The report from Super Week
By Jonas Carney, Prime Alliance Cycling Team
Editor’s note: Prime Alliance’s Jonas Carney will be checking in periodically from Super Week in Wisconsin. This is his first report.
Some people call it Super Week. Some people call it Stupid Week. I prefer Stupor Week. Nobody calls it the International Cycling Classic. Anyway, it’s happening again this year in the smarmy July heat of Wisconsin, just as it has for the last 33 years. Sixteen stages in 16 days, consisting of 11 criteriums and five road races.
Some racers, like Roberto Gaggioli, love this event and return year after year. Others detest having to do 100km criteriums almost every day for over two weeks, and thus avoid it like they would a romantic dinner with John Wordin.
The series has a casual feeling to it. For the pros, all the criteriums start in the evening and many of them end in the dark. The overall is determined on points and so you can race as much, or as little, as you like. Most racers stay with friends or host families in Milwaukee throughout the series. Milwaukee is a blast this time of year with endless festivals, street parties, live music, fireworks and the lakefront. I’m not going to mention any names, but rumors abound that some of the pros have even been known to drink beer!
Okay … the racing. Day one was the Otto Grunski criterium in Menasha. For Wisconsinites, the Grunski is a classic. Fourteen racers lapped the field about halfway through. Schroeder Iron and Saturn Development controlled it from that point and it came to a drag race between the fastest sprinters who had taken a lap. Viktor Rapinski, the young Russian Saturn Development rider who tied for second overall last year, took the win. He was followed by Australian Hilton Clark of Schroeder, and Dave McCook of Prime Alliance.
Viktor, a former world junior time trial champion, has already earned the nickname “The Russian Concussion” amongst his peers. When asked about the overall Super Week title, Viktor commented, “I want to win this race. Last year I was second, and this year I want to win.”
Day two was the Manitowoc criterium. The new course was dead flat and wide open. It was only the second event, and already guys were racing negatively for the overall. Fourteen days left and McCook already can’t go anywhere without everyone going berserk. At around the halfway point a five-man group powered away, consisting of Andrew Crater (Ofoto), Eddy Gragus (Sierra Nevada), a German guy from Germany, Ben Sharp (West Virginia-Gomart) and Hilton Clark (Schroeder). The field, and surprisingly Rapinski, never really responded. The break quickly disappeared and lapped the field with around 30 protecting and delivering Clark for the win and placing him in the leader’s jersey.
“I told the guys to just hold it together until 10 laps to go and I would win for sure,” Hilton explained. “I’m going for the overall. Jamie Paolinetti said he’d fly in for the last week to help if I’m in the jersey. So I’ll be calling him.”
Monday was the Alpine Valley Road Race. Probably the most difficult race of Super Week. There are several steep climbs per lap and course tends to have stiff crosswinds. Usually the race turns out to be a death-march tough-guy breakaway (a John Leiswyn-O-Rama mind you). Sprinters tend to sit this one out for that reason. And, for that reason, race organizer Otto Wenz has doubled the points for the road races. If you want to contest the overall you can’t sit out the road races anymore. To make a long story short, Viktor Rapinski crushed everyone. He attacked on lap one, was joined by a number of guys, then attacked again, and soloed in three minutes ahead of the break.
Stage four was the Burlington road race, held at the old MGA proving grounds. It’s a great opportunity to check the performance and durability of your rental car (not that we’d ever do that). It’s also a fantastic place to fire off your six-foot-long PVC potato gun. Ahhh memories…. Anyway, the race was another death march. Every local and regional rider seemed content to ruin the race for McCook, Robbie Ventura (US Postal Service) and myself. I couldn’t help but laugh every time Robbie would attack with his entourage. Following each attack the field would come to a complete stop and let just about anyone else roll up the road. Without teammates, we were all doomed. It seemed like it couldn’t get any worse until McCook became the first rider in Super Week history to be disqualified for a yellow line violation. An early break of around 10 formed, and was joined by a couple dudes who bridged from the chase group. With one lap remaining Andy Crater of Ofoto, Nieko Biskner of Saturn Development, and some German guy from Germany attacked the group. After almost 90 miles off the front in 90-degree heat, Crater unleashed the fury within, taking the three-up sprint. It was his 10th, and biggest, win of the year he gave all the credit to his Ofoto teammates.
The most amazing stunt of the day went to The Russian Concussion. After the halfway point it was obvious the race was over. The field would never close the three or four minutes to the break. So Viktor attacked alone, bridged the minute-and-a-half gap up to the chase group, dropped all those guys, and then soloed up to the break. It was so impressive that we wondered if he had some KGB agents motorpacing him on the backside of the course. Victor was back in yellow.
When I asked Hilton Clark about it after the race, he said, “My theory of him being tired after yesterday was … the wrong theory, I think.”
Four races down, and here is what I’ve gathered:
1. I should get the names of the German guys from Germany if I’m allowed to continue writing for Velonews.
2. It is painfully obvious that Ventura, McCook and I will not win any stages here unless we resort to evasive maneuvers. After discussing our options we’ve decided that we will start wearing disguises to confuse our respective entourages. We’ll probably cease shaving our legs, and wear novelty teeth, mullet wigs, and argyle dress socks. I’ve already called my dad to see if we have any Skid Lids in the basement.
3. There is some evidence to support the theory that Viktor Rapinski is not a human being … rather, a Cold War-era Russian experimental cyborg gone awry in the U.S. domestic cycling scene.
4. Milwaukee kicks ass and it’s time to go for a spin along the lakefront, drink a coffee, and waste some time with my friends. Then we’re off to Tom Schuler’s annual cookout to drink some frosty beverages, and snarf down some brats.