March 11, 2008 (Los Angeles, CA) – Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team kicked off the first racing week in March with Jose Manuel “Chepe” Garcia winning the Mexican National Time Trial Championship in his home country of Mexico. The victory will go a long way to assist “Chepe” in making the Mexican Olympic team that will be racing in Beijing this summer.
The weekend then began with team owner, Sean Tucker kicking off the Solvang Century ride on Saturday, where last year he, Ivan Dominguez and Sean Sullivan rode with fans to reach out to cyclists who otherwise may not be aware of Toyota-United. This year, riders Heath Blackgrove and Hilton Clarke joined Tucker. Sean and the boys spent their Saturday afternoon at the 103.4 mile ride with over 5,000 participants out for a good cause and good weather with temperatures in the mid 70’s. A couple of funny quotes of the day were at the 3rd rest stop a fan asked Heath “where is Dominguez and Sullivan this year?” and Heath replied “they didn’t make the cut this year”.
Another great moment in the Solvang Century was when the Toyota-United riders had another strong rider riding with them and was attacking the boys for over an hour with another nine riders. When Heath has finally introduced himself to the rider he had told Heath he was Norwegian and Heath said “oh you’re a Viking”. And the guy proudly said back “yes, that’s what all my friends call me” and then he proceeded to attack Heath. About an hour later at another rest stop, Heath, Hilton and Tucker were ready to depart and Heath said to Tucker “I’m not leaving without my Viking” and Tucker said “Yes, let’s leave him here, he has punished me enough”. Tucker then said, “I made sure when we left the parking lot, we didn’t pass the Viking so he wouldn’t tag along with us and beat me up some more.” The fans were indeed pleased in Solvang as the two Toyota-United riders signed autographs and the team had an expo booth with associates passing out team guides, team cowbells and were selling team gear.
In addition, each Solvang Century participant this year received a FREE pair of Toyota-United Team Issue socks by SockGuy, the team’s official sock sponsor.
The rest of the weekend had Toyota-United riders in both sunny California and Denver for various races. Here were the fantastic team results:
March 8 — Frostbite TT, Fort Collins, CO
1. Stefano Barberi
2. Justin England- Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team
3. Dirk Friel
Justin England said, “I got 2nd place in a flat, technical course…5 seconds behind Stefano Barberi. I finished in 19:02 in the first race of the season for me. I felt good for a first race effort and I’m looking forward to the upcoming team races in Southern California.”
March 9 — Denver City Park Criterium
1. Pete Lopinto-
2. Tyler Hamilton- Rock Racing
3. Jonny Clarke- Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team
The Denver Park City Criterium was a 60 minute, fast, flat course with very tight turns. Henk Vogels, Jonny Clarke, Chris Baldwin, joined Justin England for this Sunday crit. England said, “We initiated a break early on which swelled to about 10 riders with Jonny, Henk, me, Tyler Hamilton, Stefano Barberi, Pete Lopinto, and 3 others. We were all very active in the break. Baldwin bridged across with two others with four laps to go. Henk put in a big solo attack at two laps to go but was caught with 500m to go. Jonny Clarke finished 3rd in the sprint behind Lopinto and Hamilton.” A good day indeed for the Boulder based Toyota-United riders.
March 9 — Central Valley Classic- Fresno, CA
1. Dan Halloway
2. Eric Wollberg
3. Heath Blackgrove- Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team
The Central Valley Classic Criterium was a 75 minute criterium with little wind and temps in the mid 70’s all day. Heath Blackgrove is not known as a crit specialist, but finished the day in 3rd place. It was tough out there as Toyota-United only had Blackgrove and Hilton Clarke fighting off some larger teams from Symmetrics and Colavita bringing full squads to battle on the road. The larger teams marked Hilton early in the race with their larger team numbers, essentially taking him out of contention. This left Heath to battle the remainder of the day. Heath joined in a breakaway with 5 riders from Colavita, Symmetrics, and a few other riders, and attacked them later in the race but ultimately came in 3rd place. Heath also won the overall sprint jersey on the day.
March 8 — Tour de Murrieta – Criterium
1. Jonathan Cantwell- Jittery Joe’s Pro Cycling
2. Dominique Rollin-Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team
3. Tony Cruz- BMC Pro Cycling
March 9 — Tour de Murrieta – Circuit Race
1. Karl Bordine — Team 5 Star Waist Vegetable Oil
2. Rashaan Bahati- Rock Racing
3. Dominique Rollin- Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team
March 9 — Tour de Murrieta – General Classification
1. Jonathan Cantwell- Jittery Joe’s Pro Cycling
2. Dominique Rollin- Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team
3. Rashaan Bahati- Rock Racing
In the two day, Tour De Murrieta held in Southern, CA, Toyota-United was represented by Dominique Rollin and Caleb Manion. Rollin coming off a strong performance in the Amgen Tour of California continued to race well after two weeks off from competition. Obviously, his training regiment continues to pay dividends as he took 2nd Saturday, 3rd Sunday and was 2nd in the general classification. Manion, who was struck hard by the viral infection that hit the peloton at the Amgen Tour of California, was back in good form as the weather for the two day affair was more California like, with sun and temperatures in the mid 70’s. Dominique said “I am still feeling the afterglow of the Amgen Tour, and I had good legs, good rhythm and good feelings in general as we prepare for the remaining California schedule and the Tour de Georgia.” Caleb attacked on the last lap and took some heat off Dominique in the Sunday’s circuit race. Saturday came down to a sprint after a big crash with five laps to go. Dominique thankfully avoided the crash, but it left him chasing the leaders as he came up short but still managed to come in 2nd place.
Next stop for the team is the Tour of Redlands in Southern California.