By Basil Moutsopoulos

[The young riders of CRCA-Sakonnet have been representing the club races large and small, locally but especially in national and even international events. Starting in 2006 Sakonnet is playing a special role as the club’s designated development team for under-25 riders. To give you some context on the team’s goals and future, here is some history of its growth and accomplishments — JT]

The Beginning: 2003

Our project to develop young talent began at the Lou Maltese Classic during the summer of 2003. The then Sakonnet-Larry & Jeff’s sub-team was running registration for the event and it seemed a good time to test the waters regarding adding a junior component to our team for the following season. After handing out many business cards to the racers and their chaperon parents we were dismayed to only have one call back.

However the rider that called back set us on the path that we are on today. That rider was Luis Perez and he would not give up. Since the response was virtually nil we had scuttled the idea of starting a junior program. Yet Luis would not take no for an answer — he kept calling until we relented and took him out for a ride. On his first outing it was unclear if he could ride for three hours, let alone do College Hills. Yet he did and did it on a bike that was more on the recreational side than on a bike fit for racing. He was so enthusiastic and eager that it reminded us of why we got into racing to begin with and although we didn’t know it at the time he became the first member of our U-25 program.

A month or so later another piece of the puzzle fell into place. We were at the Unionvale Road Race in Poughkeepsie and a young Lee Rosenthal road by yours truly. He was then riding for one of those mysterious sub-teams (Soho Capital) that we never saw in the Park. We had been looking for riders and the name Rosenthal kept popping up beginning in late May in the regional results on BikeReg. Who was this CRCA rider doing top 20s at big New England events? We never saw him in the park and so he was a mystery.

Until he rode by in a Soho Capital uniform that is. I asked him if he was Lee Rosenthal. He said yes. I said let’s talk after the race. Later that day I was dropped with one lap to go with another rider named Greg Abrahamson (who was doing his first Pro 1-2 race). Greg and I had plenty of time to chat and it turns out that he and Lee were both students at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado yet were from the New York area and were home for the summer. After the race we signed our second and third riders to our development team.

Two New Yorkers going to school in Durango was good but we needed more men. Where there more Northeast riders there? Turns out Lee and Greg were close friends with one Andy Guptill (upstate New York) and one Chris Kuhl (Pennsylvania) who were also in school at Fort Lewis. Riders four and five where on board. The sixth man on our original team was Robbie Giannini who was from Connecticut, going to school at Emory in Atlanta and recommend to us by Chris Rozdilsky (ex-Remax, ex-Sakonnet and now with Fiordifrutta).

Season One: 2004

Did we know this adventure was going to work? Absolutely not, it was a total gamble. To kick things off right we felt it important to bring these kids into the City so they could meet the powers that be at Sakonnet.

The credit for picking the location is given to the affable John Podesta. Our team launch party was held at Muse Karaoke and Sushi (26th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues –highly recommended) and it was a smash hit. Things started out slowly as you’d guess with a group of guys who didn’t know each other but after a bit you couldn’t pry the mic away from the kids. The highlight of the night would have to be Andy and Robbie’s duet of “In Da Club” by 50 Cent.

It was ridiculously fun and that’s how we kicked things off.

The season went by quickly and was very successful. Chris and Greg started things off by becoming part owners of the Cyclo-Cross Collegiate Team National Championship with Fort Lewis College. The team went to Ireland for ten days to race the FBD Milk Ras where Andy lead our GC hopes by finishing 21st and the team placed “in the money” the last five stages. We went to U-23 Nationals but where shut out, although Robbie came within 20 meters of soloing to the win in the Criterium only to be caught by a flying Tyler Farrar (then HealthNet, now with Cofidis). Rozdilsky captained the kids at the Tour of Ohio where we held 2nd in GC up until the penultimate stage. Andy had a top-20 ride in the Fitchburg Road Race and got a call from the US National Team. To cap things off Robbie was invited to the Tour of Taiwan as part of a Fuji composite team (Fuji was our bike supplier at the time).

All in all, our Category 2 Espoirs won five races (one each) and Luis, our original member, upgraded from Cat 5 to Cat 4.

Read “Season Two 2005 and Beyond” in next month’s CRCA Newsletter.