By Sean McCann
A teammate might have been wearing the leader’s yellow jersey, but Volodymyr Starchyk knew he was the strongest at the Univest Grand Prix on Saturday.
The Ukrainian attacked a leading group of six — including his Amore & Vita-Detweiler Hershey & Associates teammate, German Philipp Mamos — on the last of 10 three-mile finishing circuits, then hung on to take the race victory and the overall title in the two-day UCI event.
“The team worked all day for me,” Starckyk said through an interpreter. “Even though Mamos was the yellow jersey, I was the one that was the strongest. They knew that I could win, so Mamos was almost like a decoy.”
Amore & Vita consolidated its team time trial win Friday in Allentown, placing Starchyk and Mamos on the top two steps of the overall podium, and Ukrainian sprinter Yuri Metlushenko in the points jersey.
Eighteen-year old Swede Patrik Stenberg (Team Cykelcity-Klehr Harrison) out-kicked Mamos for second in the road race and to claim the U-23 jersey. Mexican Bernardo Colex Tepoz (Tecos) spent most of the day off the front and topped both major climbs first for the climber’s jersey. And Bjorn Selander (Trek-Livestrong) outsprinted the rest of the chase to finish as the top American.
But in truth, Saturday was all about Starchyk and his squad.
“I couldn’t be more than happy than this,” said Roberto Gaggioli, Amore & Vita’s director sportif. “I knew he was the best in shape, because right now he’s training to do the world championship in Medrisio, and he just won the Ukranian national championship.”
Another messy day
After monsoon-like conditions plagued the TTT, the peloton was hoping for a better day Saturday but hardly got it.
The field suffered two crashes in the opening few miles, resulting in a restart of the race out on the road, and a nervous early going. Things didn’t settle down until a three-rider break slipped away just before the day’s steepest climb, the Eichle Hill.
Tepoz attacked breakmates Adrian Hegvary (Hagens-Berman Elite) and Peter Horn (Cycling Center-JBCA) to the top of the climb, and Micahel Olheiser (warp9bikes-Tristar) bridged up after the summit. The quartet then built a lead of more than 90 seconds, threatening Amora & Vita’s grip on the overall.
“I called them on the radio and said, ‘If we don’t go to the front, nobody’s going to chase them,’” Gaggioli said. “’It’s going to take us to go and do the job.’”
The break was stubborn enough to hold the lead until the race returned to Souderton for the 10 finishing circuits. Tepoz, sensing the catch, slipped away just before town and rode alone until a group of six jumped up to join him with six laps to go.
That group, including Starchyk and Mamos, tantalized the peloton for the rest of the race, never leading by more than 17 seconds, and never faltering.
One big move
Starchyk, who took long pulls in the middle of every lap, was clearly the strongest of that final selection, which also included Matthew Busche (Kelly Benefit Strategies), Jonathan McCarthy (OUCH-Maxxis), and David Boily (Team Quebec). Midway through the final circuit, he made a dig to strike a six-second gap, then pulled hard all the way to the line, barely holding off the sprint from behind.
“I didn’t have so much power, so I couldn’t go on, couldn’t follow, so I was hoping the other guys could bring (Starchyk) back,” Stenberg said. “It was close in the finish. He was strong, he was one of the guys who was strong the whole race.”
Gaggioli said he really didn’t care which of his leaders came across first, so long as one of them did.
“There were two (riders), and I said, ‘You’ve got to try one at a time,’” he said. “I did want the finish by ourselves. I didn’t want the sprint.”
With the stage race over, the Univest Grand Prix concludes Sunday with a criterium in Doylestown. Amore & Vita has a chance to sweep the weekend’s events, bringing Metlushenko as the defending criterium champion.