Speed and control were on display at the St Paul Downtown Criterium, stage 2 of Nature Valley Grand Prix on Wednesday night. In the second stage of the opening day, the men battled each other in the 40-lap crit on a course with turns, some tight, brick roads in front of an appreciative crowd. And they also had to contend with crashes.
UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis went 1-2 on the stage with Hilton Clarke crossing the line first, bike lengths ahead of his teammate Karl Menzies. Luca Damiani (Kenda p/b Geargrinder) came in third. All three riders made it out of the final corner ahead of a crash that slowed down most of the field.
Control. The Kelly Benefit Strategies team came to the front on the first lap and there they stayed lap after lap until the card counter said 7 to go, controlling all and letting nothing go. It was all to protect the overall lead of Scott Zwizanski which they did.
“My team was awesome today, we wanted a field sprint, we wanted to hold on to the jersey we thought that was our best chance. They decided not to let any breaks go, they rode awesome, Bowman, Baj, Reid, Jesse, they just rode 30 great laps, they made so easy.” said Zwizanski.
Speed. That makes two wins and one top 3 for Clarke since he joined the team a week ago. “I just come to the team, it’s my first week on the team, what can I say about UnitedHealthcare. The team is just unbelievable and they’ve looked after me so well since I’ve been here. I sat out for a month with no racing and I really wanted to prove a point when I come back and the guys have really let me do that.”
His team came to the front with seven laps to go, setting a high tempo while riders behind them fought to get on their wheels. On the final lap into the final corner, it was Menzies, Clarke and their teammate Jake Keough leading the pack when the crash happened. Menzies and Clarke sailed through with Damiani also coming around. Riders in the first group caught behind were given the same time as the winner.
“The field was fast, those guys keep the field in all one line. it was actually easy to stay on the wheel when it goes so fast.” said Damiani who was following his teammates’ wheels. “I marked always the team, my teammates did a very job on the last lap.”
Back to control. It was all green at the front of the race for thirty laps as the KBS boys controlled everything. Dan Bowman, Reid Mumford, Jesse Anthony, Andy Bajadali took turns at the front with David Veilleux slotting in a few times.
Though that didn’t stop Adam Bergman (Texas Roadhouse) from trying his luck, twice, in the first ten minutes but to no avail. Bergman was later awarded the Freewheel Bike Most Aggressive Rider for his efforts. Once he saw that he could not get away, Bergman like many concentrated on the upcoming bunch sprint to lead out his teammate Colton Barrett.
The only shuffling happened for the intermediate sprints with their associated time bonus. Australian Crit National Champ Aaron Kemps (Fly V Australia) took the first one ahead of Clarke and Rob Bush (Kenda p/b Geargrinder) at 30 laps to go. It was Alexey Shmidt (Team Type 1) and Alejandro Borrajo (Jamis/Sutter p/b Colavita) for the second one at 20 to go with Bajadali getting third.
The final sprint caused a swift reaction when danger man Luis Amaran (Jamis/Sutter Home p/b Colavita) took a solo flyer with 11 laps to go. He stayed away to get the 5 seconds and then was reeled in by the boys in green.
With seven to go, the UnitedHealthcare train made its appearance at the front where they stayed until the finish. Zwizanski stayed close to defending champion Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis), ready to jump on his wheel if he went for the time bonus, of 15, 10 and 6 seconds, at the finish.
Clarke is new leader in the sprint competition while Zwizanski keeps his lead in the KOH. Benjamin King (Trek-Livestrong) remains Best Young Rider and Paul Martin (Panther p/b Competitive Cyclist) still leads the Best Amateur classification.
Two stages into the race, Zwizanski has a 9-second lead on Sutherland, and 15 seconds on his teammate Zach Bell. BISSELL’s Jeremy Vennell is 23 seconds down, and Jelly Belly p/b Kenda duo of Bernard Van Ulden and Mike Friedman are at 24 and 26 seconds respectively. Amaran sits in 7th place at 27 seconds down. But all that will probably change following stage 3.
The rolling 107 km (66.5 mi) Cannon Falls Road Race has proven to be decisive in the past. The course includes a hard packed dirt with gravel for 0.4 miles followed by a 0.2 mile downhill with rough pavement. The stage ends with five 3.1km (1.9 mile) finishing circuits includes a downhill chicane and an off-camber turn.
Top 10 Stage Results
1. Hilton Clarke (United Healhtcare p/b MAXXIS) 1.14’04”
2. Karl Menzies (United Healhtcare p/b MAXXIS) st
3. Luca Damiani (Kenda Pro Cycling p/b Geargrinder)
4. * Robert Bush (Kenda Pro Cycling p/b Geargrinder)
5. Luis Romero Amaran (Jamis/Sutter Home p/b Colavita)
6. Martijn Verschoor (Team Type 1)
7. Mike Friedman (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda)
8. Chad Burdzilauskas (Kenda Pro Cycling p/b Geargrinder)
9. Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies)
10. Alexey Shmidt (Team Type 1)
Top 10 GC After Stage 2
1. Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies) 1.26’59”
2. Rory Sutherland (United Healhtcare p/b MAXXIS) 9″
3. Zach Bell (Kelly Benefit Strategies) 15″
4. Jeremy Vennell (BISSELL Pro Cycling) 23″
5. Bernard van Ulden (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda) 24″
6. Mike Friedman (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda) 26″
7. Luis Romero Amaran (Jamis/Sutter Home p/b Colavita) 27″
8. David Veilleux (Kelly Benefit Strategies) 29″
9. Robert Sweeting (Team Globalbike p/b Catoma Adventure Shelters) 29″
10. * Benjamin King (Trek-Livestrong) 33″