The weather couldn’t have been any better for what many consider the kick off to the 2011 road race season – the Greenville Spring Training Series. The temperature was in the low 70s with not a cloudy in the sky. Saturday’s race was held at the the Donaldson Center, the scene of a regular Tuesday night training race series. It’s a seven-mile rolling loop with a train track crossing about two miles to the finish and a bit of a headwind to the line.
These next three weekends offer quality racing in the Upstate area. And with quality racing comes quality fields. The women’s field had several new riders as well as seasoned riders returning to racing. Team Kenda, always with a strong squad, had Nicole Johnson, Catherine James and new teammate Hannah Smith in the field. Johnson had already started her racing season off with a victory in Florida so she seemed to be showing some early season form. Cristina Lindsey and Giselle Weekes both of Team Headstrong are a strong duo as is her teammate Sam Smith. While the size of the women’s field seemed the same, the depth and quality of teams were more strongly defined.
The men’s pro 1/ 2 field was stacked with not only local but domestic talent as well. The new pro team on the block, based out of Georgia, RealCyclist.com was out in force on their brand new DeRosas. Team Type 1 was also represented with their development squad. Another devo squad with several rising stars was the Hincapie Development team fresh off a successful campaign in the Tour of the Bahamas. Team Globalbike had a strong contingent of riders which included the reigning South Carolina state cyclocross champion Noah Metzler and Boyd Johnson who had also started his season last month in Florida with a third place. Riding solo was the new Bissell pro Andy Baker. This was also not his first race of the season either as he had been mixing it up on the collegiate circuit for his Furman College team. But tucked in the middle of the staging field trying to keep a low profile in a BMC kit was Greenville resident George Hincapie. The classics specialist had ridden from home, was racing the 56 miles and then riding back home for a total of about 120 miles. That’s why he’s a favorite at any classic on the UCI calendar.
The womens race was filled with several probing attacks but nothing stuck. On the last lap, as the peloton was crossing the train tracks, there was a crash. This shook up the group and reshuffled the teams.
When she first heard the crash Thea Kent of Pain Pathways Women’s Cycling Team said, “I’m out (not racing). But something changed as we got closer to the finish line.”
Something indeed did change as out of the chaos Kent came blasting across the finish line first. When asked if she was surprised by her win she replied, “Not to sound too confident but I wasn’t surprised.” Looks like the ladies field has a new sprinter in their midst.
The men’s field split apart on the opening laps. A group had formed and about 15 riders were clear. In the lead group was who you’d expect: Hincapie, several RealCyclist.com riders, Mike Stone of the Hincapie Devo squad as well as a couple Type 1 devo riders. With Big George turning the screws in the breakaway there were fewer and fewer riders able to stay in the lead group. The peloton didn’t seem too concerned with catching the break and was happy to scoop up the shelled riders as they were dropped.
With one lap remaining the lead group was down to six riders. The obvious favorite was Hincapie who looked smooth and relaxed. But with a full European campaign in front of him would he take the chance to contest a sprint? A man who was also in the break and known for an explosive sprint was RealCyclist.com rider Frank Travieso. The Cuban cyclist had just wrapped up a team training camp in Georgia and had some form in the legs.
As the riders came into view along the long final stretch Travieso still had the pop in the legs and opened up a bit of a distance over Type 1 rider Ty Magner and Charles Hutcheson of XO Communications/Battley Harley-Davidson – finishing in that order. Fellow RealCyclist.com rider Michael Midlarsky sprinted across for fourth. Cruising across the line was Hincapie and Andrew Meyer of the Carolina Bicycle Company. RealCyclist.com rider Cole House snagged the group sprint for seventh.
“I feel real good for my first race of the year,” said a happy Travieso after the race.