ATHENS, Georgia (VN) — Kevin Mullervy (Champion System-Stan’s NoTubes) proved to be the spanner in the UnitedHealthcare works at Saturday’s Terrapin Twilight, the fourth stop on the USA Crits Championship Series.
Mullervy caught breakaway companions Carlos Alzate (UnitedHealthcare) and Frank Travieso (Team Smartstop-Mountain Khakis) unawares during the final 10 laps of racing and rode off to the biggest victory of his career.
In the women’s event Erica Allar (Care4Cycling) finally found the win she had been hunting all year long, powering out of a field sprint to take her second consecutive Twilight victory.
The bad weather that had been forecast all week long skirted around Athens in time to provide ideal racing conditions throughout the night, and the women’s pro field began its 40 laps of racing just before dusk.
Colavita-Fine Cooking tried several times to get a break going, finally getting Lindsey Bayer up the road with Christina Gokey-Smith (Rouse-Oogie Racing) about 30 minutes into the race. But their time up front was brief, and once they were pulled back Jackie Crowell (Exergy Twenty16) tried to exert some pressure on the pack.
“I knew that Colavita would be on the ball this time after messing up at the Delray Beach Twilight and letting me off the front,” Crowell said. “I knew they’d be marking me for the breakaway and my teammate Cari Higgins for the sprint.
“There were a lot of people out there hoping for a sprint, so (the racing) was not as aggressive as I would have liked, but that’s just how sometimes it plays out.”
With the laps ticking down, Colavita did what it could to establish a leadout train for sprinter Jen Purcell, but Allar — never more than six or seven wheels out of first place — was constantly in striking position.
“I get really panicky when I get too far back in the field,” Allar said of the windup to her sprint. “I actually rode kind of too far forward. I should have been three or four people further back for the majority of the race.”
But following her painful losses at both the Presbyterian Hospital Invitational Criterium in Charlotte and the Sunny King Criterium, Allar was leaving nothing to chance for the Athens finale.
With just a little more than two turns to go she locked onto the wheel of Theresa Cliff-Ryan’s (Fearless Femme Racing) before following a last-minute jump by Colavita’s Jen Purcell out of the final corner.
Knowing that the tail wind to the start/finish banner would help all concerned, Allar sprinted all the way to the line — and to her second consecutive Terrapin Twilight victory.
She was happy to finally get that first win of the season.
“It feels great to win Athens two times in a row,” she said. “This is one of most exciting races we do. I’m happy. My team’s happy and I’m glad that the momentum is continuing.”
Predator early, Champion late
The men’s race began with Predator Cycling’s Jean-Michel Lachance immediately striking out for some quick cash.
The first of two major breaks occurred when local rider Thomas Brown (Team Smartstop-Mountain Khakis) moved off the front followed by Adrian Hegyvary (UnitedHealthcare). Joined soon after by Adam Koble (Giant South), the trio amassed 30 seconds on the field for a number of laps.
Behind them Predator Cycling began an effort to reel in the escapees with help from Gavi Epstein (Champion System) and David Guttenplan (AG Bicycles-Guttenplan Coaching).
After a crash occurred right after the mid-race preme, the gap to the breakaway began to shrink precipitously. With 29 laps remaining, the move was no more.
But Smartstop was far from done. Their local boy Frank Travieso launched a counterattack, drawing attention from Alzate and then Mullervy. Their combined efforts saw them rolling more than 30 seconds off the front of the field within 12 laps.
It seemed likely that the three would lap the field. But with Travieso’s teammates pulling at the front of the pack, and with Mullervy probably not motivated to come into the back end of the pack and pit his lead-out train against UnitedHealthcare, the catch was never made.
And then Mullervy rolled the dice on the only real tactical option that was open to a man facing two sprinters.
“I saw that Carlos was just soft-pulling through,” Mullervy said. “And then with 10 to go they just started looking at each other. I didn’t even attack. They just sat up and started staring at one another. I just put my head down and went.”
Mullervy quickly put a fairly sizable gap on Alzate and Travieso and never looked back. A last-minute wreck added to the general disruption of UnitedHealthcare’s plans and the 25-year-old rider rolled away with the biggest criterium win of the season.
“This town carried me the last 10 laps,” Mullervy said once he finally came to a stop. “I was red-lined and they brought me to the line. I feel like I’m dreaming.
“This is the biggest win of my life. I’m really happy to do this for Champion System. They picked me up late in the year and I’m happy to pay them back.”
Alzate out-sprinted Travieso for second place.
The Terrapin Twilight is also the first stop on USA Crits Speedweek, a seven-race jaunt through the Southeast that continues Sunday with the Historic Roswell Criterium.