Stage 7 was one of the fastest in the TOUR, including two sprint points and the finishing section in Kinnelon.
The temps were warm, 85+, as the pack rolled out, enjoying the shade and warm breeze.
“It was hot but not so bad once you are moving,” Michael Gisler said.
The group rode very well through Riverdale and Pompton Lakes, a sensible warm-up. In Pompton Plains, the heads of state came to the front and began doing pulls, the group made great time as they snaked through Lincoln Park, to 202, hitting the climbs behind the flood zone and popping out in downtown Lincoln Park.
The group crosses the street, rides the sidewalk slow, so they can avoid the traffic lights in downtown. Once clear, they cross the road again, now on 202, and this is the start of the Clover Lane sprint.
“I usually pull to severe right side of road,” Kenneth Lundgren said, “and raise my left arm, pedal with some force, then drop my arm, beginning a mean leadout.
“However, these guys are strong and I wanted to do a more mellow leadout today. I usually lead it out hard and midway up the gorillas leap around. Today, I wanted to follow these palookas and get some good photos.”
Lundgren paced it steady up the bottom of the hill, and when no one came arond, he committed to the effort and put his head down, aiming to lead it out hard and fast.
It worked — until it didn’t.
“I failed the green jersey,” Lundgren said. “You win or you learn. He was on my wheel, he is the green jersey. If I was Mark Renshaw, Findlater wins that sprint — but I failed him, and he was left not in the greatest of places.”
Lundgren pulled to the top of the climb but eased up 5 seconds too short — the momentum faded and Sam Findlater was forced to lead out his sprint too early.
“Too early,” Lundgren said. “:-|.”
Yellow jersey Jonathan Iwaszczuk is pedaling with severe force and velocity these days. Findlater charged into open space with two of the strongest riders in the TOUR locked on his wheel, and the king gorilla in yellow accelerated by him, nothing to be done.
Gisler followed, fury in his wake, nuclear effort to line and Iwaszczuk was 1st, Gisler 2nd, Findlater 3rd.
“I failed. I will never do that again,” Lundgren said. “To boot, I didn’t get any photos 😐 Having said that, Iwaszczuk is laying down the law. He is the number-one rider here.
“Iwaszczuk would be hard to beat in any situation, a complete rider. He is a bigger rider, but he can climb with anyone. This is always a problem for anyone. When you can’t drop a bigger rider on a climb, it can spell doom. You get to the fast finish, the gorilla just goes, ‘Get out of my way, little man’ — peoooooooo, you are now at the mercy of the stronger man. The rad thing about cycling is there are a thousand different ways to win and excel.”
Green jersey Sam Findlater is riding incredibly well right now. He is lean and rides hard, likes to ride aggressively. After the Clover Lane sprint regroup, the pack heads north, up 202, gentle climbing into Montville and Boonton. Findlater went to the front and pushed a steady pace, the red jersey Gabrielle Czernik following and swapping pulls nicely through this section.
In the TOUR, the group climbs steadily up to Boonton, where they regroup at Mike’s Automotive at the top of the hill. The group will split, everyone rides their own pace; the rides always flows well.
At the stop, the group rests and fuels up, then rolls to the Boulevard sprint in Mountain Lakes.
Lundgren hammered into the climb, and then Iwaszczuk ended that — he attacked early and hard, a full buzzsaw.
“When a rider goes like that, there is nothing you can do,” Lundgren said. “You are at the mercy of him. You pray for a flat, mis-shift, he will blow up, but you know that is not happening. Severely impressive flash of yellow last night — you attack to break them, it is very simple.
Iwaszczuk broke open a gap, Gisler and Findlater giving furious chase.
“Jonathan went early,” Gisler said.
Findlater was able to hammer in his wake and hold Gisler off, finishing clear in 2nd.
Gisler rolled in for 3rd, Bladdymir Coronel in 4th.
The group rolled through Denville and Rockaway — here, the terrain is rolling and hilly again, beautiful evening riding, and if any splits occur, the group reforms at the famous Four Corners intersection.
Kincaid Woods is the start of the finishing section.
The finishing section saw all-out war last night as the heads of state pushed a punishing pace up the first climb, then went all-out up the second climb, blowing the group to bits.
The heads of state, Gisler, Iwaszczuk, Coronel, and Findlater hammered with heads down to the line, all working evenly as a team.
The finish came down to a bunch sprint and Gisler was able to pip Findlater at the line for the 20 GC points. The yellow jersey, having already dominated the stage, rolled in for 3rd, Coronel impressive at 4th and gobbling up precious 7 points.
Behind, newcomer David Schwartz and Czernik went to absolute war.
Czernik attacked and dropped Schwartz on the climb. These two are not seasoned roadies. Czernik is a triathlete, Schwartz races Xterra and MTB — to see these two battle it out was spectacle.
No finesse. Just war.
The battle went back and forth, every time they passed each other it was to attack, not pull, gaps were made constantly — the photos tell the story.
“I thought I had him gapped,” Czernik said, “he he pulled me back.”
“I thought she had me, too,” Schwartz said, “but I put my head down, was able to claw her back.”
Not only claw her back — Schwartz put her under pressure several times, gapping her hard over rollers and using his superior fast-twitch acclerations to put the multisport champion into spots of bother.
With flatter power curve, however, recovery is always your friend, you will survive, you just have to hang in. Take the punches, the chin is made of granite, let them punch and punch — all that matters is the finish line and you just have to win by one inch.
As mentioned, these are not road racers. About a minute from the finish, Czernik again made HARD pass at 28 mph and gapped Schwartz.
It was drag race to line, Schwartz but closing in but no, Czernik earned that win, taking 5th on the night. Awesome warfare out there, you guys — very impressive.
Michael Gisler WINS the stage overall with the most points and the stage finish!
Stage 8 is the queen’s stage, will include the final KOM of the TOUR.
“Massive points will be earned and gobbled up today,” Lundgren said. “This is the TOUR. The cream rises to the top. Nothing to talk about.”
Tonight’s Stage 8 rolls out at 6:15pm from Riverdale NJ, contact Coach@EliteEndurance.com for parking and directions.
The TOUR is free, awesome, and open to all experienced riders.
Gabrielle Czernik is in red, Jonathan Iwaszczuk is in yellow, Sam Findlater is in green, and William Christman is in polka dots.