Yesterday, three riders were newly-crowned USA Crit Champions as part of the KIA Motors USA Cycling National Criterium Championships in Downers Grove, Illinois: Tina Pic of the Colavita/Sutter Home p/b Cooking Light, Justin England of the California Giant and John Murphy of the OUCH p/b Maxxis.
Once again it all came down to the last turn, which at only 150 meters from the finish line is crucial, but the circumstances were quite different between the women’s and the pro men’s race.
The amazing Pic rounded that last corner in first position and took it to the line to win her sixth – yes sixth – title after winning four straight titles from 2002 to 2005 and again in 2007. Defending champion Brooke Miller of Team TIBCO was second and Shelley Olds of Proman was third. Rounding off the podium were Kori Seehafer (Team Type 1) in fourth place and Theresa Cliff-Ryan (Verducci-Breakaway) finished fifth.
The attacks started immediately on the first lap of the 50K (31 mile) Elite KIA Motors Elite Women National Criterium Championship as three riders, Amanda Miller (Lip Smacker), Brooke Miller and USA U23 Crit Champion Sam Schneider (Team Type 1) launched the first break of the day. The trio gained 15 seconds before being reeled in on the third lap just in time for a prime won by Alison Powers (Team Type 1). As often happens, the prime sprint launched a break as Powers continued on with Amber Rais (TIBCO) and Rachel Heal (Colavita/Sutter Home). The trio was caught about three laps later. Soon after, Seehafer gave it a go on a solo move gaining up to 12 seconds on the field.
And on and on, the attacks flew with short-lived breaks with TIBCO keeping the pressure on including USA Road Champion Meredith Miller who spent eight laps off the front. With so many dangerous breaks, the Colavita/Sutter Home field was forced to chase time and time again burning riders as they went but experienced Pic sat in the field biding her time. The final dig came from TIBCO’s Kat Carroll who was caught with a half-lap to go, setting up the tightly contested finish.
“The finish sprint here is very unusual,” Brooke Miller said. “It doesn’t just reward pure speed. It’s a bit tactical, too. Today I got beat on experience. I made some tactical mistakes. There’s a reason why Tina has won this race so many times. There’s not a lot of shame in losing to her. But it’s still disappointing.”
While the women’s raced in sunny conditions, the weather changed dramatically in the next two races. In a downpour, Justin England of the California Giant team took home the title in the 80K Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital Elite Men National Criterium Championship. England, known more as a climber, outsprinted his breakmates to take the win ahead of Paul Martin (Panther/RGF Cycling) and Michael Margarite (CRCA/Empire Cycling Team). (see photos on CalGiant blog).
After a one-hour race delay due to the weather conditions, John Murphy of the OUCH p/b Maxxis team survived a crash on that fateful last corner to win the Pro Men’s title with a second-place effort behind Australian Ben Kersten of the Fly V Australia squad. Racing solo, American Tony Cruz of the BMC Racing Team finished third. Rounding off the podium were Jake Keough (Kelly Benefit) in fourth and Adam Myerson (Mt Khakis) in fifth spot.
“Coming into the last corner I was on Bahati’s (Rock Racing) wheel, until he crashed himself out. From there I was left on the front and just kicked and put my head down.” said Commonwealth Games gold medalist Kersten, who was also racing solo. “After Hanes Park last weekend I knew my top end speed was good and that it would be difficult for the others to get round me inside the last 200 meters.”
With half a lap to go, Karl Menzies (OUCH) was on the front working to deliver Murphy to the final corner first, but with 0.4 km to go, Menzies slid out on a slick turn and Murphy barely avoided him. Then on the final fateful corner, defending champion Rahsaan Bahati (Rock Racing) was coming out in prime first position when he slid out forcing Alex Candelario (Kelly Benefit) who was right behind him to unclip. Kersten avoided the mayhem and took it to the line.
“Over the top of the last climb, Karl took over,” Murphy said. “When he crashed I barely missed going over him, by maybe a few millimeters. I tagged back on the group and with two turns to go, I took the inside line to move up. On the final corner, Bahati and Cruz came around me but Bahati overcooked it and crashed. I went through the turn at a good speed. Kersten came inside me and I thought he had good momentum going into the finish sprint, and I thought if he could keep that up it would be tough. I just went for it from there. I got close, and the outright win would’ve been great, but I’m really happy to get the jersey.”
On Saturday, the Downers Grove Pro/Am races were held on the same one-mile course with 8 turns, the appetizer to the Championships races on the next day.
In the 40 Mins.+ 2 lap Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital Women 1/2/, TIBCO’s Kat Carroll pulled out her patented move and attacked the field with eight laps to go, dropped her break mate with two to go and soloed for the win. Colavita/Sutter Home’s Tina Pic won the field sprint for second ahead of Shelley Olds (Proman).
With three laps to go, race officials announced a field prime, which put the break in danger as they only had a 6 second-gap at that point. After Pic sprinted to take the prime, the gap was cut in half, but the field let off the gas, and Carroll took the opportunity to put in one last dig. She dropped Theresa Cliff-Ryan (Verducci-Breakaway) and put her head down for the final two laps.
“I wasn’t really sure what happened behind us,” Carroll said. “I just knew I had 2.5 minutes of work to do.” She did just enough work to hold off the field by four seconds to take the win.
The 50K (31 mile) HealthSource Pro-Am Challenge Cat. 1/2 came down to a 3-man race won by BISSELL’s Frank Pipp ahead of OUCH-Maxxis’ Karl Menzies and Jelly Belly’s Jeremy Powers.
With eight laps to go, Menzies bridged up to a group of nine riders that included Ivan Dominguez (Rock Racing), Pipp and Powers. With three laps to go, Pipp attacked the break with Powers quickly covering the move. With just a lap remaining, Menzies once again made a solo bridge to the front group. Not long after he joined the duo, Powers attacked with a half lap remaining and Menzies chased him down with Pipp on his wheel.
Complete results here