Once again this weekend a flat tire impacted the finish of the Elite Men’s race. With a bit more than one lap to go, the deal seemed to be sealed for Luca Damiani (Kenda p/b GearGrinder) who was solo at the front with more than 20 seconds on his closest chaser Valentin Scherz (Cyfac-Champion System Racing Team p/b Revolution). Then disaster struck for Damiani when he flatted, the re-glued wheel from the previous day. That was enough for Scherz to easily come around and continue on to solo for his second win of the New Jersey weekend.
When Scherz saw that Damiani flatted, he instructed his mechanic to offer up a bike to Damiani who had no spare bike but with different pedals so it was back to his original bike as he made his way to the line for seventh.
“On the last lap, I tried to ask my mechanic to see what he could do. He’s a good guy, he always shows fair-play in races, he takes pulls when you ask him to. I don’t especially like winning in conditions like this.” Scherz said right after the race.
Oh and it was the same wheel that Damiani flatted on Saturday. He told me that he glued it on Saturday night.
The two were off from the start with Damiani getting the holeshot. Scherz jumped on his wheel and about half a lap later, they had a gap. Damiani was railing the corners, faster than Scherz could take them so the young Swiss rider made his way to the front, a strategic move so he could manage the pace. With four laps to go, Damiani attacked, pushed the pace and got a gap which grew every lap. He even started to relax before the final lap and then he flatted.
Behind them, the chase group was organized fairly quickly too. Adam McGrath (Van Dessel), Jerome Townsend (BikeReg.com/Joe’s Garage/Scott), Nick Keough (Champion Systems p/b Keough Cyclocross), Ryan Knapp (BikeReg.com), Craig Richey (CyclocrossRacing.com p/b Blue) and Christian Favata (Favata’s Tablerock Tours and Bikes) were together with Adam Myerson (Cycle-Smart) catching up after a slow start.
McGrath took up the reigns of the chase group, his goal to drop as many as possible. But only Keough and Favata were dropped as the others kept glued on. While McGrath did the majority of the work at the front of the group, Townsend also came to the front with the same goal but the group was all together coming into the final lap where they passed Damiani.
At that point, Myerson used his vast well of knowledge to come to the front and slow down the pace so as to not provide a lead-out and then went into second wheel to get ready for the final sprint for second which he claimed. In a photo-finish Richey took third ahead of Townsend while McGrath was fifth.
Valentin Scherz (Cyfac-Champion System P/B Revolution Wheelworks). “He was taking risks and maybe I didn’t have enough pressure in my tires. It was good at my own rhythm but when trying to follow him it was sketchy in the corners so I couldn’t follow him.”
About being at the front at the beginning. “It was strategic to be in front because I was not suffering, I was not able to take the corners at the same speed. Usually I’m not too bad at that but he was going too fast for me, I was worried about flatting, we saw yesterday that even in the last lap Myerson can flat, anything can happen. For me, I’m happy taking taking first and second in a week so I didn’t want to take any risks. I wanted to manage my race. What’s funny is that I almost passed him without seeing him, he was on the side and I was looking ahead and all of a sudden he said ‘well, good race, you won’.”
About the course. “I was expecting a much longer course actually. Last year, I did it in 30 cms of mud so I remembered that it was slow. When pre-riding the course, with the wind, you have a tendency to go slower but during the race, it was crazy fast, even though there were some nice descents and tough turns, there were roots everywhere.”
Adam Myerson (Cycle-Smart). “It’s so weird right? I got third here last year which was also a big big surprise, I usually get killed on this course, it’s just too hilly for me really. When yesterday, again like last weekend I felt I lost, it was there for me to just win the sprint and everybody agreed. So today, I didn’t have as much invested in the win, I just wanted to go out hard. I slipped my pedal at the start again, just like yesterday. Again, I was like ‘alright I don’t care what place I get, calm down and ride hard’. It took me a lap again to connect to the leaders except by the time I got there, they were gone and it was all I could do to get to the group. Then I tried to settle down in the group and occasionally I’d catch my breath and every time I’d catch my breath I’d take a little dig and put myself in trouble again. I wanted to be a little more aggressive and take some more risks today. It was surprising that on such a hilly course to have such a big group, and we couldn’t split the group and I was like ‘well I guess we’re sprinting’.”
About McGrath taking most of the pulls. “I think he had the most to gain by splitting the group, he’s a little guy so he drilled it up all these hills, and I was on the back. I just kept making the selection on this hill, just barely, but then I’d railed all the turns and I’d just catch back on, I was hanging by a thread the whole time. But I did take over the last lap.”
Leading the whole last lap? “Not the whole thing but the first opportunity, coming off the pavement, I attacked coming off the pavement and then went slower through all the turns, trying to lead but not pull. I got Richey to pass coming down the hill, once I had a wheel to follow I knew I could take the sprint from pretty far out. It’s funny I was depressed about not winning yesterday but Luca flatted too, he just flatted on the first lap instead of the last lap [on Saturday] and even today, Luca lost because he flatted so it happens to all of us. It just sucks.”
