Svein Tuft is Tough Enough in Richmond
The Inaugural US Open Championships in Virginia seemed to be a warm weather type of event. But my Central New York cold weather depression was lifted when I watched the NBC coverage and saw snow and cold temperatures greeting the riders. The weather was bad enough to delay the start of the race for 90 minutes, especially since the TV helicopters were downed. TV, I was surprised to see the event was on NBC Sports on a Saturday afternoon. Perhaps this is a sign of things to come?
The US Open Championships racing did not disappoint. CNY man Dan Timmerman of Kodak-Sierra Nevada was in an early breakaway when the weather was at its worst. Perhaps he was so used to riding in the snow that he had to show others how it was done. The Mexican Tecos team was said to be begging other teams for spare warm weather gear. The weather in the Richmond Virginia suburbs was nasty, the cobbled roads of Libby hill and some of the industrial sections of town made it feel like a Belgian Classic race. The Richmond circuit could have been more scenic and some of the roads seems to be in back alleys behind giant industrial buildings.
The action in the race was more about attrition. Several breaks tried their luck without getting much of a gap. Alessandro Bazzano of the Successful Living Team seemed to have good form as he lauched repeated attacks. Henk Vogels and Phil Zajicek were part of a break which did not get more than 18 seconds or so. It seemed that Libby Hill did not spring board escapes as much as anticipated. The switchbacks allowed lead riders to see the chasers just behind giving a psychological boost to the chasers. Eventually Pat McCarty of the Team Slipstream Chipotle team was away solo. He was eventually joined by Canadian toughman Svein Tuft who looks like he could ride through a brick wall. The pair managed to get a nice minute plus gap on a chase group that eventually included Cuban Missle Ivan Dominguez. The Cuban Missle caused a crisis in the break since no one wanted to pull the fastest sprinter in the break to the finish. So the gap to McCarty and Tuft grew until the following break caught back on. The larger group included several Toyota-United men who tried to chase the leading duo. They cut down the gap to around 37 seconds on the final run up Libby Hill. This was just after Tuft launched an attack of attrition to shake the fading McCarty off his wheel. From there on Tuft soloed to the finish line while McCarty was able to stay in second place. The Toyotas botched any chance for Dominguez to get a podium as a Rite Aid rider snatched third place.
The minor controversy of the race was the flower girl who stiffed all the podium placers out of a kiss. She did not know the tradition of the two/three cheek kiss, but Tuft managed to get the two cheek kiss when presented with his flowers.