Hot Friday evening in Tulsa for the opener of the 3-day St Francis Tulsa Tough. With temperatures still hovering around 90 F as the sun was setting, attacks flew in the Blue Dome Criterium as fans lined the streets and enjoyed the show, with fireworks even! Attacks flew in both the men’s and women’s race but (almost) nothing stuck with every team wanting to be in the move making it that no team got into the move.
“I figured it was my turn to take an attack.” Amanda Miller (TIBCO/To The Top) soloed to victory after an attack with four laps to go in the women’s 55-minute crit. Jennifer Purcell (MSU Cycling) took the field sprint for second ahead of Laura Van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom).
The TIBCO/To The Top team used its numbers in the race, launching rider after rider to try and force a break or to shut down dangerous moves. And they were not the only ones with other teams attacking and counter-attacking but nothing stuck until four laps to go.
Lauren Hall (Team VBF) was one of the first riders to put an attack in quickly followed by Devon Haskell (TIBCO/To The Top) in a counter-move. And on and on, as teams and riders all tried their luck either solo or in multi-rider breaks. Moves from Kristin LaSasso and Miller (TIBCO/To The Top), Jackie Crowell and Morgan Patton (Team Type 1), Erica Allar (Team VBF), Jen McRae (Chann McRae Coaching), Coryn Rivera (Peanut Butter Co TWENTY12). They tried and tried again but nothing stuck.
Halfway through the 50-minute crit on the elongated-figure-8 flat as a pancake course, a dangerous move made it way off the front. After stringing out the field, Van Gilder, Purcell and McRae were off and Rivera quickly bridged across. The powerful engines worked together to get a 10-second gap but with riders trying to either bridge up, the move was shut down just as the lap cards were brought out.
“There were a lot of very very strong solo riders here.” said Van Gilder who went in three break attempt. “so I was thinking maybe there would be a move later in the race. There seems to be really good flow to the course tonight and so that wasn’t going to happen and there was never a mix.”
Purcell was also racing solo. “It’s hard to always stay of top of their moves, especially when they have six and they were just sending girls out.” she explained about her strategy against full squad like TIBCO/To The Top. “You just try to be smart and hope that other teams will chase and you can jump on their wheels and they’ll give you a free ride and be ready for the next move. But a few times of doing that, and a long ride in the car wears you out.”
Still a few more attacks from Kori Seehafer (Team Type 1), Cari Higgins (Peanut Butter Co TWENTY12), Jen Reither (Vanderkitten) as the lap cards were flipped. The field was back together with six laps to go just in time for another prime, this time for $200 won by Higgins.
It seemed that a bunch sprint was in order but not so fast. With less than four laps to go, Miller went for another solo attack.
“I honestly did not know what lap it was when I attacked. When I came back through it said three laps to go and ‘alright I have to dig really hard to do this.” said Miller. “Our game plan was to be really aggressive in the race especially towards the end of the race, I figured it was my turn to take an attack.”
Three laps to go, gap was five seconds and Higgins was leading the chase. Two laps to go, Reither tries to bridge up but can’t make it.
“One to go, one to go, one to go”, and Miller is still off the front with a 5 seconds gap, she might just make it.
“I didn’t know I had it until the last corner.” smiled Miller. “I had to dig.” She stuck to win solo, her first NRC win in her career.
“Last ten laps to go, I tried to catch my breath.” said Purcell. “I knew when it came down to three I had to be in front. I wanted to be first out of the last corner and I was, I won the field sprint. So that worked.”
“Some of the other teams that I expected to close it down just didn’t for whatever reason.” said Van Gilder who was racing solo. ” I wasn’t willing to lay myself out to do it and compromise the sprint. That was of the move of the day but that’s okay. Hats off you have to read the race well and have the legs to do it and she had the legs.”
Miller leads the omnium with two races to go. The Brady Village Criterium on Saturday evening and the Riverview Criterium on Sunday afternoon.
