Going into Paris Arras, the third and final race of the team’s first European campaign, the guys were ready to take on the world. The stage win at Fleche du Sud and the win at Puivelde had proven that they could win against their euro counterparts.
Stage one of Paris Arras is a 179-kilometer dash from Margny-lès-Compiègne to the city of Arras in the northern Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France. Just 25km into the stage, Joey Rosskopf and 17 other riders formed a breakway off the front. Most of the big teams were represented in the move, so the peloton was content to let them get away. The tough rolling terrain of the course and battles for the KOM and Sprint points caused the break to slowly shed riders along the way.
Being only a two-day stage race it was important to gain time on your opponents. At 30 kilometers from the finish the attacks in the breakaway began. The strong survivors of the breakaway were unwilling to let another ride gain a single second. Once they hit the five-kilometer mark, Joey had had enough. He put his head down and turned the afterburners on, rocketing away from the break. In a span of five kilometers Joey put 19 seconds on the next guy behind him and rolled across the finish line with no one else in sight. Joey’s efforts earned him the win and the yellow jersey.
The team has worked several times this season to protect Joey’s General Classification position in a stage race. However, each time another team has always been in the lead, so the responsibility of controlling the race has always been left to the leader’s team. This time it was the Hincapie Devo Team who had the burden of controlling the race. They had to take charge and protect Joey’s yellow jersey.
50 kilometers into Stage Two, a breakaway had built up a one minute, fourty second gap on the field. The guys sensed the danger and the entire team went to the front of the peloton and spent the next 130 kilometers slowly reeling in the escaped riders. The entire time rain and wind pummeled the team, but they were not fazed by the elements. As they neared town the breakaway was captured and the sprinters’ teams began taking their turns on the front. The team had done an amazing job of protecting Joey’s lead and he safely rolled across the finish line with the yellow jersey intact. The team had won their first stage race plus won the Team Competition for the third stage race in a row!
This first European campaign had exceeded all expectations for the riders and staff. At Fleche du Sud they were award a Most Competitive Rider Jersey, won a stage, got third overall and won the Team General Classification. At Puivelde they astonished the Belgians with the win. At Paris Arras they won a stage, the overall classification and another Team Award. It has been an amazing trip and the team is now ready to return to the US where they can use their racing winning form against their countrymen at the US National Championships in Chattanooga.
After a successful weekend of racing at Fleche du Sud, the team wanted to try their hand at a little Belgian style kermesse race. They traveled to the town of Sint-Niklaas, Belgium for the 178-kilometer Puivelde Kermis. The race is held on a 9 kilometer circuit through town with the riders completing 19 laps for a total of 171 kilometers.
110 kilometers into the kermesse, the early breakaway of five riders was caught by the field. More attacks came and Robin Carpenter found himself in a move containing the reigning Cyclo-Cross World Champion Sven Nys. The new breakaway built up a lead of 40 seconds on the splintering field. With four kilometer to go, Robin attacked his companions through a narrow, technical section of the course. The two other remaining riders looked to each other to pull Robin back, but their moment of hesitation gave Robin all the advantage he needed to stay away. Robin had a five second gap which he held all the way to the finish.
Watch the post-race interview below to hear from Robin what those final kilometers were like.
This May the riders and staff headed across the Atlantic for the very first European campaign for the team. Although some of the riders had previous European racing experience with the US National Team or other development programs, this was the first time for the guys to race together as seasoned teammates against the Euro squads.
The first stop of the inaugural European campaign was Fleche du Sud in Luxembourg, a long running stage race in its 64th edition. Past editions of the race have been won by cycling legends such as Charly Gaul and Alex Zulle, and current stars such as Andy Schleck and Bradley Wiggins.
The race began with a short 81-kilometer stage. Oscar Clark was ready to get things started and he instigated a small breakaway within the first minutes. The sprinters’ teams eventually reeled him and his companions in, but Oscar’s aggressive riding earned him the Most Combative Rider Award for the day.
