By Ryan Newill , VeloNews correspondent
When temperatures in Arlington, Virginia had reached 80 degrees at 9 a.m. on Sunday morning, the professional cyclists gathered for the fifth edition of the Clarendon Cup knew they were in for a tough day. Undaunted, racers made a hot, windy summer day even harder on themselves as strong fields in the men’s and women’s events came out punching. German Ina Teutenburg (Saturn) and Russian Vassili Davidenko (Navigators) emerged from the fray to take the top podium spots.
Few of the locals had forgotten last year’s spectacle in the women’s race, when Teutenberg went away early and lapped the field twice on the twisty .6km course. If the crowd had managed to forget that show of strength, they got a reminder this year when Teutenberg took flight with 40 laps to go.
Recognizing a dangerous break when she saw one, Tania Duff-Miller (Freddy Fu) bridged to Teutenberg, followed closely by Kristy Scrymgeour. The three worked together for several laps to increase the gap before Scrymgeour bid farewell to Teutenberg and dropped back to the field. A lap later, as Duff-Miller pulled through on the front stretch, Teutenberg accelerated through on the left, and remained solo through her finish some 30 seconds clear of the field.
While the remainder of the women’s field seemed to have resolved itself to a bunch finish after a strong but unsuccessful chase by Diet Rite, Freddy Fu’s Charmain Breon decided on a ‘nothing to lose’ strategy. She jumped off the front with 4 laps to go, and dangled there with a 5 second gap. This proved a beautifully timed move, as Breon sprinted down the front stretch and hit the line just inches ahead of Diet Rite’s Tina Mayolo-Pic and the rest of the charging field.
Temperatures hit 90 degrees just in time for the start of the 100km men’s event, slated to begin at high noon. With all of the major teams save U.S. Postal represented, it seemed unlikely to come down to anything but a field sprint.
Ultimately, however, it did. The remarkable part was how little of the field was left as the heat, the humidity and the pace all took their toll.
Mike Tillman, a U.S. track team member recently brought on for road season by Schroeder Iron, provided the early action with 77 laps to go. Charles Dionne (7-Up/Nutra Fig) set off in solo pursuit, starting a chain of chases and bridges that would lead to the winning “break.”
Several laps later, a large group that included several of the race’s heavy hitters, including U.S. Criterium champion Kirk O’Bee (Navigators), Chris Horner (Prime Alliance) and Chris Wherry (Mercury), had picked up Dionne and set off in pursuit of Tillman. More reinforcements came from the back, as all of the race favorites bridged up to produce a 30-odd group that would ultimately catch Tillman and lap the rest of the field with 42 laps remaining.
With all of the heavy favorites a lap up — and reunited with waiting teammates in the field — the Clarendon crowd was treated to a textbook show of team cat-and-mouse. Prime Alliance, 7-Up-Nutra Fig, Mercury, Saturn and Navigators all clustered near the front to keep the pace high and prevent the wrong combinations from getting by.
Wherry proved the exception when, following a brief excursion by teammate Mike Sayers, he jumped away alone with 9 laps remaining. His gap grew to 17 seconds with 5 laps to go, but began to come down as fatigue set in. Wherry was caught with 2 laps remaining, but the chase had taken its toll. Of the original field of 169 riders, a group of less than 20 remained to fight it out in the sprint.
Coming out of the last corner, Davidenko was clearly not going to be denied the win he narrowly missed in the Tour of Somerville last week. He narrowly edged Prime Alliance’s 2000 Clarendon Cup winner Dave McCook, who had taken over lead sprinter duties on a moment’s notice when frontman Jonas Carney went down just one turn unfortunate after the expiration of the free lap rule.
Dionne followed through on his strong earlier ride to finish third, followed by teammates John Lieswyn and Greg Henderson in fourth and fifth and giving the 7-Up-Nutra Fig team high hopes for the big First Union week to come.
Clarendon Cup; Arlington, VA, June 2;;
Pro men:;; 1. Vassili Davidenko (Rus), Navigators, 100km in 2:10:00; 2. David McCook, Prime Alliance; 3. Charles Dionne (Can), 7UP-Nutra Fig; 4. John Lieswyn, 7UP-Nutra Fig ; 5. Greg Henderson, 7UP-Nutra Fig; 6. Chad Gerlach, Sierra Nevada; 7. Henk Vogels, (Aus), Mercury; 8. Danny Pate, Prime Alliance; 9. Chris Horner, Prime Alliance; 10. Graeme Miller (Aus), Mercury, all s.t.;;
Women’s 1, 2, 3:;;
1. Ina Teutenburg (G), Saturn, 50km in 1:18:00, 2. Charmain Breon, Freddie Fu, at :30; 3. Tina Mayolo-Pic, Diet Rite; 4. Tania Duff-Miller, Freddy Fu; 5. Becky Conzelman, Freddy Fu; all s.t.