Team Directasia.com has been climbing a mountain for more than 2 years. Each year takes the team slightly higher. Legs and hearts get stronger, pedaling gets more efficient. Despite improvements, one key win has eluded the team.
For more than 2 years Team Directasia.com has ridden their hearts out with one aim: a win at Brides Pool Road, Hong Kong. The course is home to the National Championships and is revered by many as the toughest Hong Kong has to offer. Sunday, over 90 kilometres and 1500 meters of climbing, clear team tactics, aligned with legs of steel, delivered not only the top step of the podium for the Hong Kong based outfit; the team took second and third as well.
On the road
The Hong Kong Cycling Association let riders know the alarm clocks would have to buzz early (4am!) - the Open Category would start at 6am sharp. 27 riders lined the starting grid in the dark. They stared ahead; the first climb ascended up into the distance.
From the start gun, Team Champion system pushed the tempo hard to catch out any riders with cold legs (which was common at 6am!). Simon Little (Directasia.com) ensured the early attacks were controlled. In support was Rob Lamb (Directasia.com).
The early pace was high. The attacks plenty. Thomas Cheung (Champion System) drove his troops hard and Brad Peppinck (Directasia.com) came forward to keep Directasia at the front of the bunch. The first lap and a half was explosive - numerous riders were dropped.
Mid way through the second lap a small break went away including John Tonks (Directasia.com). It was quickly brought back.
At the end of the second lap the race had been split. 15 riders remained in the front and Brad Peppinck, Hin Chiu, and Chris Taylor (Directasia.com) moved to the front taking up policing efforts and setting the pace for a hard attack from Fred Clatworthy and John Tonks or the snappy legs of Mike Maiers.
After a hard second lap, many tired riders looked for a lap of consolidation. Sensing a slow in the pace Hin Chiu (Directasia.com) burst from the peloton. He was joined by King Long Chau (Champion System) and the two rode away from the group. The peloton let them go. Despite the effort Chiu could be seen smiling on the climbs. The young rider from Hong Kong looked smooth and effortless.
As the peloton crossed the start/finish line entering the fourth lap, the real race of attrition started. Directasia climbers Chris Taylor and Brad Peppinck drove the pace each climb while team Champion System continued to attack. Each time Directasia was able to lift the tempo, reeling them in.
Ahead in the break, Chiu’s infernal pace caused cramps in his breakaway companion and by the start of the fifth lap the Champion System rider was dropped. Behind, Mike Maiers (Directasia.com) attacked the front group in an attempt to bridge across to his team mate. Maiers is known for his quick legs and managed to get a substantial gap. His team mates behind offered no help in brining him back and forced Team Champion System to work to bring him back. They did so by the end of the lap.
As soon as Maiers was back in the frey, Fred Clatworthy (Directasia.com) flexed his quads and lungs. The powerful attack half way through the fifth lap caused the pack to grimace, and Clatworthy was followed by Thomas Cheung (Champion System). The attack created a chase group of seven riders as Clatworthy set a hard tempo on the steep rises. Behind, Directasia set a disruptive tempo leading into the sixth lap.
Ahead, Chiu maintained his advantage alone…and smiling…
On the final lap riders started to fight for the minor places. Chiu was away. Close behind him was Clatworthy charging hard. Behind Clatworthy was a group of five including his team mate John Tonks in a group with Shohei Ikeda (OSSA Janiton).
As Clatworthy gained ground on Chiu, Tonks attacked behind. Clatworthy would catch Chiu and Tonks would gain a gap for third on the podium.
Directasia achieved a monument on Sunday in Hong Kong. The team will continue it’s focus; ‘everything for the team’.
Today Team Directasia.com had a goal: podium in every race on the day. The question was; could they do it?
Across Hong Kong alarms went off, waking riders for an early start. At 4:30am, coffee or Redbull seemed to be the respite of choice for many.
With packed cars they piloted themselves towards Lantau Island. The day ahead held the 2014 Tung Chung Criteriums, hosted by the Hong Kong Cycling Association. Overcast skies awaited on Lantau, but brought with them reasonable temperatures.
Speaking with team riders before the race, it was clear that they hoped their luck on this course would change today. 2013 saw two heavy crashes for team riders, so TDA was focused on keeping the rubber side down to the tarmac in the 2014 edition.
As the riders lined up, the teams luck indeed seemed on track. TDA had 5 riders in the 35-39 age group, and 4 in the 40-44, with all 9 riders in total in the Open.
Deverell Smith, Robert Lamb, and Simon Little, and Bryce Munro and Brad Peppinck looked ready to go on the line.
The team aimed to put a man up the road and should tactic this fail, the next approach was to line out the group, setting up the bunch gallop for Deverell Smith.
From the start the team rode at the front of the bunch - riding with confidence. Rider positioning was key. 3 heavy crashes took riders from other teams as the laps ticked by.
