In a race with non-stop attacks, some sticking for a few laps, some just just a few meters, Jonathan Cantwell led a Fly V Australia 1-2 win at the final NRC race, the Chris Thater Memorial Criterium. The 50-mile race came down to a bunch sprint where Cantwell came around his last leadout, Bernie Sulzberger for the win. Sulzberger hung on for second ahead of a bloody Hilton Clarke (UnitedHealthcare) who crashed with 7 laps to go.
“Fly V Australia and UnitedHealthcare have been going head to head all year and its just really good to come away with the win.” said Cantwell, who’s been on a hot streak winning races after races.
Break time. With a tough course, a 1.2-mile (1.9 km) course with 6 corners and a hill on the backside, most expected a break to stick in the 40 lap race, but the NRC Team competition was at play.
Fly V Australia had only a slim 63-point lead on Jamis/Sutter Home and 149 points on Unitedhealthcare in the NRC Team Classification coming into the finale, and they were determined to put either Cantwell, Sulzberger or Ben Kersten on the podium and get those important points. For UnitedHealthcare, it was about putting Clarke, Karl Menzies or Jake Keough on the podium. That meant that each team would chase down a break that contained those precise riders, pretty much dooming most breaks. But that didn’t stop riders from trying.
After a few testers on the opening laps from BISSELL, UnitedHealthcare, BikeReg.com riders, the first significant move that looked promising came at 32 laps to go when Andy Jacques-Maynes (BISSELL) took a solo flyer. His gap went up to 16 seconds but with the mid-race prime and the magic USA Crits Series point coming up, he was brought back.
The duel was on for the USA Crits with only 4 points separating leader going into the race Clayton Barrows (AXA Equitable CRCA) and Isaac Howe (Mt Khakis). Howe’s teammates chased down Jacques-Maynes with 22 laps to go. Kyle Wamsley (BISSELL) took top points in the mid-race prime followed by Howe and Barrows, reducing the Barrows’ lead to 2 points.
And then, it was shuffling and re-shuffling at front of the field, with everyone trying to either set something up, or to shut something down. Brad White and Karl Menzies (UnitedHealthcare), Wamsley and Frank Pipp (BISSELL), Will Duggan (Team Type 1), Andy Guptill (Jamis/Sutter Home), Alessandro Bazzana (Fly V Australia), and more, all made their way into short-lived breaks. Newly crowned USA Pro Crit Champ, Daniel Holloway (BISSELL) in his Stars and Stripes, also went on the attack, time and time again but nothing stuck.
The field was all back together with 12 laps to go and it looked all set for a bunch sprint. Until a crash at 10 to go, caused a 13-rider group to get a gap. Even though the break included riders from the big teams, UnitedHealthcare, BISSELL, Fly V Australia, cooperation was not good with riders looking at each other. Barrows went down in that crash but made his way back in the field. And soon enough, it was all back together again.
Part two, sprint. Intent on bringing it back to a bunch sprint were both Fly V Australia and Mt Khakis.
“It just kept coming back.” said Sulzberger about the breaks fizzling out. “We had Bazzana in the break but we were confident that he was going to go well. We wanted to bring it back in the end, we were confident with Jonny, how fast he’s sprinting.”
With seven to go, both Clarke and his teammate Tim Johnson went down, in separate incidents. “I just turned around and someone was in front of me and I crashed myself, my fault, my responsibility.” smiled Clarke who had bloodied both his arms, and incurred road rash on his stomach and hips.
A few more attacks but it was set for a showdown. With one to go, the UnitedHealthcare train took over the front, chasing down the late flyer from Jake Hollenbach (AXA Equitable).
The UnitedHealthcare train was still at the front as the field made it way up the back side of the course. “They kind of ran out of guys at the front we have some guys that are riding extremely well at the moment. ” said Cantwell about the UnitedHealthcare train.
On the backside, “Bazzana went through and took it around to third last corner. I was on Ben [Kersten],” explained Sulzberger. “Karl [Menzies] and Benny had a bit of drag race, Karl got in front of Benny.”
So Sulzberger jumped on another wheel. “A BISSELL rider got in between us. I don’t know who that was but he went out of the corner really fast and actually led me out perfectly. I jumped over the top of him, Jonny was on my wheel, and he passed me with 50 meters to go.”
Cantwell concluded. “Coming out of the last corner, Bernie went as hard as he could, and took me into perfect position. He’s going that well that he finished second, and I was fortunate enough to come around him.”
After his crash, Clarke “did everything just to get back on Cantwell’s wheel.”
“After the crash, I sort of wondered if I was going to get back in but I did. The sprint was a little chaotic but fine for me, but again at half lap to go, I don’t know what was with my day today. Almost the same place as seven to go, I almost crashed again on the second to last corner, and it really put me on the back foot in the sprint and after all that that went on, I’m pretty happy with third.” said Clarke after the podium. Both his bloodied arms were hastily wrapped up for the podium photos.
Unofficially, the Fly V Australia squad claims the top of the NRC Team Classification and the win, and its 120 points, should move Cantwell up to second behind winner Luis Amaran (Jamis/Sutter Home) in the individual classification. Amaran had a strong enough lead that he sat out Chris Thater after a long season.
In the USA Crits Series, Howe finished 8th in the race, moving him into the orange leader’s jersey with one race to go, the finale in Texas, TX Tough. Howe is also the best young rider and Clarke is still the lap leader.
Top 10 Results
1. Jonathan Cantwell (Fly V Australia)
2. Bernard Sulzberger (Fly V Australia)
3. Hilton Clarke (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis)
4. Kyle Wamsley (BISSELL Pro Cycling Team)
5. Andres Ignacio Pereyra (Jamis/Sutter Home)
6. Cody Stevenson (Adageo Energy)
7. Iggy Silva (Trek-LIVESTRONG)
8. Isaac Howe (Mt Khakis f/b Jittery Joe’s)
9. Jake Keough (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis)
10. Daniel Holloway (BISSELL Pro Cycling Team)
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