Jerome Townsend (BikeReg.com / Joe’s Garage / Scott). “Adam was certainly at the front 60 or 70 percent of the time, the other part of the time it was me and we were trying as hard as we could to get rid of the other guys but it wasn’t happening. Whenever we’d attack, the other guy was never in the right position. I think we were definitely the strongest of the four but if I ever attacked he wasn’t on my wheel to come with me and if he ever attacked, I wasn’t on his wheel and it was kind of bad timing, bad coordination combination of the two. Going up the finish straight, we were sprinting for second and I was actually forced over the pine needles and my tires slipped for about half a pedal stroke and that was probably the deciding factor there but stuff happens.”
Adam Mcgrath (Thule/Van Dessel Cyclocross). “I didn’t want to take anybody to the sprint. I didn’t have anybody else to sit in with today, whenever I was sitting in the pace was going slower and I’m such a terrible sprinter that pretty much the odds are that if we’re in a group and someone’s going to lose the group it’s going to be me, (laughs) so I try and make that group as small as possible for the end. If it could be a bit harder, less group racing it would be good for me. I’m tired of it being dry, this is my favorite race when it’s muddy, it’s a bike driver’s course but it’s also hard, there are sections that even when it’s completely skunky wet you still have to ride hard up the hill. When it’s greasy it just makes things a whole other level. My favorite kind of racing is where there’s fifteen-second section in the course where if you ride if good, you can drop people or make up five seconds on people in front of you, that’s what it likes in Europe a lot. People always say who what’s so different, I think that is what is different, they have courses where if you ride it well, in the lap you can bring back 30 seconds not by going harder but just riding better, that suits me because my engine is a little smaller. ”
With help could you have caught them? “Well a couple of times, Jerome went to the front and made it hard but I kind of jumped and then they’d get back to me as soon as Jerome would sit up, I was either third or fourth wheel and from that spot, you just can’t quite make another division and I felt if I could have been with Jerome on a couple of other occasions we might have been able to get away but Adam wasn’t going to go anywhere, he was content to sprint. Just tried to make it hard and it didn’t quite succeed so what are you going to do.”
How satisfied are you from your weekend? “I’m pretty good. Felt a little weird, it got a bit negative the last lap over in that area in the woods, so that’s a little frustrating but it’s bike racing. A lot of bumping elbows, stop, start, stop, start kind of action and I just don’t like to do that, play those games I’d rather it just be hard and rail it through the corners and just go fast but I guess that’s the difference between mountain bike racing and cross racing.”
Which one, mountain bike or cross, do you prefer? “I don’t really race anything else but cross bikes very competitively so (chuckles) but yeah mountain bike is just so different. One corners and downhill stuff, you just push your bike and yourself through it, if you can get through those sections quick then you end up sprinting for the line. There’s not this like go, stop, chop somebody kind of mentality but what are you going to do? I’m a little dude too, it doesn’t take too much to bump me out of the way.”
Luca Damiani (Kenda p/b Geargrinder). “I was feeling good yesterday so today I was like okay I’m going to try to kick start with a pull and see what happens. After the first lap it was just me and Valentin, soon I think after first half lap, we dropped everybody. We stay a little bit together, with four laps to go, I attack and I was getting 5 seconds every lap, I was super cool, I was super relaxed on the last lap and I rolled my tubular just before the start of the last lap. After that, I can’t take any risks on the corner. I stopped in the pitzone to change wheels was just losing too much time so I keep going with a rolled tubular. Actually his team [Scherz's team] gave me a bike but it doesn’t fit with my pedals so I was just losing time. It was super nice. I rode my bike and pedaled easy to the finish. Seventh it’s not bad.
Too many risks? “No I was super easy. I think a lot of people know that I am good at cornering. It was a good course for me. I rolled a tubular when I was in a relaxed mode not in a pulling mode, actually I was slower than what I was doing before but probably it was bad luck.”
Top 10 Elite Men Results
1. Valentin Scherz (Cyfac-Champion System P/B Revolution Wheelworks)
2. Adam Myerson (Cycle-Smart)
3. Craig Richey (CyclocrossRacing.com p/b Blue)
4. Jerome Townsend (BikeReg.com / Joe’s Garage / Scott)
5. Adam Mcgrath (Thule/Van Dessel Cyclocross)
6. Ryan Knapp (BikeReg.com)
7. Luca Damiani (Kenda p/b Geargrinder)
8. Nicholas Keough (Champion Systems p/b Keough Cyclocross)
9. Christian Favata (Favata’s Tablerock Tours and Bikes)
10. Andrew Wulfkuhle (C3-Athletes Serving Athletes)