Davide Frattini (Team Fuji) closed out his 2009 season in fine style with a solo victory at Sunday's North Carolina Grand Prix. The 31-year-old Italian, who now resides in nearby Asheville, North Carolina, claimed his third UCI 'cross win of the year in frigid, muddy conditions ahead of Brian Matter (Gear Grinder) and Jake Wells (Mafia Racing).
Matt Shriver (Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory), the winner of Saturday's opening round of the North Carolina Grand Prix, did not find the muddy circuit to his liking and finished fourth.
The elite men raced on the same Jackson Park course as the previous day, but Mother Nature provided a stark contrast in course conditions. Saturday's event took place under brilliant blue skies and unseasonable warmth for the western North Carolina mountains, producing a fast-paced, tactical battle in the elite men's race. On Sunday, however, the rains came, the course turned treacherously slick and the temperature plummeted to the low 40s Fahrenheit.
Frattini, still feeling a bit under the weather health-wise since Friday, made his winning move on the opening lap taking advantage of the slower course which put a premium on bike handling skills, not sheer power. Frattini could not match the tempo of Shriver on Saturday, but the Italian put on a mud-riding clinic and rode alone at the front for nearly the entire seven-lap race today.
"It was very slippery and I tried to stay in front as much as possible to pick my lines," said Frattini. "I still didn't feel great, but there were different conditions today so it was more about handling skills. On the first lap I was able to gain time on the technical sections and that was the advantage I had on the others."
Sunday's North Carolina Grand Prix was Frattini's final race of 2009, but the Italian may still do one more 'cross race in his home country next January. "I'll see what I can do with my nationals. It's still up in the air," said Frattini, the third-ranked Italian on UCI points after Enrico Franzoi and Marco Bianco.
Mud and rain re-shuffles Saturday's top four
Davide Frattini assumed control of the race from the start, getting the hole shot and setting a furious tempo through the slippery parcours. By the end of the opening lap Frattini held a slight advantage over three chasers: Brian Matter, Matt Shriver and Jake Wells. Shriver, however, would lose contact with Matter and Wells on the second lap and spent the remainder of the race riding alone in fourth place.
"The second lap I was with Brian [Matter] and Jake [Wells] and I bobbled twice, had to put the foot out, and they got a good gap," said Shriver. "I started to come back on the third lap. I got good lines and started to figure it out and then I dropped my chain. You burn the matches trying to get back and that's it.
"I had a bad start today and no excuses, I just don't ride well in mud. I like riding in the mud, but I'm not good at it."
Shriver, a former professional both on the road and cyclo-cross, also felt the effects of not having a rigorous season of racing under his belt. "You definitely can tell the guys who've been racing all year - on the second day they're just as fast. I was not fast today, I was tired."
While Frattini continued his smooth dissection of the slick Jackson Park parcours, Matter and Wells kept the Italian in sight, but could never get any closer than 10 seconds in their six-lap pursuit.
"I kept thinking we'd bring him [Frattini] back any second and we never did," said Wells. "We were working together but it didn't seem like we really had much of an alliance to bring Davide back. It seemed like he was able to keep the gap, it never really grew, but it never really got smaller either."
Matter, too, was eager to regain contact with Frattini, but at the same time didn't want to provide Wells with an armchair ride to the Italian.
"A couple of times I'd gap Jake [Wells] on the off camber section and the gap to Davide would go from 15 seconds to 10 seconds," said Matter. "But then Jake would get on my wheel on the open, flat parts and I thought 'I can't pull him around', but at the same time I want to catch Davide. It's a Catch-22 and I had to be careful.
"I kind of wanted to work with Jake a little bit, but I think Davide was on cruise control, just gauging the gap and if it came down he went a little harder. He's a smart racer."
Frattini didn't make any mistakes and was one of the few riders who could consistently ride the "wall", now devoid of traction and more resembling a slip 'n' slide. Frattini entered the bell lap with more than a 20-second advantage on Matter and Wells who were still riding together, each trying to find a chink in the other's armour to gain an advantage. Matter, however, noticed an area of the course where he could make his claim on second place.
"Jake [Wells] was having a little problem with rear tire traction so I wanted to lead into the woods and up the climb," said Matter. "He stayed with me and then I made my move on the off camber section [with 500 metres remaining] and got a little bit of a gap on him. I figured I'm going to go for it - if I crash I get third, if I don't crash I get second.
"I hit that line pretty good, made it up the "wall" and it was enough for second place."
The off camber section proved difficult lap after lap for Wells, but he still held out hope he'd stay close enough to sprint with Matter on the paved finishing stretch.
"He was riding the off camber section so much cleaner than I was, I tried to follow his line and he was just crushing me there every time," said Wells. "We were pretty even the rest of the course, I may have even had a little more gas than him in some spots, but he was riding that so smooth.
"[On the last lap] he just got a little too big of a gap and I dabbed. I knew that would be the last time I'd see him."
Matter crossed the line in second, 16 seconds off the pace of Frattini while Wells rounded out the podium in third four seconds later.
Shriver finished in fourth, 56 seconds behind Frattini, and North Carolina's Travis Livermon (Champion System-Cannondale) put in a fine ride to cross the line for fifth.
|1||Davide Frattini (Ita) Team Fuji||0:59:02|
|2||Brian Matter (USA) Gear Grinder||0:00:16|
|3||Jake Wells (USA) Mafia Racing||0:00:20|
|4||Matt Shriver (USA) Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory||0:00:56|
|5||Travis Livermon (USA) Champion System / Cannondale||0:01:58|
|6||James Lalonde (USA) Planet Bike||0:02:24|
|7||Davy Yeater (USA) River City Bicycles||0:02:27|
|8||Grant Berry (USA) Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory||0:02:51|
|9||Sam Krieg (USA) ICE Krieg Cycling||0:03:06|
|10||Ryan Knapp (USA) BikeReg.com||0:03:16|
|11||Nathanael Wyatt (USA) Carolina Fatz p/b Santa Cruz Bicycles||0:03:30|
|12||Eric Thompson (USA) Lees-McRae College||0:03:48|
|13||Bradford Perley (USA)||0:03:55|
|14||Andy Applegate (USA) Champion Systems / Cannondale||0:04:06|
|15||Andy Messer (USA) DRT Racing||0:04:25|
|16||Aaron Bradford (USA) OnSite Ultrasound/Enduro||0:04:53|
|17||Scott Frederick (USA) Inland Construction/Back to Dirt||0:04:54|
|18||Damian Schmitt (USA) Sunnyside Sports||0:05:08|
|19||Matt Willing (USA) ABRC/Mars Hill College|
|20||Aaron Oakes (USA)|
|21||Andy Reardon (USA) MOAB / Van Dessel||0:06:10|
|22||Jon Hamblen (USA) BTD - Inland Construction||0:07:00|
|23||Joshua Whitmore (USA) Globalbike||0:08:18|
|24||Robert Jameson (USA)||0:09:42|
|25||John Crow (USA) North Carolina State University|
|26||Alex Ryan (USA) Champion System/Cannondale||0:12:11|
|27||Eric Muehl (USA) Industry Nine|
|28||Bryan Schoeffler (USA) TEAM OSP|
|29||Noah Metzler (USA) Globalbike p/b Catoma|
|DNF||Christopher Consorto (USA) Secret Henry's|
|DNF||Noah Niwinski (USA) Boone Velo|
|DNF||Lucas Livermon (USA) Inland Construction/Back to Dirt|