GLENCOE, Ill. (VN) — Despite periodic local showers, Brad White (UnitedHealthcare) and Erica Allar (Care4Cycling-Solomon Corp) both secured victories at Saturday’s Glencoe Grand Prix, stop No. 6 on the USA Crits Championship Series.
“Looking at the weather, we knew there was a chance at rain,” White said following his win in the Chicago suburb. “The Midwest can have storms in the afternoon, but we figured that it would be a 10-minute downpour and then it would be gone.”
Instead, riders endured enough rain to shorten the women’s event and take a fair amount of the fire out of the men’s field.
“The first two laps, everyone went really slow through the corners,” White said. “It was just kind of slow motion out there, and it’s hard to get away in the rain. You can’t attack well going into a corner. Everyone was a bit jittery.”
But three laps in, White’s teammate Hilton Clarke rolled up to him and let the Michigan-based rider know that UnitedHealthcare would throw its support behind him if he was feeling up to working towards the win.
“He kind of gave me the green light to throw a bomb out there and see what would happen.” White said.
That bomb took the form of a solo attack by White that drew out Johnathan Freter (Panther-Bakehouse Granola) and White’s teammate Carlos Alzate. Behind them Adam Leibovitz (Texas Roadhouse) responded to the getaway, but he wasn’t able to get much of a leash from the peloton. Eventually he would be joined by Jackie Simes (Team SmartStop-Mountain Khakis), Chad Hartley (Sharecare Cycling-Wheelandsprocket.com), and Conor Mullervy (Champion System-Stan’s NoTubes). But by the time the chase was organized, White and company were nearly two minutes up the road.
“We could see the group on the other side of the course and they weren’t really organized,” White said. “And once we had a good gap, we knew the two-against-one advantage was a really good situation. I think (Freter) knew he was in trouble.”
Going the final laps Chad Burdzilauskas (Kentucky Flyers Cycling Inc.) attacked out of the field, but his effort wouldn’t amount to much as up ahead Alzate and White delivered the one-two punch that would end Freter’s hope for anything but third place on the podium.
“I told Carlos to attack first with a lap and a half to go,” White said. “He got a little gap which (Freter) had to chase down. Once that was caught with about a half a lap to go was when I went and I got a big enough gap to hold it to the finish.”
The win was White’s first victory since he took top honors at the Ithaca Grand Prix of Cyclocross back in 2012, and he was thankful for his team’s support.
“When you’re given an opportunity like this you have to take full advantage of it,” White said. “It was a perfect situation … and what’s so cool is that all the guys know how hard I work for them [during the rest of the season] and when they see me win they get so excited about it.”
Showers slash women’s race
The situation was decidedly less perfect earlier on in the day when the women’s field rolled from the line. With the race already shortened to just 20 laps, the rain began to come down in force not long after the riders were under way.
“In my 13 years of racing I don’t think I’ve ridden through puddles the size of what we rode through yesterday,” said Team TIBCO sprinter Sam Schneider. “In one of the corners the sewer wasn’t draining so it was just putting more water into the road. It was probably a foot deep. At one point I really couldn’t see where we were going or if we were turning because it was pouring so hard.”
Schneider got past the visual impairments in time to take note that rival Allar had gone off the front for a points preme and hadn’t slowed down. With alarm bells ringing Schneider answered the attack with the help of 2012 Glencoe Grand Prix winner Laura Van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom). Once the trio was assembled, the three riders worked hard to stay away and minimize the risks because of the bad weather.
With only 20 seconds’ advantage, the breakaway was brought to a halt along with the rest of the field when a crash neutralized the race with only four laps to go. Following the restart, they added an additional 25 seconds to their lead before the cat-and-mouse tactics began.
Van Gilder struck out once the trio reached the midpoint of the final lap before Allar countered going into the last corner. Schneider held the Care4Cycling rider’s wheel heading towards the line, but she was only able to manage second once Allar put her sprint into overdrive.
“I have a lot of confidence myself in the rain,” Allar said. “Also, I’m coming from Chattanooga and I had a real hard road race out there so my fitness is all right. My handling skills in the rain are okay, and I have a pretty good sprint. And after last year I knew how to win this one. I executed the same tactic, but luckily I didn’t get passed in the end.”
While Allar continues to build what’s beginning to look like an insurmountable points advantage on the remainder of the overall USA Crits women’s field, Alzate’s second-place finish puts him ahead of UnitedHealthcare teammate Hilton Clarke. The Colombian rides now holds the orange jersey of the series leader by just two points.
USA Crits racing will continue on July 6 at the Iron Hill Twilight in West Chester, Penn.