At 148 kilometers, stage two was considerably longer than the previous day with a giant 100-kilometer loop followed by five 10-kilometer circuits. Oscar again tried to make it into an early breakaway, but the field was unwilling to let him go. A small group formed on the large loop, but the field brought them back on the finishing circuits. Joey Rosskopf put in an attack in the closing kilometers, but like day one, the sprinters’ teams wanted a bunch sprint finale. Joe Lewis was able to get in the mix and pulled off sixth place.
On paper day three looked like it would be the toughest stage. The course led riders through the hillier northern section of Luxembourg and included the longest climbs of the race. Going into the second climb of the day, Joey Rosskopf and three riders attacked the field and built up a five-minute advantage. The peloton gave chase but underestimated the strength of the breakaway riders. On the final finishing circuits it was clear that this time the sprinters’ teams would not be able to bring the group back. In a cat-and-mouse battle up the steep final meters Joey ended the day with a solid third place finish, putting him in third overall in the General Classification with a one minute advantage over the next rider.
The plan for day four was to protect Joey’s position in the General Classification and give him the opportunity to recover after the previous day’s efforts. Wind, rain and crashes rocked the peloton with Joe Lewis and Robin Carpenter hitting the deck. Fortunately both were able to quickly get rolling again and with a little roller coaster ride through the race caravan made it back to the peloton to watch over Joey. The day ended with another bunch sprint with Joe finishing fifth. Because of the crashes, weather and mechanical incidences day four ended up being almost more exhausting for the team support staff than the riders.
The final 136-kilometer stage started and ended in the city of Esch-sur-Alzette. The guys had been feeling better and better each day and were on the hunt for opportunities. Oscar Clark once again jumped into the early move and the peloton was content to let a group of five riders go up the road. Team Cult Energy patrolled the front of the peloton and kept the gap at two minutes to protect their rider Michael Andersen who was in first place in the General Classification.
The stage ended with five 10-kilometer circuits through downtown Esch-sur-Alzette. At the beginning of the third finishing circuit, the peloton had easily cut the breakaway’s advantage down to 40 seconds – that’s when Oscar Clark hit the gas. Only one other rider from the breakaway was able to match Oscar’s effort and trading pulls the two of them were able to hold off the charging sprinters’ teams. The final technical turns worked to Oscar’s advantage and he gave his breakaway companion a quick lesson on American crit-style racing, punching through the tight cornered turns and galloping to the line for the win. Not only did Oscar take the stage victory, but the team also won the Team General Classification competition while helping Joey finish up in third overall.
The team’s first European racing campaign is off to a great start. The boys will be racing a Belgium Kermesse on Wednesday followed by a trip into France for the two day Paris-Ares race. Stay tuned...
In its 11th edition as an NRC ranked event, the Joe Martin Stage Race in Fayetteville, Arkansas has become one of the biggest stage races in the United States. The team had the race starred in the calendar, targeting it as one of the “big ones” to get some results in. And get results they did.
Stage One started the race off with a short time trial up a hill known as the "Devil's Den". If you wanted to be on the podium, you couldn’t get through the Devil’s Den without your legs and lungs feeling like they were on fire. From top to bottom it’s a two-and-a-half mile climb with a 6.8 percent average grade and the fastest riders were finishing the climb in just over 8 minutes. This meant you had to go at just under sprinting pace the entire time to be in contention.
Joey Rosskopf used his incredible power and high pain threshold to rocket up the climb with one of the fastest times of the day, finishing in 6th place, just 12 seconds behind the winner. The entire team rode well, placing 4th overall for the day in the team classification which put them in great position for the rest of the race.
Friday morning the team woke up to the sound of rain on the roof, a sound no pro cyclist likes to hear, especially on race day. Even though the guys had their Hincapie Sportswear Pacific Rainshells to keep them dry, the conditions make it tough for a long day in the saddle.
Rain can make the roads as slick as ice, preventing your brakes from effectively working and increasing your chances of a crash. It cuts your visibility to just a few feet in front of you making everyone ride a little nervously which uses up valuable energy. Worst of all, the rain causes a constant stream of water to be sprayed directly in your face from the riders’ wheels in front of you. After four or five hours of this, you can be mentally exhausted, but the Hincapie Devo riders didn’t let it get to them. Guided by Director Thomas Craven’s experience, the team planned to defend Joey’s position in the General Classification and also try to “relax” as much as possible in order to save their strength for stage three, where they had bigger battle plans to execute.