“It feels great to be here with my team.” Last year’s omnium Brad Huff (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda) continued where he left, coming around Chris DeMarchi (Agmen/Giant Masters) in the final straight to take the win. DeMarchi finished second and Huff’s teammate Sean Mazich was third.
By the time the 94-rider strong men pro/1 field lined up, the sun was set, the lights were on but it was still hot and about to get hotter. Attacks flew from the first lap with riders trying to force a break. Break attempts appeared and disappeared so quickly that it was difficult to get the names of the riders, especially in the dark.
Riders that launched attacks included Guy East (Kelly Benefit Strategies), Alex Hagman (Bahati Foundation), Joseph Schmalz (Mercy Cycling), Chad Haga (Super Squadra), Emile Abraham (Aerocat), Carlos Varga (Hotel San Jose) and more riders from Texas Roadhouse, Tradewind Energy, Park Place, all tried their luck.
But teams, especially Jelly Belly p/b Kenda and Hotel San Jose, were not willing to let anything go unless they were in it. So nothing went.
Thirty minutes into the 70-minute race, we were all treated to surprise fireworks. The lights exploded in the sky and the attacks continued to fizzle on the road.
“That was pretty sweet. At first, it was Oh My God what is going on?” laughed Jeremy Powers (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda) about the fireworks. “As a spectator I couldn’t think of a better place to hang out at night, fireworks, bike racing, what else.”
With less than fifteen laps to go, the Jelly Belly p/b Kenda team took control of the field, putting three riders at the front to ramp up the pace with Powers putting in some serious pulls. Their goal: setting up Huff for the win which was somewhat surprising as Huff was chasing down attacks along with his teammates early on.
“I was just trying to be a team player, all of our guys worked really hard. A lot of times I don’t like to sit back and let them do the work. It was just great to be able to pull it off.” said Huff.
With six laps to go, Hotel San Jose led by Heath Blackgrove took their turn at the front to set up for their sprinters. Three laps later, Jelly Belly p/b Kenda came back to the front with Powers putting in some monster pulls.
The sprint was on, and it was all about positioning on the final lap.
“It was aggressive coming into the last lap, I got bumped off my guys. I had to work my way back up to the lineup, get on a different leadout train on the last half lap.” said Huff who came around DeMarchi after the final corners to win with more than a bike length. “I was able to come around.”
“With about eight laps to go, I had a few teammates up there and it was about bumping wheels and holding position. With about three laps to go, I got about fourth wheel, fighting wheels. With one to go, took me all the way to the top, down the hill, led it around the last two corners.” said DeMarchi who was the first one around the last corner. “I know that Brad Huff is really fast, all you can do at that point is try to hold him off.”
Top 10 Women Pro/1/2 Results (Complete Results)
1. Amanda Miller (Team TIBCO)
2. Jennifer Purcell (MSU Cycling)
3. Laura Van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom)
4. Erica Allar (Team Vera Bradley Foundation)
5. Coryn Rivera (Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY12)
6. Christina Gokey-Smith (Veloforma)
7. Shontell Gauthier (Colavita/Baci Pro Cycling)
8. Ruth Winder (Peanut Butter & Co Twenty 12)
9. Amy Mcguire (Wheelworks Racing)
10. Jen Mcrae (Chann McRae Coaching)
Top 10 Men Pro/1 Results (Complete Results)
1. Charles Huff (Jelly Belly P/B KENDA)
2. Chris Demarchi (Amgen / Giant Masters)
3. Sean Mazich (Jelly Belly)
4. Jamie Paolinetti ()
5. Jason Waddell (Park Place Dealerships)
6. Jeremiah Wiscovitch (Williamscycling p/b SC Velo)
7. Bryan Fawley (Park Place Dealerships)
8. Emile Abraham (Aerocat Cycling Team)
9. Zachary Davies (Groove Subaru Cycling Team)
10. Kyle Gritters (Williams Cycling p/b SC Velo)