Wednesday, March 25, 2009

GrandStay Hotels gearing up for a hard-fought ’09 cycling season

Entering its 5th year, the GrandStay Hotels cycling team eagerly anticipates an intensely competitive ’09 season. From the look of things, many local teams have bolstered their lineups, no doubt with GrandStay Hotels in their sights. The team looks forward to spirited encounters throughout the spring, summer and fall.

For the record, the ’08 season was GrandStay Hotels’ most successful to date. The team followed up 48 wins in ’07 with 50 more in ’08 and added a total of 105 trips to the podium. These results include the State Road Championship in both the Pro/1/2 and 35+ categories, the State Time Trial Championship in the Pro/1/2, overall wins in the state’s two stage races—the Duluth Classic Stage Race and the Tour of Granite Country—and 6 course records at time trials throughout the region.

With an all-Minnesotan roster of 10 Pro/1/2 riders and 4 elite masters 35+ riders, the team is largely intact from ’08, with Doug Swanson still the team’s peerless leader and very un-secret weapon. Team president Matt Williams has brought on two young guns, Jens Brabbit and David Schueller, both of whom have already demonstrated great potential. The team is glad to have them in the fold.

In 2009, the team will remain focused on the Minnesota racing calendar, with occasional trips out of state. The season kicks off with a Wisconsin-based training camp in early April and the racing gets under way in mid-April with the Opus Criterium Tuesday night series and the Durand, Ken Woods, and Gluek road races on successive weekends. The team will host the Gluek Road Race and the Minnesota State Criterium Championships, as well as having a hand in the Porkchop Challenge Cyclocross race.

Here’s a brief look at the GrandStay Hotels roster:

Pro/1/2 Team

Doug Swanson—Cat 1 road/cx; Pro mtn
Undisputed team leader; 17 wins (including State Road Race Championship, Ken Woods RR, Tour of Granite Country overall) in ‘08; also set two TT course records in ’08; dipped under the mythical 14 minute barrier at Black Dog for the second time; can manufacture win in any manner; in first and only venture on the velodrome scorched the fastest 3K pursuit seen on the track in many years; despite his freakish abilities is humble and very likeable, someone his teammates are more than happy to work for.

Dan Swanson—Cat 1 road/cx; Pro mtn
State Criterium champion in ’06 and a close 2nd in ’07 and ’08—has the date marked on the ’09 calendar; crafty, quick and wise beyond years; had an awesome victory at the Durand Road Race in which he escaped the peleton in the first mile and outfoxed his strong breakaway companion with what was voted the best bike throw of the ’08 season.

Andy Minier—Cat 1 road
Universally respected in the peleton; super domestique; threat in any break; tireless workhorse; doesn’t seem to feel pain or at very least must enjoy it; sacrifices individual results for the good of the team.

Ian Stanford—Cat 1 road/cx; Pro mtn
Untouchable over 40k TT at the local level and competitive on the national level—has annihilated MN state TT champ field last three years; set two TT course records in ’08 and took the overall victory in the Duluth Classic Stage Race; old enough to race 35+ but too fast to consider it; an ideal final leadout for Doug Swanson; willing to put his immense talent to work for the good of the team.

Micah Moran—Cat 1 road/cx
Always makes the break; especially strong as the summer wears on; performs best in the “big” events; intelligent racer effective at directing team tactics on the fly.

Jens Brabbit—Cat 1 road
New addition, and team’s youngest member; shows great potential and already has many fine results to his name; very strong time trialist and a potent all-arounder; mature for his age, demonstrates real character.

Lance Beuning—Cat 2 road/cx
Still young; ’08 showed signs of a return to form; worked hard for the team cause; may surprise some people in ’09; when full strength he’s a force to be reckoned with, especially in cyclocross.

David Schueller—Cat 2 road
A welcome new face on the team; moved rapidly through the ranks in ’08; spent the last portion of the season with the 1/2’s and showed he more than belonged; strong engine and impressive finish; can be found racing the velodrome in ’09 as well, possibly as a madison partner with teammate Casper.

Daniel Casper—Cat 1 road/cx
Partial to the break and the chase; TT specialist; 13 wins in ’08 with two TT course records including the first sub 15 minute Black Dog TT on a stock bike; 35+ MN State CX champ; took up track racing in ’08 and will be back on the velodrome in ’09; old enough to race 35+, may do some double duty.

Matt Williams—Cat 1 road/cx
President and architect of the GrandStay Hotels cycling team; ever-improving rider in his own right; tireless in all arenas; got his first, well-deserved road victory at the Chris Kerr Road Race in ’08; also eligible for 35+, may play his hand there on occasion, though '09 will probably see Matt cut back on his racing to spend more time with his four children.

Elite Master 35+ Team

Charles Jacobs—Cat 2 road/cx
Nearly untouchable when “on;” started ’08 on a roll, taking the overall at the Duluth Classic Stage Race in convincing fashion; serious injury from a race accident in early June derailed the remainder of his season; still managed to come back in early September to team with Steve Cragle to win the 35+ two-man TT state championships.

Jim Bell—Cat 2 road/cx
The ultimate in selfless; power machine; threat to stay away whenever up the road; won the Circuit Race at the ’08 Tour of Granite Country and was 45+ State Champion in Cyclocross; he and Ray Coyle make a formidable one-two punch; all-around great guy and team’s race organizer.

Steve Cragle—Cat 2 road
Astounded in 2007 with impressive results but was out majority of ’08 due to injury; true sprinter’s speed with range; teamed up with Charles Jacobs to win the 35+ State Two-man TT Championship; expect a strong ’09 from him.

Ray Coyle—Cat 2 road
Former accomplished wrestler who’s correspondingly tough and tenacious on the bike; long-range strength coupled with solid sprint; always in the hunt at the finish with 9 trips to the podium in ’09 and some big wins, including the 35+ State Road Race Championship and the 35+ overall in the Tour of Granite Country Stage Race.