Vindicator staff report
COLUMBIANA — Jafer Beizer holds the yellow jersey among Pro Men 1-2 riders after winning Saturday’s Tour of the Valley road race over a 33-mile course that was doubled to 66.
Beizer, of Conyers, Ga. and a member of Jittery Joe’s U25 pb Kudzu.com team, took a four-point lead over Tom Burke of Lathrup Industries/Giant. Paul Martin of North Royalton and Texas Roadhouse is third overall.
Burke was Saturday’s road race runner-up, while Alan Antonuk of Essex Brass was third.
“We’ll try to protect it tomorrow during the criterium,” Beizer said of the jersey ownership after two days and three stages of the three-day event.
Although 22, Jafer’s racing age is 23.
“We’ll try to get as many guys [scoring] as we did on Friday,” Beizer said of the criterium that landed first-, third-, fifth- and sixth-place finishes for Jittery Joe’s riders.
Joey Rosskopf was Friday’s criterium winner amog Pro Men 1-2.
“The Panther team has a lot of guys and I’m sure Paul [Martin] will want to get the jersey back,” Beizer said of the Panthers — Jittery Joe’s strongest competition. “So we’ll be on offense and keep everything together.”
Martin had the yellow jersey until Saturday, when a Pro 1-2 field of 46 lit up the roads around Columbiana.
In addition to Rosskopf and Beizer, Jittery Joe’s team comprises Thomas Brown, Oscar Clark, Mike Niemi and Anthony Bennett.
“We definitely want to chase everything down or keep the breaks from going up the road,” Beizer said of strategy geared for today’s criterium through the streets of downtown Youngstown.
“If we get guys [opponents] up the road, we’ll go to the front and ride hard to bring them back,” Beizer said of his team’s plan. “The Panthers will keep sending their guys up the road and try to attack us, so we want to try to control that a little. We’re just going to do the best we can and try to repeat Friday’s performance.”
Beizer, who works as the head of the bike division for Duro Tire Co. in Georgia, flew into Pittsburgh on Thursday and was picked up by teammates.
After Friday’s time trial, Beizer was seventh. During Friday’s criterium, he was working for teammates, not for placing.
“I was just leading them out for the sprint,” Beizer said of his role. “I rode for them on Friday and I got to ride for myself Saturday.”
The road race through Columbiana County roads Saturday started with a lot of attacks by the Panther team.
“We went to the front and covered it,” Beizer said of himself and teammates marking the opponent until the field came back together.
While Beizer was in a breakaway, he earned “king of the mountain” points for being first in a climb.
“After that first KOM, the field came back together,” Beizer said. “Ten minutes after that is when the winning break went up the road and I bridged across to the break solo. After that, we were never threatened. We hit the tailwind section and a gap opened up immediately. I think our lead got up to over two minutes at one point.”
With about 10 miles to go and Burke attacking, another Jittery Joe’s rider went across to him.
“I looked at the other guys in the break, but nobody did anything. From that point, we put heads down and fought it out to the finish.”
Other Jittery Joe’s riders placing behind Beizer were Australian Anthony Bennett (eighth) and Rosskopf (11th).
Beizer’s road race win and his overall standing are firsts this season.
“I’m excited about that,” he said.