By Lisa Downey
Rahsaan Bahati (Bahati Foundation), Jacquelyn Crowell (Team Type 1), James Stemper (Kenda-GEARGRINDER) and Erica Allar (Vera Bradley Foundation) each took criterium wins over the weekend as the Tour of America’s Dairyland pushed through its first weekend.
Bahati, Crowell in USA CRITS Giro d’Grafton
Before a massive, screaming crowd lined mega deep in Grafton, Wisconsin, it was Bahati first to cross the line, where just hours earlier Crowell did the same, in the Giro d’ Grafton USA CRITS series race of the Tour of America’s Dairyland presented by Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.
It was the escaped duo of Crowell and Lauren Robertson (FCS-Metro Volkswagen) that led the zigzagging field for the last handful of laps. Veteran Kristin Wentworth (Team Kenda) catapulted to the front of the peloton in an attempt to bring about a chase, but Crowell and Robertson dug deep into their reserves and kept pounding. It came down to a drag race with Crowell taking it on the inside for the win, a stitch ahead of Robertson and Carrie Cash (Vera Bradley Foundation), second and third, respectively.
After the local mascot race wrapped, Bahati cleaned up amid a packed field of 150, which included 2005 French national road champion Aurelien Passeron (Garneau Chaussures Cycling Team). After the Bahati Foundation tossed out a $100 prime for other riders, it was Bahati himself who snatched the $750 spectator prime with seven laps to go.
With six turns in each lap of the Giro d’ Grafton course, legs were burning, and the field was on top of each other racing upwards of 30 mph with three laps to go, making it anyone’s race. With two laps remaining, the Aerocat Cycling Team jumped to the front with rider Andy Crater nose to the wind as Bahati tucked in with Team Mountain Khakis-Jittery Joes right behind.
But it was, in the words of announcer Brad Sohner, the “Human Space Rocket” Bahati that dominated the final sprint, peaking at 39 miles per hour for the victory. Isaac Howe (Mountain Khakis) clinched second with Clayton Barrows (AXA Equitable Cycling Team-CRCA) claiming third.
Stemper, Allar for Appleton
Downtown Appleton was the backdrop for Stage 4 of the Tour of America’s Dairyland presented by Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board on Sunday, with James Stemper (Kenda-GEARGRINDER) and Erica Allar (Vera Bradley Foundation) reigning supreme.
The women continued to jump on primes as Kacey Manderfield (Cycle Loft) missed out on a $150 sponsor prime to Jeannie Kuhajek (Team Mack) by just four one-thousandths of a second. Manderfield kept pumping as she and Kristin Wentworth (Team Kenda) were the day’s main break of two, with Crowell countering with four laps to go. With just two laps remaining, everyone came together before the field sprint ensued.
Cash delivered the perfect leadout, giving teammate Allar that podium spot she’d been craving. It was the perfect send off for Allar, the 2007 U23 national criterium champion, who left ToAD on the hunt for the stars-and-stripes at the national championships in Bend, Oregon. While lending the assist to Allar, Cash landed second place and took over the overall leaders jersey. Emma Petersen (7th Groove-Reform Body Clinic) rounded out the podium.
Saturday was all Rahsaan Bahati, but Stemper and his breakmates made equally bold headlines as Stemper brought home a Father’s Day victory as his dad cheered from the sidelines. It was Stemper, Rudolph Napolitano (Adageo Energy) and Andrew Gonzales (FCS-Metro Volkwagen) rocking a commanding advantage by a dozen laps to go as the field did everything they could to drag them down, to no avail.
The 22-second gap started to close with seven laps left, but after Stemper stole the $500 crowd prime the breakaway kept hammering at nearly 30mph, extending the gap to 26 seconds. In the end, Stemper stamped his authority, taking the win from the long breakaway. Napolitano stood second on the podium 24 hours after he crashed and flipped hard onto his back at Giro d’Grafton. Gonzales, who was upgraded to a Cat 1 only two weeks ago, took the third spot.
The boxing match for the overall behind the trio was an all-out fight as Bahati and Chad Hartley (Kenda-GEARGRINDER) started positioning with three laps to go. Going into the final lap, Bahati and Hartley were all over the field in a drag race that ended with Bahati and Hartley crossing the line in fifth and sixth, respectively. Hartley placed highly enough to keep him in the yellow and white leaders jersey on his 29th birthday.
On to Road America
The Tour of America’s Dairyland will take racers on a meticulously paved four-mile, 14-turn closed course at the historic Road America race track in Elkhart Lake, Wis. on Monday before heading to the shores of Lake Michigan on Tuesday for the Sheboygan Harbor Centre Bike Race.