. The BMW facility has a road loop with various twists and turns which can be used to create anything from a technical or easy loop. This week’s course was five turns: turns 1 and 2 were sweeping, turn 3 a right hand 90 degree turn, followed by a quick left, and then right hand turn onto the straight away toward the finish. The loop was a little under a mile and the wide course made it virtually safe or all the riders.
The first race of the night was the category 4/5 racers. The racing was aggressive with several moves, but none getting more than a handful of seconds before being brought back. One such move, while not the winning one was impressive regardless. Tucked in with two other larger riders was the reigning 13-14 state criterium champion Jordan Marhanka of the Les Amis squad. The trio was off the front for at least seven laps before being reeled in.
With five laps to go three riders were off the front. But like the other attacks they were caught on the next lap. The pace, while quick, didn’t lend itself to a break away. As the peloton came through the start/finish on the bell lap, there was the usual rush to the front in an effort to imprve their position for the sprint. On the backside of the course Bobby Hough moved onto the wheel of the Metro squad which looked to be setting up their rider. As they peeled off Hough was at the front and surged hard through turns three and four, knowing that if he was at the front he could give it full gas.
Hough’s acceleration and a few seconds of hesitation from the peloton was all he needed to hold it to the line for a savvy win. This was the Les Amis rider’s first road race victory.
Like the category 4/5 race the racing was aggressive from the start. However, the masters racing has the horsepower to generate race winning breaks.
Sure enough a group of nine riders moved away from the peloton. The break contained three POA, two Globalbike, two Metro, one Hincapie Development, and one Cross Town Velo rider. The red jerseys of the POA squad combined with the Globalbike riders moved to the front of the main group and rode tempo. Also weighing in favor of the break was the fact that the teams with the most riders were represented. At the halfway point of the 40 minute race the nine riders had a 45 second lead.
As the race got into single digits for remaining laps, two riders broke away from the group of nine – Scott Edge (Globalbike) and Cleve Blackwell (POA). They were quickly joined by two others from the break – Josh Whitmore (Globalbike) and Thomas Smith (POA). It was two POA riders versus two Globalbike. Behind them was the group of five riders and just behind them was the main peloton.
Matt Tebbetts (Hincapie) was trying to drive his break of five to the quartet just further up the road. But they didn’t have the cooperation that the foursome had – who were gone. Back in the main peloton the speed had dropped dramatically. With payout to the top three combined with the strongest teams represented in the break up the road, there was no one willing to push the pace.
With three laps remaining POA rider Rodney Dender pulled out to save his energy for the category 1/2/3 race and said, “I was sitting at the back and I was in my zone 1 recovery pace.”
As the quartet roared through the start/finish area it was clear their former break away companions were not bringing them back.
Around the final curve the lead four charged for the line and Whitmore was the fastest followed by his teammate Edge and POA’s Smith and Blackwell. The five riders were still ahead of the bunch and Tebbetts was the quickest rounding out the top five.
Globalbike and POA continued to have a strong presence in the pro 1/2/3 race, and it wasn’t surprising that out of the gate Globalbike’s Thad Dulin lit up the pack like a Roman candle. Instantly it was single file. Riders who had just raced the masters event a few minutes prior were back in the red zone. Once Dulin was contained and just six minutes into the 45 minute race three riders were off and they represented the strongest teams in the bunch: Boyd Johnson (Globalbike), Jae Bowen (POA), and Parker Kyzer (Hincapie Development). Soon each rider had their teammates working the front clogging up the main field preventing an organized chase. The one rider who had missed the move was the reigning South Carolina state champion Bruce Humphries.
Last week in Charleston Humpries put on an amazing display of strength by motoring a three-man break (which had also contained Kyzer) and then soloed away to take the win. However, this was not going to happen again and every time the Hincapie/ Green Creations rider made a move he was marked. While it was obvious Humpries was still showing some good fitness, but he was racing solo and could expect zero help from the peloton.
The move looked so strong that race announcer and promoter Blair Lamarche declared, “The race is over!” At first this seemed like a bold statement with still 30 minutes of racing, but Lamarche knows these racers and this was just the right combination.
With the daylight running out the trio had a solid gap of 23 seconds on the peloton and it looked like the winner was going to come from one of these riders. However with just three laps remaining, Dulin came streaking out of the peloton rapidly closing the gap to the break. Hunched low this ex-pro was gunning it and looked like he might make the junction to the break. As the escapees crossed the finish line with one more lap to complete Dulin was just a handful of seconds in arrears.
Dulin’s teammate Johnson saw him gaining and moved to the back of the break, willing to let Dulin make the bridge. However coming into turn three Dulin seemed to lose some of his earlier momentum and couldn’t quite get across. This played right into Johnson’s hands as he had now taken a lap of rest and was sitting at the back of the break – the perfect spot to launch his sprint.
Into the finishing stretch Johnson charged taking the win over Bowen and Kyzer. Dulin held his advantage and finished fourth.
“That was really hard,” exclaimed Johnson after taking his cool down lap.
Johnson explained the evening’s race strategy.
“This is a Thursday training race so you might as well go for it.” Job completed.
Humpries was philosophical about the race and was using it as part of his “soup” of training to prepare for the upcoming Boone-Roubaix road race in Boone, North Carolina. For those participating in this tough race, you now know who to watch.
Announcer/promoter Lamarche was pleased with the day’s racing at BMW.
“For the first race in its fourth year of the St. Francis Sports Medicine Summer series, it was our biggest turnout ever. It is what every promoter hopes for, to become bigger and better every year. Everybody loves racing at BMW.”
Quotes from the course
“I said that?” Randy Owens when reminded of his prophetic statement of wining the state championships prior to his race.
“I had to double clutch it several times out there. The really good riders have either dealt or felt the double clutch.” – Bruce Humphries
“I had to drink 12 cups of coffee to get them out.” – Noah Metzler on the after-affects of eating 58 chicken nuggets in one sitting.
Complete results can be found at Pre-Reg.com.