Saturday, May 2, 2009

Rathe Report: The streets of Hoboken

(Oregon juniors Jacob Rathe, Austin Arguello and Ian Boswell are currently in Europe with the USA Cycling Junior National Team, which just completed the Grand Prix Hoboken in Belgium. Rathe sent Cycling Action this report).

HOBOKEN, Belgium -- A typical race in Belgium: crappy roads, small roads, narrow roads, road furniture, lots of corners and more crappy roads. The race featured a total elevation gain of almost 300 feet in 116 kilometers, and more than 30 90+ degree corners in 50k.

It's been my first race in over two weeks due to an ear infection, I wasn’t expecting much but needed a good race under me for next week's Course de la Paix in the Czech Republic.

Thirty-three teams with a total of 196 riders lined up. We started in the city of Hoboken, did two 50 kilometer loops, then finished with two circuits around the town.

A break of three got away 20k into the race. They were joined not soon after by four more, including U.S. rider Andrew Barker. At the end of the first lap I made my way up to the break with four other riders. The break was now 12. Then more came up. Then it was 25. The group was more of a selection rather than a breakaway.

My only teammate in the group, Andrew, flatted on the second lap, and I was the only U.S. rider there until another teammate, Ryan Eastman, came up with another 10 riders. At the same time three riders sneaked off the front just as we got to the finishing circuits. They got out of sight, and I spent a lap trying to bridge up with another Belgian but couldn’t make it before getting swallowed up by the lead pack.

The finishing circuit was somewhat ridiculous, with several 90+ degree corners every kilometer and a cobble stone section that was scary to look at. From a big road, we turned onto a small road that turned to cobbles. Fifty meters later it opened up into somewhat of a field of cobbles, with train tracks and a sharp bend onto an uphill highway overpass. The train tracks weren’t even nice train tracks; rising above the cobbles and worthy of a good bunny hop.

There was no organized chase, but rather a constant barrage of attacks. Eventually five more riders got away to the lead group that grew to eight. I tried but had no more bullets left. We got caught by another group on the last lap, containing another teammate, Charlie Avis. I was destroyed, and he looked like he still had some hop in his legs so I told him I’d lead him out for the sprint. I led the last 1.5k through the town only to get swarmed with 200 meters to go.

Charlie ended up in 17th, Ryan in 28th, me in 29th. Austin came in not soon after in 41st, and all other U.S. riders finished in the top 100. We were 6th in team GC.

It wasn’t a great race for us, but not bad.

The Course de la Paix (Peace Race) starts on Wednesday. It's five days long with lots of climbing. Nations Cup-only national teams will be there, but the race is probably better suited to our strengths as a team.

VeloNews reporter Fred Dreier has been in Europe and spent some time with the Junior team. Read his report HERE.