By Daniel McMahon
After 50 miles of sultry crit racing around Marcus Garvey Park in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City on Sunday, German was lingua franca of the podium as two European six-day riders, Christian Grasmann and Leif Lampater, both riding for TransAlt.org p/b Rockstar Games, finished 1-2, respectively, after their day-long break stayed clear of a field of 100-plus professional and elite-amateur riders.
Because of a sudden rainstorm, the women’s race had to be shortened to just under 12 miles, but in the end it didn’t seem to matter as Laura Van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom) handily won the two-up sprint to take the honors ahead of Laura McCaughey (Salamander).
Van Gilder makes it look easy
The women rolled out under a punishing sun as temps approached 90 degrees F, and if the thick humidity in the Big Apple wasn’t enough, not long into the race the skies opened up and wreaked havoc on the 50 or so starters. About mid-race, a crash caused a split in the main field as riders vied for position in the infamously treacherous turn one.
With the remaining contenders closely marking one another, no breaks could stick, and in the finish it was Van Gilder and Laura McCaughey going head to head in a two-up sprint just ahead of a group of eight riders, with Van Gilder taking top honors in the drizzly dash for the line.
In men’s race, a suicide breakaway survives
In the day’s main event, the men’s pro/1/2 50-mile criterium, the streets were still slick when the 100 or so riders toed the start line, and that gave Germany’s Christian Grasmann (TransAlt.org p/b Rockstar Games) the idea to try to get away early to take advantage of a hesitant peloton.
Sure enough, on lap 4 the lanky six-day champion took a flyer and was soon on his own with 15 seconds ahead of a cruising pack. To most everyone watching, Grasmann’s attack seemed foolhardy, as there were some 50 laps of racing still to go in the energy-sapping hot conditions. Yet the main pack appeared content to roll along comfortably enough behind, with no serious organization threatening the lone German.
A few laps on, Grasmann’s teammate, Leif Lampater, jumped hard out of the main field, and Grasmann slowed just enough to let Lampater catch his wheel. Then it was down to business, and the duo motored in perfect unison, drawing on their deep track-racing experience, first gaining five, then 10, then 15 seconds, until their advantage hovered a comfortable 30 seconds ahead of the still-complacent peloton.
Even with the sun back out and the streets dry, there were no strong enough teams in attendance, and thus it was largely a chaotic, badly organized chase for the next hour and a half or so on behalf of the main field.
The only time the German duo’s lead appeared even remotely threatened was on two laps that each featured $1,000 field primes, one of which was won by a sprinting Lanell Rockmore (Bahati Foundation).
As the laps ticked by, the main instigators included Daniel Zmolik (AXA) and Euri Madera (CRCA/Foundation), but the pack could fire off only one or two riders at a time and failed to organize itself well enough to close the Germans’ solid half-minute advantage.
As the race was hotting up with two laps to go, a crash at the head of the pack brought down a number of the main field sprinters, including team Mountain Kahkis’ Neil Bezdek and CRCA/Foundation’s Lisban Quintero, recent winner of Base Camp International.
Down the homestretch, Grasmann and Lampater had plenty of time to raise their arms in tandem and ride in easily for the win, with Grasmann’s wheel crossing the line for first. Melito Heredia (Innovation Bike) and Guido Palma (Jamis Sutter Home p/b Colavita) managed to separate themselves from the pack enough to take third and fourth ahead of a bunch-sprint-winning Walter Perez (TransAlt.org p/b Rockstar Games).
“It was really hard out there, especially once the roads dried out,” Grasmann said. “But Lief and I do the six-days together, so there is no need for us to talk. We know each other that well. It’s my first time racing in Harlem, and it was perfect: the organization of it, the spectators and crowds. Just really amazing to win here.”
“To win in Manhattan, well, it’s amazing,” the German added. “I’m from a village of 3,000, and we’ve got more cows than people. Then I come here and see the skyscrapers. My mouth just hangs open and I enjoy every day, every hour that I’m here.”
- 1. Laura Van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom)
- 2. Laura McCaughey (Salamander)
- 3. Kimberly Edwards (CVC/Subaru of New England)
- 1. Christian Grasmann (TransAlt.org p/b Rockstar Games)
- 2. Leif Lampater (TransAlt.org p/b Rockstar Games)
- 3. Melito Heredia (Innovation Bike)