What's Cool In Road Cycling

Charles Dionne’s San Francisco Shocker

The second annual San Francisco Grand Prix was the scene of a huge upset today, 22 year-old Charles Dionne of the 7-Up/Nutra Fig team, the smallest team in this year’s race, won the small group sprint to take the finest result of an already impressive career. Dionne was part of a seven man break that formed late in the race including one of the most popular athletes in the world, Lance Armstrong.

An early morning start ensured that the large field began under the typical foggy chill of the San Francisco waterfront. Nearly half a million fans lined the course that wound through the city’s downtown and covered 110 miles, reduced from the 125 miles that were covered in last year’s edition. “It was incredible, I’ve never seen so many people along a climb before”, said the Acqua & Sapone rider Massimo Giunti, third today. Added Mercury’s Henk Vogels, “I could feel the road vibrate as we rode up Fillmore street… it must have been 100 degrees, but I had goose bumps all over my body!”

The entire race was characterized by break-aways with an early move going clear during the opening parade laps on the Embaracadero street. The composition of the break would continually change during the next few hours as the field began tackling 5 laps of the large loop that included the 18% Fillmore St. climb. The break, which included Trent Klasna, Harm Jansen, Chann McRae, Floyd Landis, and others, would gain a maximum advantage of over 2 minutes, eventually being reeled in by a massive amount of work done by US Postal’s Viatchislav Ekimov with 6 laps to go. One the next lap, the last to include the Fillmore St climb, defending champion George Hincapie went away solo and would stay away for the next three laps, earning him the King of the Mountains competition.

With three laps the decisive split occurred behind the courageous Hincapie, a group of seven riders went clear, US Postal’s Lance Armstrong and Viatchislav Ekimov, Mercury’s Henk Vogels, Tom Leaper of the Navigators squad, Massimo Giunti representing the Italian Acqua & Sapone team, Will Frishkorn of Saturn, and the underdog from 7-up/Nutra Fig, Charles Dionne. This group would catch and drop the tiring Hincapie who would later ride in for 15th place.

“The final time up the climb (of Taylor St.) Ekimov attacked strongly – explained Giunti to PezCyclingnews.com – Dionne bridged first, then I did as well. Armstrong recovered and we all came back together to contest the sprint where I was third.” In the final kilometers Armstrong launched a vicious attack that was marked by the strong Dionne, then the inevitable counter attack came from his teammate Ekimov, which would prove to be fruitless. In the seven man sprint, Dionne narrowly edged out the Australian Vogels and Giunti. Ekimov, Leaper, Amrstrong, and Frishkorn rounded out the top seven.

“I had two punctures on the back side of the course today – said a visibly tired Vogels during the post-race press conference – my rear wheel wasn’t working well… I wanted the twelve for the head wind sprint, but it slipped into the eleven.” And the course? “This should be a World Cup event, although they’d have to add 80 km, which would make it very difficult. Another 200 meters today and I would have curled up into a fetal position”.

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