Harry Hamilton (Colavita - Whole Foods Market Racing) likes racing from the front, and on Wednesday in the Masters Men 60-64 race at Lakewood Nationals, Hamilton achieved his pre-race goal of getting to the front of the race.
However, with him was defending champion Jay Trojan (Arc En Ciel Racing Team), another rider who has shown he can race at the front of Masters Nationals race. Something would have to give.
Trojan split up a group in the second lap, and only Hamilton could bridge the distance and join him at the front. The morning of two-up races got its latest edition of the mano-a-mano duels.
Shortly before the end of Lap 3 of 4, Hamilton wanted to show he still had enough left to finish strong. Hamilton attacked through the sand and got a gap on the defending champion. Sensing an opportunity, Hamilton stayed on the gas and pressed his advantage up to 6 seconds at the bell.
Trojan could not get any closer to Hamilton in the last lap, and the Garden Stater secured the Stars-and-Stripes jersey to wrap up the morning of racing in Lakewood.
"At two to go, I decided I was gonna ride the sand and that’s when I got maybe 5 seconds or so on Jay," Hamilton said. "That was the move. I didn’t know at the time, but that was the move."
Starting Fast, Finishing Strong
As the Masters Men 60-64 field lined up for the final race of Wednesday's morning session, top-ranked riders knew they had their work cut out for them with all 5 wide-angle podium finishers from Louisville Nationals racing in Lakewood.
It was one of those top-ranked podium hopefuls in Harry Hamilton who took the holeshot and led the charge toward the first run-up. Hamilton continued to lead after the run-up and ensuing descent, with Bob Downs (A Dugast USA) keeping pace in second.
"I like to go out front and stay out front," Hamilton said after the race.
It was not long before Downs challenged Hamilton's bid to stay out front. Downs sprinted up the second run-up and took the lead and then after Trojan took over the lead before the second descent, Downs again moved into first with a charge through the thick sand.
One lap into the four-lap race, it was Downs, Trojan, Hamilton, Curtis Southern (NCVC / United HealthCare) and Kevin Saint Clair (Team Skyline) at the front.
The group at the front would only last so long thanks to aggressive riding from Trojan. The defending champ again pushed the pace up and over the first run-up, and this time, only Hamilton could match his pace. Behind the two leaders, Southern, Downs and Jay Thornton (A Dugast USA) took up the chase.
Trojan got a small gap exiting the sand in Lap 2, but Hamilton recovered, and midway through the race, the two riders were together. During that stretch, Southern moved into solo third with teammates Downs and Thornton trying to keep contact.
In the first half of Lap 3, Hamilton and Trojan minimized the threat from the chase by extending their gap. They hit the second run-up and following descent together and appeared destined to ride wheel-to-wheel into the last lap. And who knows, maybe fans in Lakewood on Wednesday would be treated to the third sprint finish in four races.
That sprint finish was not meant to be, at least if Hamilton had anything to do with it.
The Fort Steilacoom Park sand pit is a pit of deep, coarse sand that was not really compacted by the on-and-off rain on Wednesday. Throw in a slowing turn at the entrance, and the feature was a tough one to clear on the bike.
Many riders on Wednesday chose to run, but in the penultimate lap of the Masters 60-64 race, Hamilton decided to go full blast through the feature. The gamble worked, and he opened up a gap on Trojan. And when you get a gap, you attack.
At the bell, Hamilton had a 6-second lead. Behind him was the defending champ and Wednesday's other aggressor. Nothing was decided as the noon hour approached.
In the last lap, Hamilton stayed perfect, and just as he started strong, he finished strong to take the Stars-and-Stripes jersey.
"I knew he was strong, I was just trying to hold on and not make any mistakes," Hamilton said about the last lap.
Trojan wrapped up a silver-medal ride, and Thornton moved into third in the last lap. Southern and Saint Clair rounded out the wide-angle podium.
See below for a photo gallery and full results.
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Harry Hamilton Winner Interview