Jake Keough helped the UnitedHealthcare team maintain its death grip on the 2011 Speedweek competition with yet another win Friday night at the Spartanburg Regional Classic in South Carolina. Jennifer Purcell (Crumpton Cycles), meanwhile, found the chink in Colavita-Forno d’Asolo’s armor and scored a big victory for herself in the women’s race.
With the departure of overall leader Theresa Cliff-Ryan (Colavita), the women’s peloton sensed that this was their opportunity to assert themselves in Spartanburg. Early protagonists included Tiffany Pezzulo (Primal-MapMyRide), and Anne Samplonius (Rouse Bicycles). Samplonius capitalized on her team’s aggression, getting off the front for several laps and collecting a fair amount of primes.
But Colavita has been used to winning all week long, and in the second half of the race, they did their best to organize themselves and regain control. Rushlee Buchanan , winner of the Beaufort Memorial Cycling Classic, made a last-minute bid to take the win, but the combined strength of Rouse and Laura Van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom) disrupted that effort.
The resulting bunch sprint was up for grabs, and it was Purcell that emerged out of the darkness to end Colavita’s string of 11 consecutive Speedweek wins. Van Gilder held on for a second-place finish that would put her atop the overall standings, and Rouse’s Christina Gokey-Smith rounded out the podium in third.
The men’s race followed a similar pattern with a variety of riders trying to get the upper hand on the series’ dominant squad. Most successful were Tim Rugg (XO Communications-Battley Harley-Davidson) who led the field for several laps, and Chad Hartley (Kenda-5-Hour Energy). But UnitedHealthcare remained vigilant throughout, sending Boy Van Poppel to cover Hartley’s moves, for example.
As the sprint finish began to shape up Kenda did all they could to take the win, ramping speeds up to 34 mph on the darkened streets of Spartanburg. But UnitedHealthcare recouped their strength at the last minute and placed Keough in a key position for the win.
Keough sits only three points behind Carlos Alzate (Team Exergy) in the men’s overall competition while his UnitedHealthcare squad looks unbeatable in the team standings.
In the women’s field, only 14 points separate new overall leader Laura Van Gilder and Rouse Bicycle’s Christina Gokey-Smith. Team TIBCO-To The Top has a small chance, however, to unseat Colavita in the team competition.
The 2011 USA CRITS Speedweek continues Saturday with the Dilworth Criterium in Charlotte, North Carolina, and concludes Sunday with the Global Imports Sandy Springs Cycling Challenge in Sandy Springs, Georgia.