In the wake of Fitchburg’s untimely cancellation, the MetLife-NorEast crew looked south to the Mid-Atlantic race calendar and the newly organized CHESCO Grand Prix. What we found in this first year event, was a collection of competitive criteriums in the West Chester Area ready for our legs fresh off the Exeter Crit.
We pulled up late to the Oxford Criterium with a road weary crew after the seven hour drive from the Boston area to the sleepy Pennsylvania town. The air was humid and cooling slowly for the twilight start and our crew pulled bikes, kits and numbers together in an unfamiliar parking lot.
Oxford was a preview of the five days MetLife-NorEast would race in West Chester County. The course was highly technical, the field split early and the efforts were long and sharp. After an initial sorting out, the field whittled down to roughly twenty racers including MetLife’s Ryan Flemming, Peter Bell, Landen Acebo and newcomer to the team, Luciano Paven.
Taking turns chasing and rechasing break after break, the field lapped and relapped itself with lapped riders remaining in the fray and organizers clueless about who was in contention and who wasn’t. Though results were occluded by the lapped riders, one thing is certain, the MetLife-NorEast crew rode well and landed two racers, Peter Bell & Luciano in the money, a harbinger of things to come throughout the week.
With a full days rest and a stronger field amassing in the CGP’s second stop, the Malvern Criterium followed a similar formula to Oxford, albeit on a course with more relief, tighter corners and a fast descent. The initial sorting out didn’t go as smoothly for MetLife-NorEast with every rider caught in an early crash, and in the case of Ryan and Peter, two crashes. It was here that Ryan suffered the worst effects of the crash after jumping a curb and narrowly avoiding some young spectators before a chance encounter with a nearby tree. (A trip to the ER and x-rays later revealed a broken wrist. We wish Ryan the best for a speedy recovery.)
Peter, Landen and Luciano soldiered on through the selections until the field became the familiar twenty riders. With twenty laps remaining on the sixty-five lap race, four of the week’s strongest riders had pulled in front of the field, including London Olympian and local favorite Bobby Lea and Quebec strongman, Bruno Langlois, as well as a collection of German riders, imported by the race organizers to keep the quality of the field high. In a bold effort, Landen attacked the remaining group, pressing into the distance between the field and the professionals off the front. His effort lasted twenty laps, a strong solo ride caught just before the finish. Peter and Luciano placed in the top twenty, good for more prize money and a consolation prize in the wake of Landen’s effort.
The third day of racing at CHESCO brought the MetLife-NorEast team to Phoenixville and the most dynamic course of the weekend. A barbell shaped, hilly effort with high speeds and tight corners pressed the field into a thin line early and took its toll on the race numbers. One-by-one riders were popped off the end of the pack until the typical twenty riders remained, including Peter, Landen and Luciano. After a couple of sharp attacks and counter moves, Peter and Landen lost their grip of the remaining fifteen riders but Luciano held strong for an impressive top-fifteen finish. “I gave everything I had,” Luciano explained, soaked through from the effort chasing repeated attacks from the German contingent.
The final race for MetLife-NorEast was a less technically demanding crit, the Coatesville Classic. The race unfolded similarly to the previous three efforts with one clear difference, a firetruck arriving mid-race, mid course.
Once the alarm of the fire had been determined to be false, the race was restarted in the place it was interrupted: the usual crowd of professionals in a break with a one minute lead. Peter Bell made a valiant effort to bridge but was denied before the finish. Again, strong results from Landen, Peter and Luciano carried the day and the long drive back to New England.