Hilton Clarke of the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team Presented by Maxxis took 3rd place in the Grand Cycling Classic on Saturday, taking 2nd in a bunch sprint that just about caught race winner Patrick Bevin (Bissell) on the line.
“We were really close to catching him,” said Karl Menzies of UnitedHealthcare Presented by Maxxis. “I think he won by no more than a bike length.”
Bevin had been off the front on his own for the latter third of the 90-minute race. Menzies was in a late break between the 19-year-old and the peloton. “Bissell had (Daniel) Holloway in the break and he was just sitting in with his teammate up the road,” Menzies said. “I don’t think the rest of us were giving full gas to bring him back.”
Menzies’ group was caught with about a lap and a half to go. With a lap to go, Menzies went to the front to begin his lead-out for Clarke and Jake Keough, and to work on closing the eight-second gap the solo leader on the bumpy, 1.1 km course.
“Karl had been out front for quite a while, so it was a bit hard for him to also have to do the lead-out,” Clarke said.
It was close, but Bevin held on. Clarke was just squeezed out by Bernie Sulzberger (Fly V Australia) in the sprint. Keough took 5th place. “Hats off to Bevin,” Clarke said. “He rode a great race. He got a little leash and he took advantage of it.”
“Bissell was very motivated today,” Menzies added. “It’s the home town of their sponsor, and they had a full roster, plus some of their amateur riders in the race, and we had just four guys. They did what they had to do to win the race.”
Clarke agreed with his teammate’s assessment. “It became their numbers against our speed,” he said. “They raced exactly how they needed to to beat us.”
“I know we got on the podium, but after setting the bar so high the past couple months, it’s a bit disappointing,” Menzies said, alluding to the team’s winning streak in criteriums, especially since Clarke came on board a five weeks ago. “But sometimes it’s good to get beat, just take a step back, and look ahead to some of the upcoming races. Once we have the whole squad together again, I’m confident we’ll be back up there for Elk Grove and the races after that.”
“We’ve definitely had a great run,” Clarke said. “We raced just as well today. We tried just as hard today. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out.”