Over the last several years the Winston Salem Classic has been growing in prominence. For 2014, the race was added to the official UCI calendar, making it a major race for all of the domestic teams and several international teams. Winston Salem is the home town of our team's Sports Director Thomas Craven. It's also the home base of the SmartStop Team, so both teams had a little extra motivation to put on a show for the crowds.
Our team went into the race feeling relaxed and well fueled. Locals Thorns and Perry Craven (Thomas's parents) and their neighbors took excellent care of the boys in the days leading up to the race. They opened their homes and refrigerators up to the team, providing them with the environment they needed to race at their best. A big "thank you" to these wonderful hosts.
The first several laps of the 7.7 mile circuit race saw several unsuccessful attacks. Because of the 107 mile length and difficulty of the hilly course it would come down to a race of attrition. Halfway through the race, Oscar Clark and two other eventually made it into the first successful breakaway. Nine other riders eventually joined Oscar's group, but after several laps away the escapees were reabsorbed by the field.
Several hours of hard racing eventually whittled down the 200 plus race starters to around 75 guys. In the last several laps, this group was shattered into several small packs of riders with the lead bunch containing around 30 riders. Hincapie Devo was well represented in this group with seven guys making the split. By the final lap, the leaders were again split into a group of 18, containing three Hincapie riders (Joe Lewis, Alexander Ray and Ty Magner) and four SmartStop guys. Our plan was to capitalize on the strength of our riders and wait until the final sprint. SmartStop had a different plan with Travis McCabe jumping the group on the steep Pilot View Climb. Joe Lewis followed the attack, but just didn't have enough road left to close the gap and rolled across the line for second place.
The Winston Salem Classic turned out to be one of the most exciting races of the year so far. The team rode really well together and not only did Joe earn the 2nd step on the podium but was also awarded the KOM jersey while Alexander Ray was giving the Sprinters jersey.
The team is now headed out to New Mexico for the Silver City Tour of the Gila for one of the most challenging races of the year. Several of the guys will make a quick detour to Athens Georgia for the famous Twilight Criterium, a hugely popular event for south east cycling fans.
Oscar Clark leads the breakaway up Pilot View Hill
Alexander Ray's aggressive riding earned him the Sprinter Jersey
Joe Lewis finished 2nd overall and took home the KOM award
After Redlands, the team set its sights on the Subaru Sea Otter Classic, a race that would help the guys continue building their racing legs.
The first day's criterium did not go well. Joey was suffering from an illness which left just Joe Schmalz, Ty Magner, Oscar Clark and Toms Skujins to fight for the victory. The tough crit circuit could almost be described as a hot dog with a Dragon tale end. The Canadian Team Québecor stomped it in the race and showed that they are a team to watch in a sprint.
The next day's 70 mile road race was another tough course. Both Ty and Joey were out sick, taking some time to recover. Only Toms, Joe and Oscar were able to represent the team in the race, but the three guys were up to the challenge. The field rode aggressively during the race with our own Joe Schmalz putting in an attack with 2KM to go. He held off the field on the final climb and rolled across the line solo.
The final race of the Sea Otter Classic was on the actual Laguna Seca Race Track Circuit. The boys were finally on the mend, allowing the full squad to participate in the race. After several days off, Joey was anxious to open up the legs again and he animated the race with his hard efforts. His efforts paid off, putting three of our guys in the front group of racers and two in the second group. In the final sprint from the escape group, Ty blasted past Jake Keough for his first sprint win since last season's Cascade Classic.
Up next is the Winston-Salem Classic in North Carolina. This race is now a UCI race and right in our own backyard. And we're ready to put on a good show for our neighbors.
It's been quite the week for the team at the Redlands Cycling Classic. We started off the race with an amazing win on Stage 1 by Dion Smith. On stage 3, the boys helped bring back a five minute gap to setup Ty Magner for a 2nd place sprint result. On the final day, it was Joey Rosskopf's time to let it rip.
Stage 5, the last stage of the race, is a notoriously tough circuit race. Typically only around 50 of the 200+ starters even finish this stage. This year's edition was no different. Coming into the final long circuit, Joey Rosskopf jumped from the dwindling field and bridged solo to a group of three riders. After after a quick rest, Joey hit the gas again and rode away from his breakaway companions. James Oram (Bissell Development) slowly rolled back up to Joey as the pair entered a short downtown circuit for five laps. Joey and James had a 25 second gap on the field going into downtown and working together held off the remnants of the peloton until the end. Joey opened up a solid sprint in the finishing straightaway and rolled across the line first for the win. Joey's gap over the field at the finish, plus the bonus seconds were enough to bump him from 7th place to 1st place in the General Classification, making him the overall winner of the 2014 Redlands Cycling Classic stage race.
The team has been anticipating the start of the Redlands Classic for months. It’s the beginning of the National Race Calendar and the first big goal of the season. In spite of the team’s excitement for the first stage of the race, the boys played it cool and let the other teams control things for most of the short lap circuit race. In the final laps of the race, a small breakaway was brought back by the field. At this point our guys moved towards the front of the peloton to start playing a more active role. With one lap to go, Joey Rosskopf hit the gas on the front to set things up for the boys before the final hill. At the top of the hill Joe Schmalz and Toms Skujins took over leading things out followed by Alexander Ray on the final turn. The roller coaster finish was perfect for Dion Smith who blasted towards the finish with a big enough gap to raise a salute before the line.
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