Solo attacks and crashes were the story of the day at the Fayetteville Criterium, the fourth and final stage of the Joe Martin Stage Race. In the end Alexi Rhodes (Team VBF) and Karl Menzies (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis) emerged with the stage win and Alison Powers (Team VBF) and Luis Amaran (Jamis/Sutter Home) claimed the overall.
The crit already known to be run on a difficult course was modified this year to add more turns for a grand total of twelve, with three on a downhill, one with construction, one with bricks and one that was just carnage with its slick new pavement and uneven curbside. I lost count how many riders were taken out or caught behind a crash in the second to last corner and unfortunately some were injured such as Kyle Wamsley (BISSELL) who stayed down for multiple laps, Adrian Hegyvary (UnitedHealthcare) and Jason Donald (OUCH-Bahati), all three suffered broken collarbones. Many riders decided to pull the pin after being caught behind many crashes so that 78 riders out of 129 starters finished the race in the men’s pro field.
Rhodes solos. Anne Samplonius (Nanoblur-Gears) decided to make the 60-minute crit hard from the start, stringing out the field in the first lap. By the end of the first 1.3-mile, the field had already splintered and riders had gone down in crashes with the main group around 30 riders. Rushlee Buchanan (Colavita/Baci) was an early victim of a crash and ‘only’ suffered road rash. TIBCO/To The Top stepped in to keep the pace high. Colavita/Baci squad attacked to try and get away but nothing was sticking as pack made it way up and down and around the course. Seeing that the second-to-last corner was dangerous, spray paint was added but it was already too late.
The pace stayed high keeping the field strung out and attacks from succeeding. Powers kept close to her main rival Katheryn Curi Mattis (Webcor) who was only 3 seconds down. With time bonuses of 10, 6 and 4 seconds on the line, the stage placings were her prime importance. Third on GC at 15 seconds down, Alison Starnes (TIBCO/To The Top) was caught behind an early crash and ended chasing for most of the race. Her teammates Meredith Miller and Amanda Miller were also in the main group along with Powers’ teammates Robin Farina, Alison Testroete and Rhodes.
With 6 laps to go, the field took a small breather that didn’t last long as Farina came to the front to up the tempo. With three laps to go, on a prime lap, Rhodes made her move. She quickly got a gap as the GC contenders were not interested in chasing her down … yet. With one lap to go, the Australian had a gap of 10 seconds with M Miller mounting the chase. Rhodes successfully navigated the turns but not so for the chase group. Samplonius was at the front and slid out on the second to last corner, the rider behind her also went down and M Miller who was in third wheel slid out into a hay bale which brought her to a stop. Powers and Mattis squeezed through safely and Mattis launched her sprint. Powers jumped in behind her to make sure that she finished at least third to keep the lead.
Rhodes soloed to victory, Mattis got second and Powers third.
With that, Powers made it two in a row at Joe Martin Stage Race. Mattis finished second at 2 seconds down. A Miller was third at 37 seconds. The officials decided to give M Miller the same time as the main group and not Mattis and Powers which pushed her down to fourth and not third. Farina finished fifth overall. Team VBF also won the team classification.
UnitedHealthcare go 1-2. It didn’t take long for attacks to fly in the 90-minute men’s criterium. David Kemp (Fly V Australia) launched the hostilities and was joined by Kyle Wamsley (BISSELL), Karl Menzies (UnitedHealthcare) and Brian Jensen (Tradewind Energy). Catch, re-shuffle and another break is off. Once again Kemp was in the middle of it with Matt Crane (UnitedHealthcare) and Ken Hanson (Team Type 1).
Behind them, the field was already splintered into groups after the numerous crashes. A few laps later Caleb Fairly (Holowesko Partners) bridged up to make it four off the front. The complete Jamis/Sutter Home team at the front of the field were quite happy with the combination of riders in the break with Fairly the highest-placed on GC at more than one minute down.
The gap hovered around 30 seconds for the rest of the race. Seeing the move was sticking, Kyle Wamsley (BISSELL) escape the field to bridge up but as he was making headway he crashed on that dangerous corner and the field had to go by him for a few laps as EMS was taking care of him. (Note later it was learned that he had a broken collarbone and broken teeth. Very tough luck for Wamsley who was on the roster for Tour of California).
More riders tried to bridge up including Floyd Landis (OUCH-Bahati) and Jay Thomson (Fly V Australia) but they were quickly reabsorbed by the field.
The sprinters team started massing behind the Jamis/Sutter Home train salivating over a bunch sprint while the speed ramped up. With less than three laps to go, the gap was in the single digits. At two laps to go with the gap down to 5 seconds, Crane went on a solo flyer.
With one lap to go, his gap was 7 seconds to the field with Fly V Australia chasing hard. Would Crane be able to hold off the field for another 1.3 mile and 12 corners?
Yes, er I mean no. Crane was caught on the finish line by the field charging up the climb. It was clear that UHC had 1-2 with Jonathan Cantwell (Fly V Australia) coming in third. But who was first, Crane or Menzies? Looking at my finish photo, I thought it was Menzies but minutes later, Crane was put on the top step oat the podium ceremony with Menzies second. Later that evening, the official results came out with Menzies as the winner and Crane second. This is not the first podium mistake these past two weeks, as the GC podium was done twice at the SRAM Tour of the Gila. There have been multiple complaints of results being wrong and some DS spent hours looking at tapes to calculate gaps after the second stage at Joe Martin. Hopefully this is not a new trend.
A first for Amaran. The Cuban took over the lead after stage 2 and was always surrounded by his team to defend and win the overall. After threee years of racing in the United States, this victory marks his first ever NRC stage race win in his career. Not his last I am sure for the 31-year old.
BISSELL’s Ben Jacques-Maynes and Jeremy Vennell finished second and third overall at 3 and 11 seconds down respectively. BISSELL also won the team classification.