Jo Kiesanowski (Tibco-To The Top) outgunned NRC leader Cath Cheatley (Colavita-Baci) for the top spot on the women’s podium.
Rough ride for a few
The NRC took to the streets of Grand Rapids Saturday afternoon to contest the fourth annual Grand Classic. The Grand course is one of the more interesting that the NRC sees this year, with six corners and three brick sections spread over 1.1km. One of those brick sections lies in the finish straight, while the other two are on the backside of the course. According to some riders, the bricks were just the tip of the iceberg.
Fly V Australia sprinter Jonathan Cantwell described a minefield of potholes on the course and recommended improvements for future editions. “The circuit itself is good, the town is great and it’s a good little crowd that comes out to watch the race,” he said. “But it’s just the road is not worthy to have a bike race on, let alone an NRC race. They just need to fix up a couple things.”
Only about 80 pro and elite riders experienced the rough roads Saturday, as the event was hit with low attendance in both fields. The men drew just 62 starters, while the women started 24. “I hope in the future it can get bigger because the organizers are great, you know, they put on a really great race for us,” said Kiesanowski.
Strength in numbers
Bissell and Tibco brought the most powerful squads to their respective races. The latter, with just four riders, was the strong arm in the women’s field, while Bissell’s eight riders made them the class of the men’s contest.
Those numbers showed in spades in both races. Brooke and Meredith Miller and Samantha Schneider joined Kiesanowski in Michigan. Cheatley, Carrie Cash (Vera Bradley Foundation) and Laura Van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom) each flew solo, while a number of regional teams fielded a small handful of riders.
“We went into the race thinking that we need to be aggressive and force the race,” said Kiesanowski. “We just wanted to make sure that if we had a break, that we were 100-percent sure that we could work from that break.”
The Tibco foursome animated the race from the start, drawing Cheatley and Van Gilder into a series of moves until, in the waning laps of the race, when Kiesanowski found herself with a small gap, along with Cheatley, Van Gilder and Brooke Miller. Inside four laps to go, the race winner attacked the group and Cheatley followed.
“We were away and I decided, ‘Yeah, this is a good time,” said Kiesanowski. “Of course, I know (Cheatley) pretty well, being a fellow New Zealander, so I was pretty confident I could win from that.”
A handful of laps later, Kiesanowski outkicked her countrywoman to take the win on the bricks. With her second-place, Cheatley retained the individual NRC points lead that she assumed from Alison Powers (Vera Bradley Foundation) one week ago at the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic.
Bevin goes long
In front of their sponsors and hometown fans, Bissell animated the men’s race early, along with foursomes from UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis and Fly V Australia. “We knew they (Bissell) were going to be aggressive and they were,” said runner-up Bernie Sulzberger (Fly V Australia). “They were attacking the whole race.”
“We had guys up and down the road all day just trying to get a combination that would suit us,” said Bevin. “It’s our home race and we had eight guys on the start line, so between those two factors, the responsibility for the race was on us.”
Forty minutes into the 90-minute circuit, Bevin rolled off the front of the pack with a Panther-RGF rider and the pair got a quick gap with Bissell patrolling the field. Director Eric Wohlberg gave Bevin the thumbs up from the pit when the move looked like it was sticking and the neo-pro went to the work of building a sustainable advantage. After a handful of laps, he found himself alone on the sharp end. “He (the Panther rider) lasted a few laps,” said Bevin. “He pulled some pretty big turns for a few laps and then that was it, I was on my own, so I put my head down and kept riding.”
Bevin’s lead went north of 30 seconds as he drilled the pace, though he struggled to find a groove on the rough tarmac. “It was a horrible course to try and find rhythm on,” he said. “It was windy and hot and there were a couple of brick sections.”
With around 20 laps remaining, a chase materialized that included Sulzberger’s teammate Jay Thompson. That move came up short, though, and was caught with three laps remaining. Bevin entered the final lap with an eight-second lead and fought to hold on as UHC and Fly V Australia had organized a strong chase in the closing laps.
“Those guys were coming and quick, but there’s not a lot I could do about it,” said Bevin.
In the end the 19-year-old was able to hold off the chase by a hair, with Sulzberger taking the field sprint after he jumped Karl Menzies’ (UnitedHealthcare) wheel in the final section of bricks. “I had a good sprint to the finish, but unfortunately it was only good for second,” said Sulzberger. UHC’s Hilton Clarke finished third.
With the sponsors in attendance, Bevin described the event as “one of those races where it like, ‘Boys, you’ve got to win it.’” Win it they did.
Men’s Brief Results
- 1. Patrick Bevin, Bissell
- 2. Bernard Sulzberger, Fly V Australia
- 3. Hilton Clarke, UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis
- 4. Jonathan Cantwell, Fly V Australia
- 5. Jake Keough, UnitedHealtchcare-Maxxis
Women’s Brief Results
- 1. Jo Kiesanowski, Tibco-To The Top
- 2. Catherine Cheatley, Colavita-Baci
- 3. Laura Van Gilder, Mellow Mushroom
- 4. Nicole Frieman, Wheelworks
- 5. Carrie Cash, Vera Bradley Foundation