The Can-Am U19 Challenge is a rare junior-only stage race. Held in the northeast corner of New Jersey, the field is generally large and far-flung, with riders trooping down from New England and up from the Southeast. This year’s 17-18 age group was dominated by Zack Allision, a 17-year old from the Washington DC based National Capital Velo Club, who pulled into the lead in the stage two criterium and then handily won the field sprint in the third stage circuit race.
CRCA JrDev’s Connor Sallee was on the podium from stage one, with a third place ride in the opening four-mile uphill time trial. The stage race overall was based on points, rather than time, and Connor’s position would be constantly under threat by a bevy of superior field sprinters, all of whom were in the middle of the top twenty, but still in the points. Strong rides in the TT by Lewis Almonte -in 9th- and Ian Harris -in 11th, provided some buffer for Connor, who’s dangermen were primarily Daniel Sullivan (Metra-Wendy’s) in 12th and Filip Capala (Capala Bros) in 10th. The team also had strong rides from Evan Cooper (15th) Graham Lang (17th) and Ryan Storm (20th). Neophytes Liam Quigley (27th) and Khary Ward (34th) rode very respectably in their first ever race against the clock.
Going into the second stage criterium CRCA JrDev’s objective was to make the race as hard as possible for the resident sprinters in the field with the goal of popping Connor or Lewis off the front in the final laps. Unfortunately the already-too-short criterium was trimmed to a mere 20 miles due to a delay clearing an earlier accident off the course. Ian Harris, Ryan Storm, Graham Lang and Evan Cooper exchanged repeated attacks. There was a CRCA rider off the front for most of the race. Ian Harris had a perticularly remarkable ride, either sitting five seconds ahead of the field or in lantern rouge position. He was rewarded for his efforts with the race’s only merchandise prime.
Despite CRCA JrDev’s best efforts the race came down to a field sprint, captured by Daniel Sullivan. Connor moved into second on GC with a strong seventh place. Ryan, was 10th, Evan 13th and Lewis 15th.
Sunday’s third stage circuit race was also dramatically shortened for the 17-18 year-old field, and again the “field softening” strategy did not have enough time to gain traction. Lewis Almonte won this stage last year, and we were hoping for a repeat, which didn’t happen. The team was impressive nonetheless. Ryan Storm opened up hostilities almost from the gun, and Ian Harris and Graham Lang provided worthy counter attacks. Ian found himself accompanied by Kyle Foley of ACT midway through the race and the two hammered out a fifteen second advantage, the largest lead of the day. Things fell apart for Ian after he made a successful bid for the stage’s only time-bonus prime, and lost Foley to a counter attack. Evan Cooper was in the process of bridging to the two and in a moment’s inattention Ian found himself on the deck as Evan joined up to bring Foley back. Remarkably it was the team’s only crash of the weekend.
With Foley back to the fold the race lost momentum as the riders seemed resigned to another field sprint. Connor, Lewis, Evan and Ryan were all prominent in the final kilometer but came into the last turn just a bit too far back to contest the win, finishing 7th, 9th, 10th, and 15th respectively.
Results-wise the weekend was successful, but more importantly each rider achieved specific process goals and overall the team took a huge step in learning to ride as a collective. This was the first weekend that the team dynamic was able to gel and a real effort was made to strategize as a squad.
Liam Quigley had the unenviable task of riding his first stage race, time trial and criterium with a pinched nerve and a head cold. All the same Liam’s innate climbing ability shined through in the time trial, but the rest of the race was a study in hanging on as long as possible.
Khary Ward has all the makings of a criterium specialist, and none of the technique. Like Liam this weekend was also his first stage race, time trial and criterium. Khary’s improvement between Saturday and Sunday was substantial. Ward suffered at the back of the stage two criterium but hung on impressively for 3/4’s of the race, In stage three he finished with the field, a minor victory in and of itself. In the process Khary earned a bit of a reputation as the team wrecking-crew, all the while masterfully holding himself upright through a series of equipment-chewing misadventures. The tally so far: one rear-derailleur, a quick-release skewer and some spokes.
2007 CanAm U19 Challenge Final GC:
1. Zack Allison, NCVC Inova Health Systems
2. Daniel Sullivan, Team Metra/Wendy’s/Ideal Tile
3. Filip Capala, Capala Brothers/Polska
4. Connor Sallee CRCAJrDev/Orbea
5. Nikolai Masluk 3D Racing Team/Tom’s Atlantic Cyclery
12. Lewis Almonte, CRCAJrDev/Orbea
17. Evan Cooper, CRCAJrDev/Orbea
19. Ian Harris, CRCAJrDev/Orbea
21. Ryan Storm, CRCAJrDev/Orbea
22. Graham Lang, CRCAJrDev/Orbea
26. Liam Quigley, CRCAJrDev/Orbea
34. Khary Ward, CRCAJrDev/Orbea