Photos of Astellas – 2016 Sunny King

These photos are from the 2016 season when things had already begun to unravel for the team. As I wrote on page 181, Astellas corporate had already indicated that they wouldn’t fund the entire budget. The crit squad – with the help of Aldo Illesic’s connection to Specialized – acquired their own un-branded (or I should say, Specialized-branded) kits for the early seasons races such as Sunny King in Anniston Alabama. (The team was sponsored by Pactimo who – shortly after Sunny King – supplied all the kits.)
I drove down from Detroit and spent the weekend with them. This photos are from that trip.
Below: The team camp a few blocks up Noble St. from the Start/Finish.  from L to R, it’s Eamon, Aldo, Monk, Ian, Clay, and I think that’s Ryan’s hand at the extreme right. No idea who’s sitting on the cooler. Gary Bavolar is standing looking off into space.

Here’s a better shot of Gary actually working on the Specialized aluminum bikes that got a lot of attention throughout the year. That a pro team would ride a low priced Al frame was kind of unheard of. Yet those things held up really well, and they were surprisingly easy to find in the fast-moving field. That comes in handy when you’re standing along the course trying to find your 6 guys.
Gary was one of our reliable freelancers who worked with the team from time to time, especially after the firing of the full time mechanic… (whose name I omitted so as not to embarrass anyone.) Gary was also with us at Richmond Worlds discussed on page 160.


Here are some more shots from that weekend. The Specialized kits were NOT as easy to spot in the peloton, but they were only temporary, so who cares? It was better than riding naked.


Here’s Clay getting a call-up to the starting line. Notice Mac Brennan (Holowesko-Citadel) wearing arm and leg warmers. Yes, Alabama gets chilly at night in April. Go figure. Also notice that Clay’s riding FFWD sew-ups. Those wheels were fast and durable. The team loved them.


Here’s Monk and Ryan riding in numerical order through the final corner onto 11th St.


I didn’t include a recap of this particular race in American Pro because it was a pretty standard affair. (I talk about it during some of the earlier seasons, but not 2016). The team did OK, but the race was dominated by Holowesko and UHC. I don’t remember who won. I could look it up, but that requires more research.
Researching these races – and deciding which ones to use in the book – was an onerous task. The team raced a LOT in its 5 years, and I had to figure out which races to include in the book and which ones to skip. When you’re limited to 60,000 words, you can’t include everything, nor can you write about every rider. I had to pick and choose the races according to the Big Picture of what I was trying to say. Consequently, some riders receive a short shrift.  For example, this guy…


Ian Keough, comes from a long line of racing brothers, the famous Keough family from Massachusetts. Great rider. Good kid. He was on the crit squad for most of 2016, yet he hardly appears in the book. NOT because he was invisible, but because the races that he raced didn’t make the cut. Sorry, Ian!

I’ll have more from this weekend trip to Sunny King along with other stories/photos of the Astellas experience. Stay tuned.


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