Hilton Clarke (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis) did it again at the Nature Valley Grand Prix. In a close 3-up sprint, he took the win at the Minneapolis Uptown Criterium ahead of Ben Kersten (Fly V Australia) and Ken Hanson (Team Type 1).
“Once again, my team did a great job.” said Clarke. “We’ve been saying in team meetings how can this keep happening, somebody’s going to have to try something different.”
Somebody did try something different. The Fly V Australia duo of Kersten and Aaron Kemps came around the leadout train and made their way to the front before that all important final corner. The order going into that final 150-meter straightway was Kemps, Kersten, Clarke and Hanson.
“I just had to keep my composure and I really had to stay calm. I went real hard in the corner and I just waited, I’m lucky it was that long, because one more meter and Kersten would have gotten me.” said Clarke. “I would have much preferred to be first, the other guys used so much energy to be first. I just waited, I just ride on my instincts normally and it was right.”
“Coming into the last corner, it’s so key for positioning because it’s maybe 150 meters to the line but it’s a 40 mph corner, you’re going as fast as you can anyway.” said Hanson. “I came out of the corner fourth wheel, a little too far back and by the time I got on top of my sprint it was already a little too late. I was catching up, making up a little bit of ground, it wasn’t enough for the finish, I lost one but…”
Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies) remains in the yellow leader’s jersey with defending champion Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis) still in second place at nine seconds down. With every second counting, the two battled for the time bonuses associated with the intermediate sprints during the race.
Adding a little spice to the mix is the fact that his team’s sponsors were all watching the race. “There was a lot for today.”said Zwizanski about the extra pressure. “I think maybe everyone of our sponsors is here right now and maybe some potential.”
Boom. The crowds lining the pancake flat 1-km course with its six tight corners were treated to a show as the action heated up immediately with the riders itching for racing after yesterday’s canceled stage. The speed was high, the field strung out as attack after attack fired to get a break going. And Zwizanski’s team was quite content to let the right combination up the road to gobble up the time bonus seconds.
A few laps in, ten riders were off. In the move were Daniel Holloway (BISSELL), Rob Bush (Kenda p/b GearGrinder), David Kemp and Alessandro Bazzana (Fly V Australia), Adam Bergman (Texas Roadhouse), Paul Martin (Panther p/b Competitive Cyclist), Roman Van Uden (Rubicon-ORBEA), Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda), Adrian Hegyvary (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis) and Alexey Shmidt (Team Type 1).
“I got a call up and I was right on the front row and the first move went right from the gun. Half the race was that breakaway.” said Bush.
The break rode hard at the front but could never get more than 15 seconds on the field with Kelly Benefit holding the gap. Holloway took the first intermediate bonus at 30 laps to go, followed by Shmidt and Kemp.
The battle for time bonus was on for the second intermediate sprint looming. With twenty-five laps to go, the UnitedHealthcare squad had enough of the break and took over the front to reel it in with twenty-one laps to go.
“I was right there, I had Rory on my wheel and I had Hilton’s and he did some sprinter stuff and I couldn’t make it through the corner with speed and luckily Veilleux took that one. Smashed it for that one.” explained Zwizanski. “Veilleux knew that if I wasn’t on his wheel he had to go for it.”
David Veilleux (Kelly Benefit) jumped to protect his teammate’s GC lead and took the sprint followed by Schmidt. Sutherland slotted in for third and got a one-second time bonus.
No breather for the pack with attacks and counter-attacks going for the next ten laps. And Bush was in almost every move.
“We were caught for a little while coming into the second sprint, some guys really went for it and I followed then and I didn’t get any points so I got really mad, so I just attacked.” he explained. He made his way into multiple break attempts for the next ten laps and was later awarded the Most Aggressive jersey for his efforts.
With eleven laps to go, the battle was back on for the final and third sprint. “Everything was back together again and our boys were on the front. We went for it again and I was able to stay in there in the fight. Unfortunately Hilton went for it too, I did the best I could but Veilleux held him off which was awesome, I held on to get one.” said Zwizanski who took third behind Veilleux and Clarke, nullifying Sutherland’s earlier time bonus. Veilleux did move up to fourth on GC at 17 seconds down.
With eight laps to go, the UHC train took over the pace making at the front with everyone else trying to get on Clarke’s wheel.
“It’s a fight with every other team to get that spot.” explained Hanson. “You never know when they’re going to make it fast enough where it’s too hard to move up and that happened with about two laps to go so I just stayed and waited and waited, two guys back behind. You have to wait for the right moment to make a move, you don’t want to spend too much energy for your sprint so, we tried to stay there in the right position.”
Clarke trusted his instincts and took another win, his second at the race, his third in one week. “I guess I’m on a roll right now so while it’s happening I’ll keep on going.” he smiled.
No changes in the jerseys. Benjamin King (Trek-Livestrong) remains in the lead for the Best Young Rider. Clarke keeps the Points jersey and Zwizanski still leads the KOH classification.
The racing continues with the Menomonie Road Race on Saturday, when for the first time ever the race leaes Minnesota and heads to Wisconsin. Finishing with several 3-mile circuits inside the city, the course takes in the challenging rural county roads outside the city that have been a favorite with cyclists of the upper Midwest for years. The men’s road race consists of 95 miles, marked by rolling hills and long climbs that are sure to impact the standings for the entire Nature Valley Grand Prix.
“Tomorrow should be good, supposedly lots of rollers, sounds like Beauce.” said Zwizanski who successfully defended and won the Tour de Beauce last year. “It might be windy, we’re looking forwards to a good hard race.”
Stay tuned for videos and photos
Top 10 Stage Results
1. Hilton Clarke (United Healhtcare p/b MAXXIS) 1.09’00”
2. Kenneth Hanson (Team Type 1) st
3. Ben Kersten (Fly V Australia)
4. Jacob Keough (United Healhtcare p/b MAXXIS)
5. David Veilleux (Kelly Benefit Strategies)
6. Davide Frattini (Team Type 1)
7. AAron Kemps (Fly V Australia)
8. Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies) 3″
9. Luis Romero Amaran (Jamis/Sutter Home p/b Colavita) 3″
10. Andy Jacques-Maynes (BISSELL Pro Cycling) 3″
Top 10 GC After Stage 4
1. Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies) 2.36’01”
2. Rory Sutherland (United Healhtcare p/b MAXXIS) 9″
3. Zach Bell (Kelly Benefit Strategies) 16″
4. David Veilleux (Kelly Benefit Strategies) 17″
5. Luis Romero Amaran (Jamis/Sutter Home p/b Colavita) 28″
6. Jeremy Vennell (BISSELL Pro Cycling) 31″
7. Bernard van Ulden (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda) 32″
8. Mike Friedman (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda) 34″
9. Robert Sweeting (Team Globalbike p/b Catoma Adventure Shelters) 37″
10. * Benjamin King (Trek-Livestrong) 41″