Hamblin Hits Jackpot at Cox Charities Cycling Classic Wednesday, June 16, 2004
Hamblin Hits Jackpot at Cox Charities Cycling Classic
by Peter Pezzelli
PROVIDENCE — (Sunday, June 13) With a pile of cash sitting on the table, just waiting for someone to reach out and grab it, Jon Hamblin (FiordiFrutta) broke away from a hesitant lead group and cruised home all alone to take victory in the Third Annual Cox Charities Cycling Classic. Along the way he snatched one of the biggest prime lap payoffs ever seen in New England cycling history.
“I was focused on that prime,” joked Hamblin when his day’s work was completed. “After that the win was just a bonus.”
The win, however, was clearly something he and his nine FiordiFrutta teammates had on their minds from the outset.
It was a bright but blustery afternoon when the riders rolled up to the start line. The air was crisp and comfortably warm with a gusty wind out of the southwest rippling the colorful banners lining the podium area. As Providence Mayor David Cicilline addressed the crowd, all eyes in the peloton were fixed on race favorite Mark McCormack (Colavita Olive Oil Cycling Team).
McCormack is a threat to win any race he enters, but on this day, with no teammates to support him and virtually no allies in the peloton, he well understood that he would be forced to fend for himself. Louis Garneau, Racksmith.com, and FiordiFrutta had brought sizable contingents to the fray. They would all take their shot at the 2003 U.S. Pro Road Champion.
“Our plan was simple,” explained Hamblin afterwards. “Make Mark McCormack hurt.”
The strategy worked.
From the opening lap, the FiordiFrutta team pressed the pace at the front of the pack. Also animating the early action were U.S. National CycloCross Champion Jonathan Page (Hot Tubes), Oscar Pineda (Stelvio TeamWear), and Amos Brumble (CCB/Volkswagen), all of whom would figure prominently later in the race. The constant pressure forced McCormack to respond to almost every move up the road, repeated efforts that would eventually take their toll.
Just the same, the Colavita rider managed to stay in contention for the win, thanks in part to the technical, six-cornered course.
After winding past the Rhode Island State House, the course featured a plunging descent that delivered the field into the face of a stiff headwind rushing across WaterPlace Park. When the riders finally turned away from the wind, they found themselves staring up a long, leg-stinging climb to the finishing straight. Both combined to blunt any individual attempts to escape.
Despite the relentless pressure at the front, the peloton stayed together for nearly three quarters of the forty-mile race. Then, with fifteen laps remaining, Emilito Heredia (GS Gotham/TOGA) slipped off the front to take a prime. He kept the hammer down, igniting the first serious breakaway of the day. Ten riders quickly joined him, Brumble, Pineda, and Page among them. Hamblin trailed close behind with two other chasers.
The eleven riders quickly established a gap of thirty seconds on the main field where Mark McCormack watched and waited. With all of the big teams represented in the break, the peloton had little incentive to chase, but the lead group never gelled. The gap held at thirty seconds, and the break remained in striking distance.
Back at the start/finish area, race announcers Joel Brown and Skip Kuzel were busy flogging the crowd for cash to fund a prime lap payoff big enough to fire up the peloton. The enthusiastic gathering anteed up to the tune of eight hundred and thirty dollars. A short time later, with seven laps to go, Jon Hamblin bridged across the gap to join teammate Josh Gewirtz in the break.
“I knew I would go right through them,” said Hamblin of the lead group. “I took a breather for a lap and then attacked.”
The blistering attack caught the other riders in the break by surprise. The group fell into disarray and within moments Hamblin had a yawning gap. When the bell rang a lap later, he was all alone on his way to picking up the huge prime.
With the big prime money off the table, the dismayed chasers tried to reorganize themselves to pull Hamblin back before the finish. Amos Brumble tried to take command, surging to the front of the group, but an ill-timed puncture with two laps to go put a cruel end to what had been a valiant, daylong effort by the Westerly, Rhode Island native.
Uncontested the rest of the way, Hamblin cruised home with arms held high to take victory and over two thousand dollars in cash and prizes. Heredia and Pineda soon followed to take second and third respectively. McCormack settled for a hard-earned ninth place.
With his win a week earlier at Lake Auburn, Hamblin looks to be on a roll as the race season enters the summer. Just the same, he saved all the praise for his FiordiFrutta teammates.
“The team worked perfectly today,” he said after the race. “We came in with a plan and everybody executed it.”