Team Sixcycle-RK&O has enjoyed a successful start to the 2013 Bethel Spring Series, bringing a strong roster of riders to each of the first three races in the series. Racing aggressively the team has put three different riders on the podium in each of the first three races - Ben Fackler taking third in a break in the Ronde de Bethel, Roger Parmelee taking second in the Ris Van Bethel and this weekend Matthew Vandivort taking a solo win in Tour de Kirche. This team effort has put Matthew Vandivort in the leader's jersey and has put Team Sixcycle-RK&O in the lead of the team competition series.
Tour de Kirche Race Report from Team Sixcycle-RK&O's Matthew Vandivort
The third race in the Bethel Spring Series started much like the prior two Sundays spent at racing around Francis J Clarke Circle - we lined up with a strong compliment of riders and the intent to attack aggressively. Despite our best efforts to force a decisive break at Ris Van Bethel the previous Sunday, the field had stayed together. And while we scored a strong second place result on that day via Roger Parmelee in the field sprint, for the Tour de Kirche we were gunning for a break to stick.
With that in mind we went aggressively from the start of the race, sending riders up the road throughout the race's early stages. Ben Fackler got off the front on more than one occasion, as did Michael Nelson and several of our other riders. Every Sixcycle-RK&O rider in the race either spent time on the front or off it in a break.
However with the field relatively fresh and a strong headwind on the back stretch, these breaks were kept on a short leash. Along with my teammates I put in several digs off the front, but more often than not I found myself alone on the back stretch, getting blasted by the brutal Bethel headwind before getting pulled back into the bunch.
My legs weren't feeling great at the mid-way point in the race but thankfully with teammates constantly going up the road, I was able to spend several laps in the relative security of the pack, letting other teams do the chasing. At one point in the last third of the race a break of eight or nine riders got up the road, including three Sixcycle-RK&O riders. For a moment it looked like our efforts to force a break would succeed. However just as the rubberband between the field and the break looked like it would snap, the yellow jersey put in a big effort, sufficient to bring the break back to within reach of the field, at which point it was swallowed by the peloton.
The next few laps passed as a blur of attack / counter-attack, until with seven laps to go the field chased down yet another break with a teammate in it on the back stretch. As the peloton came back together on the finishing kicker to see 6 laps to go, Michael Hughes from Rapha put in a counter-attack up the climb and I went with him. Cresting with a gap to the pack, we pressed our luck and started trading pulls on the back stretch. At some point we were joined by Aaron Katin of BH Comedy Central.
From here the race became a blur. Shortly after seeing five laps to go I put in a long pull. As the headwind pounded me on the backstretch, I looked back to see a gap to my former breakaway companions. With two of our sprinters, Roger Parmelee and Rsun Smith sitting in the field, I decided to roll the dice and push my advantage. Putting in another dig around the back stretch and up the finishing climb, I saw four laps to go, not bothering to look back to measure the impact of my effort.
However by the time I went around the next corner I looked back and saw nothing but empty road - the field was out of sight. Determined to build my cushion over the field, the next two laps were the hardest of the race. Head down the entire back stretch, doing my best to hide from the onslaught of the headwind I kept turning over the pedals, glancing back in each corner expecting to see the onrushing field but instead seeing nothing but empty road.
As a rider whose on the bike successes have come out of field sprints rather than breakaways, it was an odd feeling being on the road all alone, unaware of how much cushion I had to the field behind me, the entire time thinking of how much longer I had to keep ticking the pedals over to stay away. Three laps to go.
With each lap it was a relief to come through the finishing stretch each lap and hear the cheers of the spectators (particularly the Asphalt Green women). Coming around to get two laps to go someone screamed out that the gap was 50 seconds. While I should have been relieved at the scale of the gap, I was more concerned about whether I could maintain my pace for the final two laps. But as each corner ticked away, the view behind me remained nothing more than empty road.
By the time I received the bell for the final lap my legs were flooded with lactic acid and screaming for the effort to end. The lap felt like an eternity, however as I came around the final turn and approaching the finishing climb I looked back and saw I still had a sizeable gap to the field, who were finally coming into view in the previous bend. To the relief of my legs, I was able to shut down the effort on the final hill, slowly crossing the finish line ahead of the impending field sprint (in which Rsun would take fifth, for sixth place on the day).
As my body recovered from the shellacking that I had just given it I was able to relax and enjoy my first win of the season. While it may have been a solo effort, it was an effort only made possible by the teamwork that proceeded it - with multiple teammates flying up the road throughout the entire race - wearing out the field's impetus to chase.
As it turns out the win was also sufficient to put me in the leaders jersey. The thought of wearing yellow never crossed my mind until well after the race finish and even with the jersey secured for next weekend I don't know that I'll ride to defend it - I'd be more than willing to give it up in order to get a result for another teammate. If anything I'm more proud of the fact that Team Sixcycle-RK&O has put a different rider on the podium each of the first three weeks of the series. That's where the team effort really shows.
Tour de Kirche Video from Team Sixcycle-RK&O's Daniel Cleiman
Tour de Kirche Video from Sixcycle Athlete Meghan Schloat (edited by Daniel Cleiman)