Words and Images by Shawn Lortie
(April 29, 2011) Tyrone, NM-The 16.15 mile Dan Potts Memorial Tyrone Time Trial course starts just south of Silver City and heads down the highway for just over 8 miles before it turns around and heads straight back to the finish line. There are two small climbs, and today the wind is back.
The Trek-LIVESTRONG team is tucked away behind the post office that’s situated in the parking lot at the start area. It’s out of the wind, so they can set up the trainers and get ready without getting blown around. Everybody seems in good spirits and hopeful for the day’s stage. Axel stands off a bit in the distance, surveying the scene. He’s a man of few words when he is working, but when he sees something that needs to be taken care of he steps in and makes it happen. Reed and Jen are pinning numbers, mixing drinks, and fitting the guys with their new TT helmets.
Reed has realistic expectations for the stage, talking about the wind and it’s effect on the smaller riders such as Joe Dombrowski and George Bennett. Hoping for Dombrowski and Bennett to hold onto their GC placings, and a top ten finish from Dale Parker, an individual pursuit and track specialist from Adelaide Australia, Reed had this to say, “The way we do it is to tell every guy to ride the TT like they are in the leaders jersey, so that way when they are in the leaders jersey one day there is no difference in expectations, they know how to ride it.” It seems the boys heed his advice.
The race began at 9:15 AM as the riders pulled hard out of the start and went right into a stiff headwind and a slight climb. The wind continued to increase as more racers headed out on the course. Some had full disc wheels while others rode deep dish rims. As riders started to return to the finish and times came in, it looked like the fastest times were around 36 minutes. The finish was a downhill roller with a tail wind, so big gears were a must as disc wheels roared and speeds reached somewhere in the neighborhood of 45 to 50 mph.
When Dale Parker came through the finish with a time of 34:39, the announcers were amazed. For a moment, they thought there might be some confusion of numbers or a mix up, but it was soon determined that Parker had just crushed all other times posted to that point. But Mancebo was still out on the course, and word had it he had passed his minute man on the way OUT to the turnaround. Parker waited for Mancebo to finish as the officials began the doping paperwork right there on the side of the road.
Mancebo came in with a time of 34:46, enough for a third place spot behind Parker, and Jeremy Vennell of Team Bissell with a time of 34:45. It was official, Dale Parker of The Trek-LIVESTRONG U23 team took first place, and took the Best Young Rider Jersey off his teammate Joe Dombrowski’s back. At least it’s all in the family, and it was obvious the whole team was pretty happy about Dale’s win and the Team’s performance so far.
Sitting on the curb next to Mancebo and Vennell, waiting for podium call-ups, Parker spoke to the multiple microphones stuck into his face. “It was a tough day and I went into it sitting somewhere around 20th in the GC. I’m only 18 so I came in here with out too much pressure on me and I expected these guys to smash my time. Congratulations to these guys, but today was my day and it is an honor to be next to these damn good riders.”
As the Gila goes on, these young riders continue to hold their own against the likes of seasoned racers like Francesco Mancebo, Tyler Wren, Ben Day, and Chris Baldwin, to name just a few. Each day more people are talking about the team and the mark they are making on the cycling scene. With the crit on Saturday, and the brutal Gila Monster Road Race on Sunday, there is still a lot of work for the team to do, but they have definitely given us a glimpse of the potential they have.