Karl Menzies (UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis) overcame a crash-marred final stage at the Joe Martin Stage Race to edge teammate Matthew Crane for the win in the stage 4 criterium Sunday. Alexis Rhodes (Vera Bradley Foundation) attacked solo with three laps remaining and rode away from what remained of a decimated field for the victory in the women’s race.
Luis Amaran (Jamis-Sutter Home) and Alison Powers (Vera Bradley Foundation) both held on to win the overall after four days of racing in northwestern Arkansas.
The downtown Fayetteville course is one of the nation’s most challenging criterium venues. The updated track this year was as technical as ever with 12 corners and the punchy climb up Church Street to the start/finish. The new second-to-last corner was covered with new pavement and the slippery surface proved to be critical in both the men’s and women’s races.
To the line with it … or not
The men got off to a fevered start and the day’s main breakaway formed 15 minutes into the race when Crane and Ken Hanson (Team Type 1) bridged up to David Kemp (Fly V Australia). Caleb Fairly (Holowesko Partners) jumped away from the field as well a few laps later and slid in the backdoor of the move as the gap eclipsed 20 seconds.
Without a GC threat in the break, Jamis was content to sit on the front of the peloton and maintain a 30-second gap. Meanwhile, up the road the riders in the move were working smoothly and used the twisting course to keep their advantage headed into the final 10 laps.
The second-to-last corner was the site for multiple crashes during the stage. Kyle Wamsley (Bissell) touched down hard trying to bridge the gap 40 minutes into the race. Fifth overall Jason Donald (OUCH-Bahati Foundation) went down hard with one to go and at press time was headed to the hospital to evaluate a possible broken clavicle.
As the break rolled through the start/finish with five laps to go, the leaders were getting itchy and two laps later Crane attacked the group. Hanson drew him back and as the cat-and-mouse games began, the gap shrank further. The peloton was in the rearview mirror when Crane again attacked on the Church Street ramp with two laps to go, this time distancing his breakmates.
“This time I really went for it,” said Crane. “I knew it was coming close and that I had to get away. I knew that if I could be off the front, that would set up the guys behind much better in the sprint, so I just gave it everything. I put my head down and went.”
Crane built a quick five-second lead on his companions before the peloton absorbed them. As the UHC utility man mashed up the climb on the penultimate lap, team manager Mike Tamayo ran alongside him, shouting encouragement. Crane entered the bell lap with a six-second advantage over the charging peloton and when he held that lead turning onto Church for the final time, he knew that he had done his job to secure the team a win, whether from the sprint or the break.
“Coming out of the last corner into the hill, it was all or nothing,” he said. “I knew the sprint was coming up behind. I could feel them right as the line was coming up on me, so I just threw my bike as hard as I could and hoped for the best.”
For hours after the race, Crane thought that the best was exactly what came to be, as he was awarded the stage win and took the podium in celebration. The story was written: Crane’s bike throw had edged out Menzies for the stage win.
“You know, when you pip your teammate, it’s not really the worst thing,” said Crane. “I’m just happy because we’ve really been trying to work hard together and it was good to be one of us at the finale there.”
In a near replay of the podium mix-up for the final GC at the SRAM Tour of the Gila one week earlier, officials reversed the stage results after the podium was concluded. This time, however, the revised results – with Menzies the stage winner – did not become available until hours after the finish when riders and staff were long gone, many of them hopping flights out of town.
In the end, the break that stuck didn’t and Menzies won the day, pipping his teammate at the line. For Crane, the nearly best case scenario worked out, and the win stayed in the team.
Menzies was not available for comment by press time.
And the GC
Just as they did in stage 3, Amaran’s Jamis teammates delivered him through a dicey finale with the peloton to close out the overall win.
“I’m very happy. It’s a big win for me,” said Amaran. “The team worked today and yesterday from kilometer zero. Today we controlled the race from the first lap to one to go. The guys did an amazing job.”
Rhodes rides it out
TIBCO went to the front early in the race and hammered, hoping to thin the pack out over the opening laps and they accomplished their goal. “We went to the front and drilled it,” said the team’s Amanda Miller.
A crash in the first five minutes created a gap and the peloton shrank to approximately 25 riders. TIBCO and Powers’ Vera Bradley Foundation teammates kept the pace high for much of the day and what remained of the group came into the final 10 laps all together.
Knowing that potentially GC-altering time bonuses were on the line at the finish, Vera Bradley launched a series of attacks with Robin Farina and Alison Testroete. Both were reeled in, though, and it was the third acceleration, this time by Rhodes, that stuck.
Rhodes rode clear of the peloton with two laps to go and entered the final lap with a ten-second lead. A crash in the second-to-last corner by Anne Samplonius (Nanoblur-Gears), who was leading the chase, slowed the field enough for Rhodes to peg it up Church Street for the win.
“It was great to come home with the win,” said Rhodes. “I’m going back home (to Australia) next week, so it will be good to be able to say, ‘Yeah, I won a race,’ instead of, ‘Yeah, it was great.’”
Mattis outsprinted Powers for second on the stage, but her time bonus was not enough to dislodge the overall leader.
“To be first and third today and win the overall, the team overall, it was a really awesome day,” said Powers.