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Wednesday, August 30, 2000 -- Pittsburgh, PA
2000 ACA Summer Criterium Series
Story by Joe Papp with photos by Jeff Martello

[Details] [Coverage] [Overall Results] [Pic Set 1]

Craig Rader
Craig Rader remembers how much it is to race the Oval
Despite the fact that points were still up for grabs, tonight's final installment of the ACA Summer Criterium Series was a formality for the three class leaders. Todd Copeland, Josh Shaffer and Joe Papp had already accumulated enough points to win their respective titles (the fourth Club Championship in a row for Papp). Nevertheless, the 81 other riders in attendance were determined to close the season with a bang.

Ray Russell (Pittsburgh Cycling Club) won the C race in dramatic fashion after breaking away with his teammate Henry Wang and Bryan Routledge in the final laps. The three riders worked seamlessly together to hold-off the desperately chasing field, until the final lap, when Wang and Russell dropped Routledge. In a gesture reminiscent of LeMond and Hinault at the summit of l'Alpe d'Huez in 1986, Wang refused to sprint Russell for the win and instead conceded defeat with great class. Aaron Moore won the field sprint for fourth and Don Haddox (PCC) was fifth. Routledge also won the Most Aggressive Rider prize.

Racing
Round and round and round they go...
Scott Osterreider, also representing the PCC, attacked from the gun in the 25-lap B race and went clear of the field with an East Suburban rider in tow. As soon as the two were caught, a counterattack came from Osterreider's teammate Charlie Chulack, which was taken-up by Hansel Lucas (Brooklyn) and another Brooklyn rider. These three dangled off the front for several laps, until the field reabsorbed them. Thereafter, no break could gain a tenable lead on the field, guaranteeing a dramatic field sprint finish. Though, as previously noted, Josh Shaffer's lead was unassailable, second and third places overall would be decided between Colin Sandberg (PCC) and Eric Jones (Freddie Fu) in the final, mad dash to the line.

Coming down the backstretch, it looked as if Sandberg's lead-out train was stalled midway through the field, while Jones seemed set to enjoy an armchair ride to victory. A forgotten champion lurked in the bunch, however, prepared to reclaim his throne as one of the City's best sprinters. Unnoticed by the majority of his competitors, Craig Rader (Ambridge Bike Shop), who finished third overall in the 1996 Class A criterium series (behind winner Phil Rhodes and runner-up Tim O'Toole), returned to competition this Wednesday after a long hiatus from cycling. As the peloton rounded the final turn, Rader moved steadily through the bunch on the left side of the road, while Sandberg advanced on the right. When the sprint began in earnest, Jones found himself caught in a PCC-ABS sandwich, helpless to respond to either Sandberg's final, winning kick or Rader's dramatic late surge. Sandberg's convincing win guaranteed him second overall in the series (ahead of Jones), and Rader's strong finish made clear that his comeback is underway.

B Race finish
The big sprint to the finish
The A race also saw a dramatic finish, as Joe Papp (PCC), his 15-year-old teammate Ryan Mele and Dick Brink (Guinness) succeeded in their race-long breakaway. The three strongmen escaped after the first prime sprint, six minutes into the race, when Papp shattered the field while leading-out Mele. As the chasers struggled to regroup and organize themselves, the leaders set a blistering pace and came close to lapping the bunch. Unfortunately, Mele flatted with 12 laps to go. He rejoined his companions after taking a free lap, but by then, the tide had shifted and the break was rapidly losing time to a chase led by George Yoder (Freddie Fu).

Determined to hang on until the finish, Brick, Mele and Papp rode themselves into the ground, going all-out until they finally crossed the finish line. Papp won his seventh race of the series, Mele came second and Brink finished a very respectable third.