March 18, 2008 – Three races have gone by already since our last race report: Grand Prix de Lillers, Wanzele Koerse and Omloop van het Wassland. With each race the team is improving. Most of the riders are now finishing the races. Ryan is solid and has finished every race in the hunt. All the events have been challenging with tough conditions – hard wind, cold rain, tight roads, cobblestone sections and very good competition.
Sunday March 9, 2008 — Lillers, Pas-de-Calais, France
The team crossed over to France for the 44th Grand Prix de Lillers-Souvenir Bruno Comini, a UCI 1.2 event at 163.5km over a few hills and narrow roads. Conditions were miserable – it was cold and poured rain from the start to finish. With 170 riders on the start line, like any Europe spring races, the pack was aggressive and attacks started in the first kilometres. Unfortunately, JoÃ«l got caught in a crash at the beginning of the second of three laps over a few hills. He got back on his bike but once on the hills that he noticed his rear derailleur was bent.
While calling for mechanical support from our team car he was in between vehicles in the caravan. He glanced back for a fraction of second to see if the team car was there and when he turned around the car in front of him had applied the brakes and JoÃ«l went head first into the rear window. Obviously shocked, he was sitting on the road, when our team car arrived. Even though he had no major injuries (thanks to his Giro Ionos helmet!), it was clear that he was not getting back on his bike for this race. He had no serious injuries, besides the abrasions from his crash on the previous of the day. He’s doing much better now and is still a bit uncomfortable, but his fitness is there. Crashing through back window of a car is a nightmare for every rider.
The German Domenik Klemme of 3C Guppe won the final sprint and Ryan finished 27th among the peloton. Only 56 riders finished the race that day. The average speed was 42,534Km/h. Back in January, we were selected among 24 other teams by the organizer who received 45 team applications for this event.
Wednesday Mars 12th, 2008 — Wanzele, East-Flanders, Belgium
We participated to Wanzele Koerse, a 163km national race composed of 16 laps of 10km circuit and the team felt good. We had dry conditions for the first time, but a strong head wind was blowing through the finish line. Still the guys were in the game. Buck and Dan were up front trying to create some action to chase the breakaway which had over a minute on the peloton. Johnny Hoogerland from Netherlands won the sprint after 3’54″ 41 at an average 41.78km/h. Three of us finished – Ryan Roth was 23rd, Mark Pozniak 36th and Dustin MacBurnie 51st.
Sunday, March 16th, 2008 — Kemzeke, East-Flanders, Belgium
Our fourth race so far, the 44th Omloop van het Waasland-Kemzeke, is held in the same town where Eddy Merckx rode his last cycling race. The team did very well on a difficult 191km course. Five of our riders finished in the peloton in a bunch sprint finish. Only 103 guys finished out of 200 starters. Buck had a bad luck with a flat in early cobblestones section and did not have a chance to come back. JoÃ«l was not quite in the game and did not finish. Ryan who has been riding really well since the beginning of our European project had a mechanical on the last lap. Therefore he was cautious and didn’t take any risks during the final kilometres. For the third year in a row, the Belgian Nico Eeckhout of team Topsport Vlaanderen won the finishing sprint after four hours fifteen minutes at an average of 44.941km/h. It was our team best showing so far with solid progress. A few mistakes in the results have been published – the correct finish results for our riders are:
– 26th Mark Walters
– 49th Mark Pozniak
– 82nd Ryan Roth
– 89th Dan Timmerman
– 98th Dustin MacBurnie
Tomorrow is the Big Day! Our last race in Belgium is the Nokere Koerse UCI 1.1. The team will be racing against Pro Tour teams such as the two local teams Quick Step and Silence Lotto and also Rabobank, AG2R, High Road, and many others. This is a big test for the team before the Tour de Normandie. Tomorrow’s forecast: it will continue to be inclement weather: 7Â°C high with chance of hail and rain showers.