Talk about a good first impression. In his first race with the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team Presented by Maxxis, Hilton Clarke paid back his new teammates for their hard work by winning the Air Force Cycling Classic Clarendon Cup Saturday.
Clarke and teammate Brad White were part of a six-rider break that took leave of the front of the peloton 40 laps into the 100-lap, 100 km criterium in the Clarendon section of Arlington, Virginia.
“The Team was dialed all day,” White said. “I think we were frustrating the other teams because any time a move went, we were in it. Then when the right move went, it was good to have one of our sprinters and a worker in it.”
For the next 20 laps, White was that worker, driving the break along with Valodymyr Starchick (Amore e Vita), Daniel Holt (Team Type 1), Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies) and Luis Amaran (Jamis Sutter Home-p/b Colavita).
“Brad rode amazingly,” Clarke said of his new teammate. “I didn’t do too much those first 20 laps we were away. But with 40 laps to go, I felt like that was the right moment to give my all and another five laps later we had the back of the field in sight.”
It was a greatly reduced field into which they finally integrated with about 30 laps to go. With the temperature and humidity high, barely 30 riders remained in the main bunch. But included in those 30 were the other six members of UnitedHealthcare Presented by Maxxis, which proved critical in the final laps.
When the break attained the back of the peloton, White took Clarke right to the front and the Team took up its position on the front of the group and proceeded to keep everything under control for the final 30 laps.
As the laps counted down, the attacks started going. Kelly Benefits put in a series of attacks inside 10 laps to go that the Team shut down.
“Adrian Hegyvary was an ox on the front today,” said Team Director Mike Tamayo. “He was super strong. All the boys did a great job keeping things together.”
With three laps to go, UnitedHealthcare Presented by Maxxis sent Hilton’s younger brother Jonny to the front to up the pace. On the bell lap, Jamis went to the front with an attack, which Hilton Clarke and Karl Menzies followed. The two riders keyed off the Jamis leadout, with Menzies taking Clarke through the last corner before dropping him off for the sprint.
Clarke not only won the sprint over his five breakmates, but the entire field sprint. Menzies kept going after his lead-out and finished 2nd in the bunch sprint to earn 7th for the race, while White, by virtue of being part of the break, took 6th.
“I’ve won a lot of crits, but this is the first time I’ve won here,” Clarke said. “It’s one I definitely wanted to win as it’s quite prestigious. The course really suits my strengths. It’s technical and a race of attrition.
“They call this the race of 500 corners because it’s a five-corner course you do 100 times. By the end of the race you really know the course. You really have to concentrate for two and a half hours. It never lets up.”
Along with Clarke making a good impression on his new team, he noted that his new teammates did likewise for him.
“For me to come onto the team just a day or two ago, and for them to lay it down for me in the first race straight away is a really good feeling,” he said.
Tamayo is also very glad to have Clarke on board. “Hilton has been a thorn in our side all season,” he said. “It’s nice to have him on our side now. This was a great way to start our relationship.”
That relationship continues tomorrow with the Crystal City Classic.