September 12/04 5:16 am - T-Mobile International: Team Navigators report
Posted by Editoress on 09/12/04
T-Mobile International San Francisco
Courtesy Navigators Insurance Cycling Team
The 2004 edition of the 108-mile T-Mobile International held on the mean streets of San Francisco is now history, wit Charles Dionne (Webcor) taking his second victory in this event (he also won in 2002). After rolling through the start/finish area for 3 parade laps, the race headed into the steep hills that the City By The Bay is well known for.
With 9 circuits of an 8.1-mile course that features both the famous Fillmore Street and Taylor Street climbs. Although only rising 250-feet and 150-feet respectively, the two climbs generate significant anguish as the grades hit 18%, and are so steep that the sidewalks are actually stairs. The racing action began on the first large lap when 14 riders escaped the peloton and began to drive the race. The HealthNet squad was the instigators and placed 5 of their 8-man squad in the mix. Navigators Insurance had strongman Jeff Louder keeping an eye on the early move.
With HealthNet doing the bulk of the work, the gap to the main field continued to increase over the distance, until it was hovering at 4-minutes. Several failed attacks from the field was proof that the rest of the racers weren't content to wait it out, but take a stab at getting the pace up, or bridging across. With only 1 of the long laps and 5 of the shorter 5-mile laps remaining, the race exploded into pieces. The breakaway was attacked by Jason McCartney (HealthNet) and simultaneous attacks came from the field. Over the next 2 laps of the circuit that eliminated the Fillmore Street climb, the race began to take shape.
McCartney was out in front by 1-minute, using the same tactic that earned him a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team, followed by several individuals, and the main chase group of 12, a further 3-minutes back. The select group of chasers contained most of the pre-race favorites in addition to the strongest riders on today's course. Kirk O'Bee and Chris Baldwin were representing the Navigators Insurance squad, and things were looking up for the pair. The chase began to close the gap as the leaders began to run out of steam on the tough and unforgiving course. Over the next 2 laps, the gaps were dropping fast, and McCartney was the last man to hold off the speeding group. He held on to his lead until the final ascent of Taylor Street.
The final lap became a slugfest with Dionne taking the first punch. With incredible speed, he attacked the climb and crested the hill alone and drove down the other side toward the finish on the Embarcadero. His timing proved perfect as U.S. National Champion Freddy Rodriguez (Acqua & Sapone) was the only rider able to respond. Over the final 3-miles, Freddy pursued Dionne but was unable to close the gap. At the line, it was Dionne followed by Rodriguez, with the sprint for 3rd place coming in behind. The final podium spot was earned by George Hincapie (US Postal Service), with Navigators' Kirk O'Bee just behind in 5th.