All eyes were on the Kelly Benefit Strategies team at the Chicago Criterium, on the National Racing Calendar, who seemed to be headed for victory until the last lap of the 80-km (49-mile) race when Jelly Belly’s Brad Huff took a flyer in the second turn, dug deep and soloed to victory to take home a $5,000 check.
“In those final five laps, Kelly Benefit was really controlling it amazingly. I just wanted to help out my old friend Mike Friedman and I positioned in front of him. On the last lap, we were on the outside going into turn two, actually OUCH was at the front controlling at that point and I just hit out with everything I had and Friedman said ‘not now’ and I just kept going, buried myself over each rise because there’s two rises in the course before the finish and I just gave it everything I had to the top of the crest.” said Huff.
Huff had enough time to savor his victory salute at the finish line.
“I gave everything I had until I knew and then I was able to sit up. You know it’s not often a sprinter gets to post for a race and it was awesome. For team Jelly Belly, it was a great day.” smiled Huff.
Riding solo, Hilton Clarke (Fuji-Servetto) finished second and Karl Menzies (OUCH p/b Maxxis) was third.
The last lap around the 1.1-mile course was chaos with four crashes taking riders down including defending champion Adam Bergman (Texas-Roadhouse) and Carlos Varga (Hotel San Jose).
“It was just crazy. Kelly [Benefit] seemed to die and suddenly Brad Huff just disappeared in the distance and he went from so far out there was nothing I could do about it.” commented Clarke on the last lap.
“John was at the front with me on his wheel which wasn’t the perfect situation but everyone was waiting so we went. Huff jumped us and we didn’t want to go full gas then. So I had to go out of the second to last corner, I jumped up the hill and then Friedman came around me, Hilz came around halfway to the finish, I kept on going, I knew I could sprint okay down here but I jumped pretty early…” said Menzies who had his teammate John Murphy leading him out on the final lap.
The 180-plus rider field and non-stop primes delivered interesting tactics for the day. Moves were tried by multiple riders from the Kelly Benefit Strategies, Mt Khakis, Texas Roadhouse and Hotel San Jose teams but nothing stuck.
“The whole race, it was fast, it was fatiguing, it was like a field sprint every lap. Karl Menzies came up to me in the middle of the race, said early on ‘it’s a field sprint every lap’ and I started thinking about it, and it was, guys were jockeying for position, guys were being aggressive, good lord, everybody just calm down we still have 30 laps to go.” described Huff.
“Because of the money, no one wanted to go hard enough, everybody wanted to get into the breakaway but didn’t want to work. Every team has got reasonable sprinters and I think everyone fancied their chance in a bunch sprint, it got dangerous towards there at the end which is why we were at the front, at least there you don’t crash.” said Menzies who along with his two teammates Murphy and Bobby Lea took turns in the possible breaks.
Riding solo, Astana’s Chris Horner keyed off the Kelly Benefit squad.
“Realistically I looked at the group and Kelly Benefit are the strongest. If they missed a move, they are strong enough to pull it back and they had the numbers so the obvious thing to do is never attack and watch the Kelly Benefit, if they are in the move, be in that move. Multiple times I jumped into the move with Kelly Benefit, but I only put one attack where I was trying to split the field but that didn’t quite work either. I think it hurt but it didn’t split it, without a split it didn’t mean much of anything.” laughed Horner.
A dangerous break of riders that included Lea, Bergman and Garmin-Slipstream’s Mike Friedman escaped with 7 laps to go and quickly got a gap on the field. That brought the full might of the Kelly Benefit train to the front of the field and after setting a high pace, it was all together with two laps to go. With one lap to go, it was game on with riders swarming up the field.
Of note Mt Khakis’s David Guttenplan won the halfway prime of $1000.
Numainville wins bunch sprint
Fresh off winning the road race at the Pan American Championships in Mexico – and I mean fresh as she had just flown back Saturday night – Canadian Joëlle Numainville of Team Kenda won the bunch sprint to take the victory in the women’s pro/1/2/3 race. Legendary Laura van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom) finished second and Sarah Caravella (ALAN) was third in the 50-minute plus 2-laps race around the same course.
“I was in the back of the field and I had to work hard to move forwards. I didn’t want to be the first one out of the last turn because I knew that there was a headwind. I waited for the other rider to come out first and came out and sprinted with 100 meters to go. I practiced my line with the primes.” said Numainville.
“They gave the gambler’s prime with two to go which really ramped it up, and then Kenda was pretty active and SugarCRM actually was very active for the leadout so I just tried to capitalize off of that and just went maybe a little bit too early and wasn’t unable to hold off Joelle coming out of the last corner.” said van Gilder.
The field might have been small as the women’s race was not on the National Racing Calendar, but that didn’t stop it from being an aggressive race with riders making moves to try and break away from the field.
“Kenda was very active today, they initiated several breakaway attempts, so did Team BH USA and also the Vanderkitten rider, I tried some attacks as well. There were a lot of primes on hands for the riders and a good prize list, unfortunately none of the breaks really stuck. It’s kind of a windy open course so it really was going to have to be the right dynamics and I’d say it was a very good women’s field and we definitely raced very hard all day long. It came to a field sprint at the end but that wasn’t for not trying.” said van Gilder.
With a full contingent showing up – Katherine Walberg, Ashley James, Christy Keely, team captain Kristin Wentworth and Numainville – Team Kenda tried to be in every move while saving Numainville for the end.
Riding solo, van Gilder had to use her experience to juggle breaks and saving her energy.
“I’m just trying to be very attentive to the strong people getting off the front and to make sure that I’m either with them or not missing things like that, I certainly know the people who can stay away, I was attentive and try not to be too wasteful of me energy and have something for the sprint finish.” said van Gilder.
Numainville practiced her sprinting line going for the many primes during the day but it wasn’t always easy as the Pan American Champion jersey that she was sporting does not have any pockets for a race radio.
“The team really did a good job. I did try to win all the primes… but there were a couple of times that I didn’t know what was going on, my jersey doesn’t have any back pockets so I don’t have a radio.” laughed Numainville.
In the end, Numainville took the best line and outsprinted everybody.
“The team really did a good job. I’m really happy, it wasn’t easy, I was feeling fatigued during the race.” said Numainville.
Full results here
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