Stronger or smarter? That’s the question that was posed to Daniel Holloway (BISSELL) a few minutes after he became the new US Pro Crit Champion at the AT&T USA Cycling Professional Criterium National Championship in Glencoe, IL.
“I guess, after it’s all said and done I was definitely a smarter rider today. Ten laps to go, I was in the box and it was closing. ” replied Holloway.
Holloway was the fourth rider to cross the finish line, but more importantly he was the first American which gave him the coveted Stars and Stripes jersey. His first one as a pro, though he did win the Elite Criterium Championship in 2007.
“I’m confident in my abilities so I don’t have to worry about anybody in the field, I just race my own race. There was a couple of guys in there giving me bad words all day, ‘work, work’, and I’m like this is my race, I’m going to race it and not let anyone influence me, and look how it worked out.” said Holloway.
Part of a 12-rider break established midway through the 100-km race, Holloway watched and waited, like he learned to do in his years of track racing. With the US Pro Crit being the only US Professional Championship which still allows non-Americans to participate, it quickly became a race within a race for the eight Americans in the break. So much so, that they were willing to let two and then three non-American up the road to get the top 3 steps of the podium.
With six laps to go, Canadian National Crit Champion David Veilleux (Kelly Benefit) and Australian Bernie Sulberger (Fly V Australia) flew away from the break. The duo quickly established a gap with Veilleux doing most of the work. With two laps to go, Italian Alessandro Bazzana (Fly V Australia) jumped from the break to try and bridge up to the duo. The 2-up sprint was on in the final lap, with Veilleux taking the win, a somewhat bittersweet one at that.
“I think it’s a little bit of a bittersweet win because we were looking forwards to the US jersey but at least we won the bike race.” said the Canadian. Veilleux was working for his teammate Alex Candelario who also made the split.
Fast and tight. The word of the day at Glencoe Grand Prix was break. As if most of the races finished in a break in the re-designed 1.3-mile (2-km) course with ten corners including a tricky off-camber after the fast descent. A corner that took down multiple riders throughout the day.
“Today was really about staying up front, that bottom corner was death, guys were on the ground there all day.” said Holloway. “After five laps, it created a big crowd which is nerve racking when you’re on the bike, everyone wants to see the crashes. You’re just trying to be safe, ride the top 20 wheels, on a course like this, gaps just create themselves.”
For Candelario, the course was much tougher than Downer’s Grove which hosted the US Pro Crit for the past 23 years. “These turns are really tight, even if you’re top 10, you’re still hitting the brakes, jumping out. Even with 12 guys, you’re not rolling through the corners as easy as you’d like to, and that little hill over there definitely slows things down. It’s a hard course, I don’t know how many guys finished but I wouldn’t imagine many.”
“This course is perfect for a break, you get out of sight out of mind. It’s also hard enough, with the hill and everything, that people were going to get tired. ” said Meredith Miller (TIBCO/To The Top) who also liked the course. “It’s a good course, it’s nice and tight. It would be a hard course to have a big field, if you’re at the back you’re watching the front of the peloton three-quarters ahead of you.”
Unfortunately, it seems that it was a one-time deal to host the US Pro Crit Championships at Glencoe, and bids will be open for next year. That also brings up the question, should the Championship be for only Americans? I say yes.
Candelario agrees. “I believe it should be Americans even though we have a couple of good Canadians, just because I think, then it makes it an even race. This is just about American racing and the teams that choose to hire North Americans, I think they should be rewarded for that, it’s an American jersey. You go to Belgium, and it’s not a bunch of foreigners racing for the National Championships but at the same time, it definitely makes the race harder and faster with a bunch of foreigners.”
Ready, set, attack. Immediately on the first of the 50 laps attacks flew from teams hoping to not only create the break but put multiple riders into it. The field was strung out as it navigated the twisty course. Gaps were opening up, as wheels were let go and as riders went down in corner 5.
With 35 laps to go, Jesse Anthony (Kelly Benefit) took a solo flyer from a short-lived break. He stayed away for the next 8 laps, gaining as much as 30 seconds before being re-absorbed. During this period, defending champion Ben Kersten (Fly V Australia) called it a day, his back still painful after the Presbyterian Hospital Invitational in Charlotte last week.
“Obviously, a lot of Americans were going to be very aggressive with this race, we knew that Kelly Benefit were going to be very aggressive today and we knew it was going to be a break, the course is really tight and if a break goes away it’s really hard to bring it back.” said Sulzberger.
After a few more counter-attacks, the right move stuck. Matt Crane (UnitedHealthcare) jumped on Mike Friedman’s wheel and were off. Quickly more riders and teammates made their way up to the group swelling it to 12 riders strong. Making the split were Veilleux, Candelario and their teammate Scott Zwizanski, Sulzberger, Bazzana and their teammate Jonathan Cantwell, Friedman and his Jelly Belly p/b Kenda teammate Bernard Van Ulden, Holloway with Shane Kline, Ken Hanson (Team Type 1) and Chad Burdzilauskas (Kenda p/b GearGrinder).
Having three riders, including their top sprinters in the group, was a perfect combination for both Fly V Australia and Kelly Benefit.
“Fortunately, we had three guys and two of them were our strongest guys. It gave me an opportunity to sit back and recover a little bit.” said Candelario.
Sensing that this one was it, Zwizanski, Veilleux, Kline and Van Ulden hit the front of the break and drilled it, adding seconds to the gap every lap, up to 34 seconds with 17 laps to go.
