Men’s A: Criterium Report
By Jake Sisson – Cornell University
NYU’s Pavel Gonda got the ECCC’s mass start season underway in very surprising fashion, racing to victory in the Stadium Criterium, race number two of the Rutgers Frozen Toed Season Opener. Riders were eager to get their season underway, and a flurry of attacks attempted to, but never succeeded in spoiling the sprinters party. In looking at the day’s results, you may have never guessed that many present had written off Gonda’s chances at victory when he was seen chasing alone, twenty seconds behind the main field, past the race’s half way point.
A crash on lap fourteen of twenty-five saw Gonda, though not directly involved, facing an uphill battle to rejoin the group. “There was a crash that hit my front wheel. I wasn’t sure if my bike was okay, so I stopped in the pits so the referee to see if my front wheel was okay,” said Gonda of the crash. “The referee told me it looked okay, so I couldn’t have a free lap.” Despite trailing behind for three laps, Gonda took advantage of a momentary let down, and some dogged chasing to rejoin and recover.
Despite many attempted breakaways, the largest advantage seen throughout the race was a mere thirty-one seconds, established by Temple University’s S. Charles Zamastil and a sprint finish never looked in doubt. As the sprint exploded out of the course’s final of four turns, Gonda succeeded in surprising racers and spectators alike to claim the first sprint victory of the season.
The adrenaline seemed high from the starting gun, as host club hero Patrick Bradley of Rutgers took off from the start, and survived the pack’s chase for a lap before rejoining the group. That would not be the last the crowd would see of Bradley. Attacks would leave the group and come back with regularity, and by the time lap six came, the group was together to contest the season’s first intermediate prime sprint. Lee Peters of the University of Vermont signaled the club’s intentions for the season, entering the finishing straightaway at the front and grabbing the season’s first sprint points ahead of the University of Connecticut’s Ben Carbonetti and Army’s Joseph Grimm.
Two laps later, it was Gonda proving that he may be the rider to beat in crits this season, narrowly beating a strong UVM charge to the line. Gonda slipped around the field with less than ten meters to go to get top points on lap eight. Lap eleven again saw Gonda take a prime sprint victory, getting the better of Yale’s Douglass Endrizzi and the University of Connecticut’s Ryan O’Hara.
Following lap fourteen’s prime sprint, Temple’s Zamastil took the opportunity to open up the day’s only major advantage. Tuft’s Evan Cooper, who was eventually joined by Brian Lawney of Cornell and one other rider, initially chased Zamastil’s attack but could never close it down completely. Zamastil’s advantage maxed out at thirty-one seconds, with the chasing trio getting as close as fifteen seconds to the lone leader. By lap eighteen, the group had reabsorbed all up Zamastil, whose gap had dwindled to a mere five seconds. Despite not holding on to his lead until the end, Zamastil was able to grab the day’s fifth prime sprint, and had points to show for his effort.
With no riders left up the road, the pack settled in for lap twenty’s final prime sprint. The group seemed to not know that there were points on the line, until the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Jeremy Durrin snuck away for top points. Following the prime, Patrick Bradley and a rider from UVM tried to surprise the group and hold on to a narrow lead until the finish. The duo’s gap maxed out at eight seconds as they got the signal for two laps to go. Over the course of the second to last lap, however, the group reacted to the move and everyone was back together for the day’s final sprint.
“From the beginning when I first saw that last turn, I knew that all I had to do was keep up straight and do it from the first position,” said Gonda of his final move. “The finish was pretty short and even though you could pass some guys, I was confident that maybe only two guys could pass me in the finishing straight.” Gonda did just that, taking the final turn of the race in first position, and accelerating away from the pack to establish a comfortable margin of victory. “I didn’t look back. I never look back, and I wasn’t sure if I was good to go or not. I wasn’t sure and that’s why I wasn’t celebrating.” Gonda could celebrate safely however, as he took home the first mass start victory of the young ECCC season. Second place went to Gregory Battista of Rutgers University, while third place went to the University of Pennsylvania’s Max Korus. UVM’s Lee Peters finished the day in fourth while Jeffrey Salvitti of Bucknell University rounded out the top five.