The plan to get a man away in the break didn't work, but coming into the final lap TDA strung out the bunch for Smith. Crowds would see Lamb, then Bryce Munro put in a big effort on the 2.5km course. With 300 metres to go Munro peeled off as a Perry To (Janiton) started his sprint early. Smith showed his experience increasing his pace with haste but keeping his fuse dry. With 200 to go Smith started his sprint. Would he catch and pass To?
In the 35-39 age group TDA would achieve its podium goal: Smith took 2nd by a half bike length on the line followed closely by Brad Peppinck in 3rd. 2 out of 3 ain't bad...
Before the start TDA set their strategy: "We all go from the line and make it hard" said Caputo. Alistair Haigh-Smith, Fred Clatworthy, Paolo Caputo and Mike Maiers readied themselves for the effort.
From the gun TDA pushed the pace hard. The knife of lactic acid sliced deep throughout the race.
Lap after lap saw the TDA laser streak by. Two limpets held their wheels tasting burnt rubber. 1st Mike, Fred Clatworthy 2nd, Paolo Caputo 3rd, Alistair Haigh-Smith 4th.
In the Open Category more than forty men toed the line. Sitting in on the team meeting, the strategy for TDA was simple: "we attack, we attack, we attack". The Open would see Prime (pronounced preem) laps every second lap. Each time points would be awarded for the first group across the line.
The podium was the goal.
The crack of the gun signaled racing. Riders catapulted themselves from the front of the race. The constant attacks making legs groan and faces grimace. Sweat flowed like a leaky faucet from the chins of riders.
Fred Clatworthy was constantly on the front. Haigh-Smith was seen pushing the pace into corners and off the front. New rider Roberto Farresse also pushed for gaps. In the group, Bryce Munro was never far from the front maintaining pace for Maiers and Caputo.
Team Champion System had also fielded a strong team. They hovered near the front of the group. They were active.
As the laps ticked by, many riders dropped out of the race. Caputo and Maiers fought for primes every two laps against team Champion System. It was close.
With one-and-a-half laps to go, Caputo rallied his troops. They raised the pace to ensure the race was controlled. Caputo only needed a high finish on the line to take the race and the top step of the podium. TDA pushed hard but they were swarmed by Champion System riders.
The last lap flashed past in a blur of black and yellow, and blue and orange. The charge for the line and across...
Caputo summarised the results:
"When my team rides strong and hard there isn't much room for others! Today was probably the best display of strength I've seen from our team" said Caputo.
When the results rolled in, Caputo took first, followed by Joy Lai Cheng (CMS), and Wong Tse Chin (Champion System). Mike Maiers would hold on for 6th overall.
As team riders packed their cars to return to their homes they could rest easy. TDA showed off their sponsor colours in every race they entered. A tremendous day on the roads of Tung Chung and a hat tip to the companies that help the team keep racing.
They say you have to have skin in the game to be successful. Team Directasia.com took this very seriously on Sunday, February 16th making two trips to the medical tent, but putting three riders on the podium.
Early in the day the team took to the road in the 30-34 age group with team riders Rich Smerin, Matthew Kenfield and Robert Lamb taking the line. Right behind them Deverell Smith, Rowdie Loughlin, and Amber Will would sprint off the line in the 35-39 group. Fred Clatworthy would be the lone Directasia.com representative in the 40-44 group (did that hold him back...?).
In the 30-34 age group, the final corner coming into the finish would prove crucial, and after a long hard pull by Matthew Kenfield, Rich Smerin was positioned well into the sprint. Only Dor Ming Chau (Champion Systems) would be faster as Smerin took second place in the 30-34 Age Group. A great result, as Smerin also stood on the podium Saturday during regional track racing in Hong Kong (check out photos on Facebook).
The 35-39 would prove tougher with Amber Will getting taken down hard in the final sprint. Amber was later cleared by the medics and wrapped up in a thick layer of gauze and tape to cover all the road rash... Deverell Smith would push his track weary legs hard to take 3rd place on the podium.
To the 40-44 group, Fred Clatworthy would make it look easy attacking the group to take a solo victory for TDA. Clatworthy would show a normalized power of 371 watts to earn the win and the third podium of the day.
The final race of the day would see the team toe the line in the Open. A 10 lap race featured primes every 2 laps, and saw a fast attacking race on the twisty course.
Fred Clatworthy positioned well early to break away from the field with Kan Koon (Total Sports), Thomas Cheung (Champion System). Simon Chau (Total Sports) also hung on for 2 laps early on but was gapped, and not able to reconnect at the first prime. The Group of three would work hard to stay away but around the 8 lap mark their efforts where doomed and the peloton closed in. They trio were swept up, and the angry peloton pressed on towards the sprint finish. Late in that lap Rob Lamb also hit the deck making another offering of skin to the cycling gods...
On the podium it would be 1. Thomas Cheung (Champion System), 2. Kan Koon (Total Sports), 3. Dor Ming Chau (Champion System), 4. John Tonks, 5. Fred Clatworthy (Directasia.com).
A good weekend of racing for Team Directasia.com. Lots of gauze, road rash and a trio of trophies.