Saturday was US National Criterium Championships. Actually it was US Professional Criterium Championships and also Criterium Nationals for women. The Elite Criterium Nationals aren’t until later in the summer.
I had no idea that this was going on this weekend. I’m not sure who is to blame at the Global Cycling Headquarters in Colorado Springs, USAC, but having criterium Nationals as a stand alone event, in April, is just plain stupid. Like I posted a last week, here in the US, we’ve done everything in our abilities to showcase criterium racing as close to second tier as we can. And this just is part of that whole problem.
Last year they allowed elite riders to compete the Professional Championships because less than 20 Professional guys showed up. This year, it was only “Professionals” and 39 riders managed to make their way to Greenville to ride around in front of pretty much no one. There were over 50 woman racing, which is makes an usual ratio, as compared to a normal race weekend.
Anyway, the Big Blue Train, which is how the UnitedHealthcare team, had a pretty horrible weekend. For both men’s and women’s events. They were the team to beat in both races and that is just what happened, they were beat.
The women’s race was under complete control. They had 7 riders left in a field of around 25 and it looked to be business as usual. The problem was that in the final corner, the leadout girl for UHC fell, taking out defending National Champion, and UHC team mate, Coryn Rivera. This pile of women allowed Kendall Ryan (Tibco-SVB), who had to make a little squiggle move to avoid the mess, to ride allow to the line and win alone. It looked like Coryn had set up the end perfectly and that he was just super unlucky. But that is bike racing.
The men’s race was screwy. About 1/2 way through the field split in a group of 14, then 17 riders, with no one in the split really wanting to ride off the front. The front group split a bunch of times, but never the right combination. I’m not sure what the right combination would have been.
Finally the UHC guys just went to the front and tried to control the race. Optum and Hincapie both put in some digs to soften the UHC team up some. I don’t know, maybe it worked. Because the end was unexpected.
With a lap to go, it was business as usual for UHC, all four riders in line at the front. But, they obviously weren’t going fast enough, because heading to up the last corner, Eric Marcotte jumped and that was all she wrote.
I know wouldn’t want Eric Marcotte 3 bike lengths behind me in that situation, with enough room to get a good head of stream going, so close to the finish. He is so fast and isn’t going to slow down. Hincapie’s Ty Magner, saw Eric go, but couldn’t get up to speed to get on him.
The two UHC sprinters, John Murphy and Luke Keough, were caught by surprise and barely managed to get onto Magner who had already lost Eric.
So, Eric won by himself, and Ty Magner was 2nd, leaving the last podium spot of Luke Keough, which wasn’t what UHC was looking for.
Eric Marcotte made a super move and was rewarded for his efforts. So, he is the current US Professional Road and Criterium Champion for the next month and a half, at least. I’m not sure anyone else I has done that. Pretty sure not. Pretty stellar.
You can skip to 1:48 to watch the end of the women’s race and to approx. 4;11 to watch the last couple laps of the men’s race.