With two of the top sprinters in North America, the Bahati Foundation Pro Cycling Team executed perfect tactics at the Merco Downtown Criterium.
“We have Rahsaan Bahati, Hilton Clarke, the top sprinters in America, top 2, on a good day they can beat anybody. We had those two guys in the background, waiting and we have the upper hand. We’ll be aggressive, put ourselves in the move but if it doesn’t work, we have Rahsaan and Hilton and if it does stay away guys like myself can take their chance.” said winner Matty Rice.
And it worked. Rice attacked his breakmates on the final lap to get the win, his second victory in two weeks after a four year dry spell while Rahsaan Bahati and Hilton Clarke took the field sprint to make it a sweep for the new team.
“It was a great feeling to come out of the corner and know that we were going to get 1-2-3, what a way to start a season.” smiled Bahati. “I think we’re going to have a great season and hopefully this pattern continues.”
Fans at the race known for its chicane and breaks were treated today to a battle between a break and a chasing field in the 40-mile/50-lap Men Pro/1/2 race. Did the field wait too long to chase? Would the break attack each other? All these questions were answered in the final 12 laps of the race.
Immediately from the start, California Giant Specialized went hunting for primes with both Andrew Talansky and Steve Reaney each getting a small gap before being swallowed up by the field. Six laps into the race, it was BISSELL’s Andy Jacques-Maynes who made a move. He was quickly joined by Tim Johnson (United Healthcare-Maxxis) and Jared Barilleaux (CalGiant). One lap later, Charlie Avis of Trek-Livestrong U23 bridged up while Jorge Alvarado (Bahati Foundation) made his way across after four more laps.
With a gap of thirty seconds at 35 laps to go, the Yahoo! Cycling Team started to chase in earnest, finally reeling the break in with 29 laps to go.
Shuffling, re-shuffling slowed the pace for the next couple of laps and then it was game on agian as speeds ramped up with A. Jacques-Maynes, Will Dugan (Team Type 1), Max Jenkins (United Healthcare-Maxxis), Carson Miller (Veloforma) and Will Routley (Jelly Belly) each attacking but nothing stuck.
Meanwhile Bahati was surfing the back of the field. “It’s just how it goes here, the right mix goes off the front and all of a sudden, you turn around on the homestretch and there’s no one in sight, and alright it’s our turn today.” he explained.
Finally with 14 laps to go, the right composition was found with five riders jumping away. In the break were Rice, Talansky, Iggy Silva (Trek-Livestrong U23), Ben Jacques-Maynes (BISSELL) and Philip Mooney (Yahoo! Cycling Team).
“It’s just how it goes here, the right mix goes off the front and all of a sudden, you turn around on the homestretch and there’s no one in sight, and alright it’s our turn today.” said B. Jacques-Maynes. The gap quickly went up to twenty seconds as everyone pulled through, everyone except Rice that is.
“I worked for the first four laps of the move to get it started. we’ve got Hilton Clarke and Rahsaan Bahati, I had to sit back, if they catch us those guys win and if we stay away, I have a chance myself.” Rice explained.
With no rider in the break, everyone looked to the 9-rider United Healthcare team to assume the chase. With 10 laps to go and a gap of ten seconds, the team massed at the front with Johnson driving the train.
The riders in the break, except for Rice, were still working together hoping it would stick. They also kept their eye on each other and especially on Silva the best sprinter in the small group.
“That’s exactly who I was worried about but to be a good criterium racer, you have to sprint and race hard.” said B. Jacques-Maynes. “Today he had one of the two, but it’s still early in the season.”
“I watched him and Ben go for a couple of primes, Ben got one and Iggy got one, Iggy is quick but he was looking a little tired at the end.” said Talansky.
With 6 laps to go, the gap was twenty-five seconds. After a monster pull by Roman Kilun (United Healthcare), the gap was down to twenty seconds at five laps to go. With two laps to go, it was fifteen seconds on the clock.
On the final lap, Rice made his move right at the start/finish line to drop his breakmates. “Those guys worked for ten miles out there, they worked hard, every lap was getting harder and harder so I was a bit fresher than those guys.” said Rice.
“When he hit I was on the other side of the group, I knew straightaways ‘I’m not able to go for this’ so just hope that they don’t all catch us at the line and we get nothing. I came out with a good place so I can’t complain. “ said B. Jacques-Maynes who finished 6th. “Good workout today, the legs felt better than I expected, the little opener yesterday probably helped.”
“When Matty Rice went, we all just kept rolling through together but he had a pretty good gap and then on the back stretch, we sat up a little, I guess everybody realized that we were not going to catch him and by sitting up there we got caught at the end by the United Healthcare train and the Bahati guys.” commented Talansky. “After he went, I was hoping we’d get close enough so that I could go, bridge up but that didn’t really happen. He beat me to the punch on that one, pretty much my only option was to attack, that was the plan, and then at the end just try to hold on once we got swarmed.” Talansky finished 7th.
“On the backside of the course we saw Matty was off on his own and me and Rahsaan were actually cheering. We were cheering him on and then we had a job to do to catch the other three, it couldn’t have worked more perfect.” smiled Clarke.
The pack swarmed the remnants on the break. “We caught them going into the last corner, it was awkward, they were fanned out across the road going into the turn, Hilton went inside, I went outside and we just dragged race to the finish.” said Bahati. “United Heatlthcare did a great job trying to bring the break back, if it wasn’t for those guys, we wouldn’t have been close.”
Top 10 Men Pro/1/2
1. Matthew Rice (Bahati Foundation Pro Cycling)
2. Rahsaan Bahati (Bahati Foundation Pro Cycling)
3. Hilton Clarke (Bahati Foundation Pro Cycling)
4. Eric Barlevav (UnitedHealthcare presented by Maxxis)
5. Cole House (BMC Racing)
6. Benjamin Jacques-Maynes (BISSELL Pro Cycling)
7. Andrew Talansky (California Giant Berry Farms/S)
8. Andy Jacques-Maynes (BISSELL Pro Cycling)
9. Sterling Magnell (God & Father)
10. Philip Mooney (Yahoo! Cycling Team)
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