What's Cool In Road Cycling

First Union Philadelphia – Navigators’ Walters Wins

– Reported by Navigators Cycling Team – HACKETTSTOWN, NJ, June 10, 2002

The third and most important event of the First Union week of racing proved to be the charm for the Navigators squad. After 156-miles of racing,
Navigators’ Mark Walters took a 3-man sprint to secure victory in the most important race in the United States. The 18th edition of this race was held yesterday in Philadelphia, the “City of Brotherly Love.” For the 18th
year, the race organizers again ordered up a day of perfect weather complete with sunshine and warm temperatures. The Navigators team was very confident in their chances of taking the win as they posted strong
individual and team performances in the two lead-up races in Lancaster and Trenton, earlier in the week. The Navigators men in blue had several riders with the capabilities of winning this important event, winning the
USPRO National Champion Jersey (awarded to the highest placed American rider), or taking both titles. With this many weapons in their ranks, including Olympic Sprint Champion turned roadie: Marty Nothstein,the race was wide open for a great result from the team.

The race started out with a fast pace that covered 52.6 miles in the first two hours of racing. The action began early as the peloton split on the first climb up the Manayunk Wall and about 30 riders were clear as they
raced down the “fall from the wall” and onto Kelly Drive. In the break, Navigators was well represented with five riders and most of the larger teams had good representation as well, except for U.S. Postal, which only had sprinter Robbie Ventura. Over the next couple of laps as the gap began to grow, US Postal massed their team at the front and began to reel in the
break as it contained many of the favorites except for George Hincapie, US Postal’s main contender for the USPRO title. Once this break was neutralized, two riders attacked and broke the grip of the peloton; Eugene Wacker (MROZ) and Glen D’Hollander (Lotto) rode together for two laps before being joined by 4 others; Scott Moninger (Mercury), Russ Stevenson
(Prime Alliance), Dylan Casey (US Postal) and Soren Peterson (Saturn). The six extended their lead over the next two laps to almost 3-minutes with only 3 more ascents of The Wall remaining.. Although it wasn’t a breakaway that normally would have the horsepower to go the distance, Navigators’ Director Ed Beamon decided that there was enough dis-interest in the
peloton to make it a dangerous move. He rallied the men in blue and with their typical drive, brought the 3-minute gap down in 1 and-a-half laps. Unfortunately, it cost the team several of its stronger riders,
including Nothstein who had already won one of the race’s lucrative premes in an effort that was characterized by the announcer as “just cruising away
from the other sprinters.” Marty’s transition from Olympic Sprinter to endurance road racer has now been validated with a huge leap forward as he raced selflessly for his team over a distance that is longer than most North American races.

The competitors had now raced well past the 100-mile mark and the field was now back to square one with all of the major contenders sitting in the group, protected by their teammates. On the 8th trip up the wall, a group
of 40 split off and the Navigators squad was again well represented. It was now obvious that the race had begun in earnest. The intact group entered Manayunk for the 10th and final climb up the wall. As in the past,
the final ascent proved critical and only 13 riders made it over the top in the front group, including 3 members of the US Postal squad. Although the Navigators had Mark Walters and Kirk O’Bee in the mix, an inopportune
puncture caused sprinter Oleg Grichkine to lose his position in the front group as the climb was tackled, leaving Navigators and the other teams at a
disadvantage. The 13 raced down Kelly Drive and onto the Ben Franklin Parkway for the final 3-laps of the circuit that included Lemon Hill. The attacks now came as frequently as the chases and counter-attacks. With one 3.3-mile lap remaining, Mark Walters made an escape attempt that was soon neutralized by the US Postal team, in support of their leader Hincapie. As
the leaders raced up Lemon Hill, an attack by Danny Pate (Prime Alliance) drew a response by Chann McRae (US Postal), in defense of teammate Hincapie. With quick thinking, Walters saw that all eyes were now on pre-race favorite Hincapie, so he attacked on his own in hot pursuit of the two leaders. Mark bridged across to the speeding duo on the inbound side
of the Ben Franklin Parkway and made contact before they reached Logan Circle. With Pate driving the break, the sprint was now between Walters and McRae. McRae jumped first but Walters had the speed and power and was able to squeeze past on the inside, next to the barriers. With a very emotional victory salute, Mark took home the top honors in his Maple Leaf
jersey, as the reining Canadian National Champion. McRae finished 2nd and Pate held on for 3rd. Chann McRae will now be the owner of the U.S. National Road Champion’s jersey. Kirk O’Bee finished in 11th position
following a strong ride. After the race, Walters was quick to thank his teammates for their support and efforts during the race. Walters stated, “Although I crossed the line in first place, this win is a win for the
team, and for all of us.”

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