The 7 crits in 8 days known as the USA Crits Speed Week concluded this weekend. The unstoppable Tina Pic (Colavita/Sutter Home) won 4 crits, and placed in the top 10 for the remaining 2 races to easily take the overall USA Crits Speedweek classification.
In the men’s series, Mark Hekman (now riding for TOSHIBA-Santo), repeated his overall win from last year by placing consistently in the top 20 of 6 of the 7 races.
The pro men teams were spread thin during the weekend’s races, due to conflicting races – the NRC Sunny King Crit and Nalley Historic Roswell, the U.S. Air Force Cycling Classic on the US Pro Tour series and the two remaining crits of the USA Crits Speedweek series.
The Athens Twilight Criterium, known for its fast, furious and crash marred crit in front of a party crowd lived up to its billing. Riders involved in crashes included John Murphy (Health Net), and Toshiba-Santo’s Frank Travieso and Mark Hegman. Rashaan Bahati (Rock Racing) emerged unscathed from the carnage to take the sprint using the Colavita/Sutter Home train ahead of Sebastian Haedo and Ken Hanson (Cal Giant).
The women were not sparred from the crashes and early primes only increased the pace of the attacks. Rebecca Larson (Aaron’s) out sprinted Catherine Cheatley (Cheerwine) and Jennifer Wilson (Vanderkitten) to the line for the win.
Two days after the Athens Twilight, the riders moved on to South Carolina for the second race in the series, the second annual Beaufort Memorial Cycling Classic. Hilton Clarke (Toyota-United) combined forces with the trio from Symmetrics Eric Wolberg, Svein Tuft and Cameron Evans to set a high tempo and chase down the break. Then once the field was all together, Clarke then pulled a crafty technical move to take the win ahead of Kyle Wamsley (Colavita/Sutter Home) and Keven Lacombe (Kelly Benefit/Strategies).
National Criterium Champion Tina Pic (Colavita/Sutter Home) went head to head with Laura Van Gilder (Cheerwine) to take the win and Rebecca Larson (Aaron’s), part of the breakaway with the other two riders, finished third.
Hilton Clarke got his second consecutive win at the Downtown Walterboro Criterium, in South Carolina. WIth no break managing to escape the field, Clarke, again, worked with the Symmetrics’ trio, sat behind the Canadian team and timed his final effort around the long straightaways to out sprint Sebastian Haedo (Colavita/Sutter Home) and Alex Candelario (Kelly Benefit/Strategies) for the victory.
The reverse happened in the women’s race, with a break of 6 successfully escaping and create a gap of 20 seconds to the field, and that was enough. With two laps to go, the cooperation in the break ceased, and Kelly Benjamin (Cheerwine) won the battle crossing the line first ahead of Shontelle Gauthier (Colavita/Sutter Home) and Holli Steelman (Juice Plus/NC cycling). Tina Pic, who was not in the break, brought the field home and finished in seventh place.
Kelly Benefit/Medifast climbed to the top step of the podium in the Uptown Greenwood Pro Cycling Challenge where the team used the uphill finish to its advantage and build out its leadout train to bring Alex Candelario to the finish line first ahead of Jonathan Cantwell (Jittery Joe’s) and Jake Keough (CRCA/Sakonnet Technology).
Tina Pic took advantage of Cheerwine’s leadout train sitting on their wheels and out sprinting Laura Van Gilder and Kelly Benjamin to take the win, again.
Taking advantage of the fact that some of the men’s teams had departed for the NRC and/or US Pro Tour races, Aldo Ilesic (Black Sheep Cartel) took his first win on American soil besting Keith Norris (TOSHIBA-Santo) and Adam Myerson (TIME Pro Cycling) at the Steadman Hawkins Cycling. In the women’s race, it was deja vu with Tina Pic outsprinting Erica Allar (Aaron’s) and Kelly Benjamin (Cheerwine) to take the win.
On the penultimate day of the series, Aldo Ilesic (Black Sheep Cartel) took back-to-back wins in the Dilworth Criterium in Charlotte, NC. He hopped on the Toshiba-Santo train and jumped clear to cross the line ahead of Juan Forero (Colombian National Team) and Mark Hekman (TOSHIBA-Santo). There was no women’s race for this event.
Peter Dawson (Rock Racing) outsprinted his seven-man breakaway companions to win the last event of the series, the Sandy Springs Cycling Challenge, with Bruno Langlois (Myogenesis.com) and Christian Helmig (Metro Volkswagen) rounding off the podium. By finishing head of his closest rival, Mark Hekman (TOSHIBA-Santo) won the USA Crits Speed Week series for the second year in a row.
It comes with no surprise that Tina Pic (Colavita/Sutter Home) won the final crit of the series, taking the final uphill sprint ahead of Laura Van Gilder (Cheerwine) and Kelly Benjamin (Cheerwine).