A small break went up the road early in the race, but the Hincapie boys were content to let the Optimum Health Team keep the break in check to defend their leader in the race. This strategy paid off when the break detonated as it hit a nine mile climb 80 miles in.
Having previewed the stage's tricky finale earlier in the week, the guys knew to be attentive at the end. Going from six lanes to a narrow road with several sharp turns could cause serious time gaps if you weren’t well positioned at the front. Oscar Clark lead the team through the nervous last miles and even came close to derailing some of the sprint trains forming at the front. His effort was enough to put the team in position to contest the sprint. Joe Lewis dashed to an impressive 4th place with Robin Carpenter right behind him for 8th place. Through teamwork they had gotten inches away from the podium while keeping Joey out of danger, who moved up to 5th place overall.
Saturday's four lap circuit race was the stage the team had planned to make their mark on. The team had pre-ridden the circuit in training and had discussed every possible scenario for the 23 mile course. Unless a top placed rider made it into a breakaway the plan was to wait for the last lap to make a move. That’s where the battle for the top GC spots would take place.
Early in the race an eight-rider breakaway formed off the front. The move quickly built up a lead of three minutes but again was slowly reeled back in by the Optimum Health Team determined to keep the race lead. Just when the break was about to be caught, the 5-Hour Energy Team decided to play their cards but putting in a ferocious attack going up a “kicker” climb on the final lap. Our boys were ready for it and Oscar Clark, Robin Carpenter, Andy Baker and Joe Lewis followed the attack, forming a group of 20 riders off the front. Having the advantage in numbers, the guys were determined to not let the charging field catch them. Oscar Clark and Andy Baker went to the front of the break and rode as hard as they could possibly go to keep the break away. Behind them the field was single file trying to catch back up to the break.
With three kilometers to go, overall contenders Francesco Mancebo and Chad Haga both realized the break was not coming back. As they rolled into another steep hill they both saw the opportunity to attack the dwindling field and catch up with the leaders. Joey had his eyes on both of them and followed them up the road to the break. At this point all the teams with riders in contention for the General Classification were represented in the breakaway and the chasing peloton lost its momentum. The breakaway was going to stay away until the finish.
With two kilometers to go Oscar Clark took a massive pull on the front and then rotated to the back. Behind him was Robin Carpenter. When Robin took his turn, the rider behind him couldn’t match Robin’s speed and a gap quickly opened up. Robin wasn’t about to wait on the group and took advantage of the small gap by drilling it until he crossed the finish line, in first place. He had won the stage and behind him Joe Lewis and Joey Rosskopf outsprinted their breakaway companions, giving the team first, second and third place on the stage. Not only did they sweep the podium, but their ride had earned Joe the Green Points Jersey, Robin the White Best Young Rider Jersey, and had moved Joey up to third overall in the general classification, just seven seconds behind the leader.
The final stage of Joe Martin was an 85 lap criterium in downtown Fayetteville. The team was on the hunt for any opportunity to help Joey get an advantage on the two riders in front of him. Team Optum, the team of GC leader Chad Haga, knew everyone would be on the lookout for opportunities to beat Chad.
A small break eventually formed and built a 20 second advantage. The Optum team rode on the front of the field the entire race, keeping the gap at a manageable distance and preventing other riders from escaping. By the final lap, the breakaway was caught. Our guys positioned themselves as best as possible as the sprint teams setup their leaders for the finish line at the top of a short steep hill. Once again the team showed its strength by placing four guys in the top 20.
At the final awards ceremony it was clear that our team was now a serious contender. The boys were awarded the overall team award, plus the Best Young Rider Jersey worn by Robin Carpenter. They had also placed Joey Rosskopf fourth on GC and Joe Lewis seventh. It was an amazing experience for the team and each rider left Fayetteville with their head high.
Up next they team will be taking a trip to Europe to compete in Fleche de Sud and Paris-Arres. They are now well armed with the confidence that they can compete at a high level of racing and that their strength as a team can win bike races. Watch out Europe!