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.