“It just makes you pay attention.” said Holloway about the combination of Americans and non-Americans in the break. “You could let Veilleux and any of the Fly V guys up the road, you just had to watch your guys. You just had to watch the guys that were working and watch the guys who were sitting and that’s what I did, I just watched the guys who were sitting.” Sitting in were Crane who soloed to the win at the tough Joe Martin Stage Race Criterium, sprinters Hanson Candelario and Holloway. And Friedman after he put in a lot of efforts to establish the break.
Not liking the break combination, UnitedHealthcare put its rider at the front of the field to try and bring it back, but the gap kept going up. Having missed the move completely, Jamis/Sutter Home added Ivan Dominguez to the chase but the gap kept on increasing. Then, Kenda added riders to the rotation once Burdzilauskas fell out of the break.
Race within a race. With ten to go, the gap was at 53 seconds and the break shattered under attacks. Zwizanski and Bazzana launched the first salvo. The duo was reeled in but Van Ulden paid the price of the chase and dropped back.
Fly V Australia was counting on the fact that the Americans were more interested in the jersey. “We knew that no one was going to chase us, the foreigners, so we had a good chance of getting away. That’s when Bazzana went with Zwizanski. Jonny said to me as soon as it comes back you have to go, and I said yeah yeah I know. And as soon as it came back, I went and David came with me and that was it.” said Sulzberger.
With 7 laps to go, Veilleux and Sulzberger were off. After a couple of turns at the front, Sulzberger sat on letting Veilleux do all the work.
“I didn’t want to work to start with, [DS] Henk [Vogels] and Ed [Beamon] were saying don’t work, we have Jonny there and we had Baz, and Dave was going very, very strong, I knew he was going well from Elk Grove so I didn’t really have to do anything.” said Sulzberger.
“When I followed, I saw that we had a gap, maybe it’s a good opportunity and I rode really hard to open it. I waited for instructions from Jonas Carney and he told me go for the win. He told us before the race we want the jersey but if we’re in a situation we can win the race, we still have to go for it.” explained Veilleux.
Behind the duo, the Americans were watching each other, their race was about the jersey and being the first American across the line regardless of the final placings. “Once those guys went, the race was over and no one cared. At that point, it was just the jersey.” said Candelario,
“In the last couple laps, it was an in-fight with all the Americans. The other guys got up the road so we were just attacking each other. I was the only sprinter in the break who didn’t have a teammate. I was trying to keep it together and the field was getting close to catching us.” said Hanson.
Holloway was watching. “I just sat last wheel the last couple of laps, I just let everybody fight for it.” he said. “Guys were getting antsy, I just told myself to be patient, just like a final in track racing you should have to be patient.”
On one side, you had the duo up the road, on the other side you had the field that was closing in. With 5 laps to go, the pair has 32 seconds to the remnants of break which had 22 seconds to the field.
With two to go, Veilleux and Sulzberger had some words. “He said that’s it, I’m not going to do any more work and I’m like I should pretty fresh here and I did two turns and that’s all I did and he did the rest.” explained Sulzberger. Behind them, Bazzana took a solo flyer to get the third spot on the podium, while the Americans watched and attacked each other.
The sprints. “I was a little bit afraid because I knew that he had a good sprint. With one K to go, I started to accelerate. Starting from zero is not necessarily my strength, it’s more a long and fast sprint [that suits me], so I started to speed up. I covered the inside of the last corner, I turned before him and he wasn’t able to pass me.” said Veilleux who likes to use his power in longer sprints. Veilleux bascially won both Canadian and US Criterium Championships this year.
Behind them, the field had caught up more riders from the break with Anthony bridging up to the remnants to provide a leadout for his sprinter. “Jesse came out on nowhere and unfortunately, clipped a pedal a couple of turns to go, we had to scrub a lot of speed. It was a hard day, it wasn’t easy out there.” said Candelario.
The sprint was on between the four riders left from the break, Holloway, Cantwell, Hanson and Candelario.
“Going into the last corner, a lot of guys were looking at Cantwell because he’s been on a hot streak and I think he just played it cool, he knew he had a really strong man up the road. It was just four guys wide, Ken went on the inside and hesitated, and I was on the left, and went and kind of shut him down on the corner so he had to do a big acceleration and I could carry my speed. I had a solid line around the last corner, and had daylight and just put my head down.” said Holloway who described his emotion at crossing the line as “satisfying”.
Holloway took fourth ahead of Hanson, Cantwell and Candelario.
“It’s tough to lose the jersey by that much, but he (Holloway) made the right move and took a gamble and it paid off. So he deserves the jersey. It’s tough to be that close.” said Hanson.
“Holloway played his cards pretty well, he sat on a lot, I was sitting on a lot. The last K or so just didn’t play very well in my favor.” said Candelario.
Holloway will be wearing the Stars and Stripes at the Chris Thater Memorial in Binghamton NY at the end of August.
Top 10 Results
1. David Veilleux (Kelly Benefit Strategies) 2:29:31
2. Bernie Sulzberger (Fly V Australia)
3. Alessandro Bazzana (Fly V Australia) +0:00:25
4. Daniel Holloway (Bissell Pro Cycling) +0:00:27
5. Kenneth Hanson (Team Type 1)
6. Jonathan Cantwell (Fly V Australia)
7. Alexander Candelario (Kelly Benefit Strategies) +0:00:28
8. Shane Kline (Bissell Pro Cycling) +0:00:29
9. Aldo Ino Ilesic (Team Type 1)
10. Kyle Wamsley (Bissell Pro Cycling)