Italian Roberto Chiappa is the Fastest Man on Wheels
Italy’s Roberto Chiappa showed his winning form tonight at Valley Preferred Cycling Center, claiming the title of Fastest Man on Wheels. Chiappa, who is no stranger to the top of the podium in T-town, needed every bit of the sprint final to narrowly defeat Roy Van den Berg of the Netherlands to cap off an exciting night of sprint racing that was presented by Michelob Ultra.
“It was absolutely a great race, and a fitting finish for the title,” said Marty Nothstein, executive director of Valley Preferred Cycling Center. “Chiappa definitely shows that he still has the good form that he had during the previous years in T-town. He is a great champion, but my hat also goes off to Roy Van den Berg.”
While Chiappa took home the trophy, it was Van den Berg that provided the most excitement on the night. In the first heat, he snuck by American Andy Lakatosh to advance. It was arguably one of the closest finishes ever in the World Series of Bicycling. For the Lakatosh camp, their unrest was eventually settled after the television replay showed the Dutch rider by a hair. Van den Berg then needed the very last meter to seal a win versus American David Espinoza for the chance to face Chiappa in the final.
That semifinal race closed what was shaping up to be a storybook night for Espinoza, who got the night’s racing action started with a bang. Espinoza, an up-and-coming sprinter, wow’ed the crowd with an upset of the No. 1 seed Sam Webster of New Zealand in the opening heat race. After his loss to Van den Berg, Espinoza beat Kiwi Eddie Dawkins, who some considered the favorite to win it all, to take third place.
“It was great to see an American do that,” added Nothstein. “Espinoza has been impressing me a lot lately with his deceiving speed. So, for me it wasn’t much of a surprise. I’m just thrilled that Espinoza did so well. It was a good placing for an American to take third.”
On the women’s side, the Netherlands’ Willy Kanis won the title of Fastest Woman on Wheels after beating fellow Dutch rider Yvonne Hijgenaar in the final. It was Kanis’ second straight feature win in T-town. She also won last week’s Keirin Cup XXV event.
Racing Round-up: The Pro Men’s Omnium was all New Zealand, as Kiwis Shane Archbald, Aaron Gate and Shem Rodger took the top three spots. They each had one win in the three races that awarded points for the omnium. Australia’s Laura McCaughey took the Pro Women’s Omnium by a narrow margin over U.S. rider Theresa Cliff-Ryan.
Summer Home: One of the pleasant surprises of the season has been the continued improvement of the New Zealand team. A Kiwi has taken the featured prize at three events so far this season, with Chad Adair winning the U.S. 10 Mile Championships, Gate picking up the win in The Golden Wheel Race, and Eddie Dawkins winning last week’s Keirin Cup XXV.
Dawkins, who was ousted in tonight’s semi-final after a closely-contested battle with Chiappa, is particularly excited about the direction of the New Zealand sprint program.
“Two years ago, it was just me, and last year, it was me and Simon (Van Velthooven),” explained Dawkins. “Simon is in Japan at the moment. Now this year, our Federation has put a little bit of money behind us, and we’ve made full use of that money and now there’s five of us competing for 3 spots in the Olympics.”
Dawkins credits Valley Preferred Cycling Center with helping push the needle on his program’s success. This time of year in New Zealand is not the optimal training and racing weather, so several Kiwis spend these summer months in T-town.
“It’s definitely an influence on our program being able to come over here to T-town,” added Dawkins. “T-town offers us a place to race like no other place in the world this time of year. I come here and it’s always harder than it was the year before. The crowd is cheering you on all the time. It’s motivating and a great place to ride and train for the summer.”
Zumba Fitness: Valley Preferred Cycling Center has made a great effort to bring other organizations in the Lehigh Valley area to showcase in T-town. This week, Zumba Fitness instructors Naomi Betancourt and Nancy Otero brought a group out to entertain the crowd on the homestretch before the event.
“The world should be dancing,” said Betancourt. “You don’t need Prozac. You don’t need weight loss systems. Zumba is great. It’s exercise in disguise; endorphins, burning calories, stamina, and cardio. It gives you a looseness. And, it’s absolutely a great workout for cyclists.”
Next Event: The World Series of Bicycling returns next Friday night with the popular Tandemonium! event and USA Cycling National Tandem Championship. Gates open at 5:30. With tickets starting at just $5.00 and kids 12 and under getting in free, a trip to Valley Preferred Cycling Center is a great night out for the entire family. Racing starts at 7:30.