By Jason Sumner, VeloNews Associate Editor
The most telling moment at Friday’s espoir national road race championship didn’t happen on the road, but afterwards during the awards ceremony. With medals handed out and the champion’s jersey awarded, the five top finishers raised nine of their combined 10 hands in triumph. The lone exception was the left hand of second-place finisher Ian Dille, who refused to acknowledge the man to his left, race winner Mike Friedman.
According to Dille, Friedman had broken the code, cutting a deal out on the course, then reneging as the pair came to the finish line.
“After we got away, he told me not to attack again and I could have the win,” Dille recalled. “When we came up that last hill I was thinking about my victory salute and he came by me on my left. You just don’t do that. If he hadn’t said anything, it would have been a whole different race.”
Friedman denied the allegation, but did acknowledge a bit of wheel sucking during the race’s waning moments.
“I said if he stopped attacking he could win,” Friedman said. “Yeah, I sat on him for the last 5 or 6k. But hey if Ullrich can do it to Armstrong, I can do it to him. I didn’t make any deals.”
Whatever the case, it was Friedman crossing the line first, taking the win in the 18-lap, 183.6km race around a 10.2km circuit located 20 miles south of Gainesville, Florida, near the small rural town of Flemington. Friedman finished with a time of 4:31:19.
Dille and Friedman had been part of a chase group that had snared a 7-man breakaway midway through the race, bringing together a group of 24 riders that included players from all the major teams. From there assorted attacks were launched, until the lead group was pared down to 15. That bunch included Friedman (Mike Fraysse’s Sport Resort), Dille (Mercy Cycling), his teammate Patrick McCarty, eventual third-place finisher Ryan Miller (Prime Alliance), Mercury’s Jon Retseck, and Tim Reinhart (Saturn Development).
With three laps to go those 15 came through the start/finish together, and it looked like a sprint might decide the 2001 championship. But Dille, an admittedly poor sprinter, wanted no part of that, and charged off the front with a lap and a half to go. Several tried to follow, but Friedman was the only rider able to respond, and the pair had built a 42-second gap on three chasers when they came past the line to start the bell lap.
Leading the hunt for the two runaways were Retseck and Miller, but they had been marked men all day, and didn’t have enough left to close the gap on the final trip around the softly rolling course.
“Everyone was watching Miller and I, so when Dille and Friedman went everybody just looked at us,” Retseck explained. “I tried to bridge but just didn’t have enough left.”
Retseck wound up fading back to 13th, while Miller won the sprint for third, finishing 36 seconds back of Friedman. Matt Dubberley (Los Gatos Bicycle Racing Club) and Ian Stuart (CRCA-GS Mengoni) completed the top five.
Further back were many of the pre-race favorites. Thursday’s time trial winner, Michael Creed (Prime Alliance) was 33rd, and teammate Danny Pate was 72nd. Both eased up when they saw the race slipping away, possibly saving something for next weekend’s Saturn Cycling Challenge, the mountainous race from Boulder to Breckenridge in Colorado.
Last year’s race winner Brice Jones (Mercy Cycling) was 18th.
Competition continues in central Florida on Saturday with road races in eight junior age-group categories on the same course. The 17-18-year-old boys get things started at 8 a.m. They’ll do 10 laps. The 17-18-year-old girls will be the last to race Saturday, heading out at 1:09 p.m. to do seven laps.
Events conclude on Sunday with criterium races, which will be held on a racecar test track in nearby Fairbanks, Florida.
Check back to VeloNews.com all weekend for reports, results and photos.
USCF JUNIOR/ESPOIR NATIONAL ROAD CYCLING CHAMPIONSHIPS, Gainesville, FL. August 2-5.; Road race; Espoir men; 1. Mike Friedman, Mike Fraysse’s Sport Resort, 183.6km in 4:31:19; 2. Ian Dille, Mercy Cycling, s.t.; 3. Ryan Miller, Prime Alliance, at :36; 4. Matt Dubberley, LGBRC, s.t.; 5. Ian Stuart, YMCA-Sun & Ski, s.t.; 6. Tim Reinhart, Saturn Development, s.t.; 7. Mark Fitzgerald, Swamis Cycling, s.t.; 8. David Johnson, NetZero, s.t.; 9. Peter De Vore, Lombardi Sports-OFOTO; 10. Brad Buccambuso, Jelly Belly, s.t.