By Kip Mikler , VeloNews Editor
When Thursday afternoon’s Cannery Row Circuit Race came down to the last of 80 laps for the men, the safe bet was on a guy in green. With the Monterey Bay to their left, the John Steinbeck Building to their right, and gray clouds rolling above their heads, the Mercury train was in full effect in downtown Monterey. It’s a common scenario: Bell banging away, five Mercury men on the front.
Sure enough, less than one minute after the bell stopped clanging, that guy in green hit the Cannery Row finishing stretch with a gap that would get him through. But the Navigators wear a true green, not that sea-foam green. Chalk one up for the Russian rocket, because Vassiliy Davidenko scored a big one for the Navigators.
It wasn’t supposed to end like that. Held on a tight, really tight, 1km circuit (hacked down about 30 percent from last year’s circuit), this was, by all indications, a race made for finishers. Guys like, say, Gord Fraser of Mercury. Maybe even Frank McCormack of the on-form Saturn machine, Or, in the Navigators’ case, Todd Littlehales.
But give it up for the Navigators. This was no fluke. With 25 laps to go, the New Jersey-based squad took control, going to the front and staying there lap after lap. Yes, they were pushed aside by the mighty Mercury boys near the end, but that’s when Davidenko partnered up with fellow Russian Oleg Grischkine to take things into their own hands.
When Davidenko found out his man Littlehales was behind him, too deep to get around the likes of Mercury and a bunch of bully Belgians with the Lotto-Adecco team, he put the call into Grischkine. Who’s Grischkine? He’s a man with track experience, a man with sick speed. As Navigators’ team director Ed Beamon put it, he “basically rode everyone off his wheel.”
“I told [Grischkine] you have to go two turns before the finish,” Davidenko said. “I told him ‘Go, spend your maximum.’”
He spent it.
“The two Navigators guys passed us in the second-to-last corner,” explained Mercury’s Jamie Drew, who took little consolation in the fact that he finished fourth. “It took us by surprise.”
Even more surprising was the fact that Davidenko was even in the race at all when the bell was ringing for that final lap. Just 25km earlier he was sliding across the pavement, one of five riders who stacked it when a Mapei rider went down in turn two. It was a chaotic lap, made even more chaotic when an official crashed his motorcycle in turn three, trying to avoid riders coming out of the pit.
But somehow Davidenko got back in and gave his team a well-deserved win. The Division II outfit seems is always knocking on the door. And this time a couple of Russians just busted that door down.
U.S. Postal Service rider Levi Leipheimer, winner of the morning time trial, finished safely with the bunch to ensure that he has at least one night to cozy up to the yellow leader’s jersey.
In the women’s 40km crit, Saturn defended Anna Millward’s leader’s jersey, with Ina Teutenberg taking the win. For the German, it was the first step toward erasing the embarrassment of last week’s gaff at Redlands, when she threw her arms up a little early and took out two teammates in a finishing sprint.
At 8:30 p.m. Pacific time on Thurday, officials were still fumbling with results, but this much is certain: Leipheimer and Millward will have their work cut out for them in Friday’s decisive Fort Ord Road Races, in which the men will cover 126 miles, the women 84. The 21-mile course starts and finishes on the Laguna Seca Raceway, and will offer competitors scenic views and side-sticking pain as they climb approximately 2000 feet per lap. Tune in tomorrow for the story (and hopefully the results).
Stage 2, Cannery Row
1. Vassily Davidenko (Rus), Navigators, 77.6km in 1:49:16; 2. Gorik Gardeyn (B), Lotto-Adecco; 3. Baden Cooke (Aus), Mercury-Viatel; 4. Jamie Drew (Aus), Mercury-Viatel; 5. Wesley Van Speybrock (B), Lotto-Adecco; 6. Trent Klasna, Saturn; 7. Chris Horner, Mercury; 8. Todd Littlehales, Navigators; 9. Bilek Jaroslav (Cz), Wustenrot-ZVVZ; 10. Glenn D’Hollander (B), all s.t.
1. Ina Teutenberg (G), Saturn, 38.8km in 1:02:26; 2. Anna Millward (Aus), Saturn, s.t.; 3. Suzanne Sonye, Saturn, at :04; 4. Anke Erlank (SA), Saturn; 5. Gina Grain (Can), 800.com; 6. Laura Van Gilder, TalgoAmerica.com; 7. Jenny Eyerman, Jane Cosmetics; 8. Tina Mayolo, Autotrader.com; 9. Petra Rossner (G), Saturn; 10. Katrina Berger, 800.com, all s.t.
1. Levi Leipheimer, U.S. Postal Service, 2:28:05; 2. Chris Horner, Mercury, at 0:10; 3. Vladimir Miholjevic, KRKA-Telekom Slovenia (Slo), at :56; 4. Scott Moninger, Mercury, at :58; 5. Eddy Gragus, Jelly Belly, s.t.; 6. Michael Rogers (Aus), Mapei-Quick Step, at 1:03; 7. Jamie Drew (Aus), at 1:07; 8. Chris Fisher, Saturn, at 1:09; 9. Eric Wohlberg, Saturn, at 1:10; 10. Klasna, at 1:14.
1. Millward, 1:46:33; 2. Kimberly Bruckner, Saturn, at :44; 3. Kimberly Smith, Autotrader.com, at 1:45; 4. Judith Arndt (G), German National Team, at 2:02; 5. Sandy Espeseth (Can), at 2:50; 6. Erlank, at 3:06; 7. Ann Samplonious (Can), Intersports, at 3:10; 8. Catherine Cardwell, at 3:22; 9. Tina Mayolo, Autotrader.com, at 3:24; 10. Pamela Schuster, Autotrader.com, at 3:29.