A pair of American riders, Travis McCabe and Shelly Olds, took victories Friday at the Winston-Salem Cycling Classic in North Carolina.
The UCI and National Racing Calendar (NRC) women’s race was the first of two professional cycling events Friday in Winston-Salem. Olds (Alé Cipollini-Galassia) won a bunch sprint finale ahead of Canadian Joelle Numainville (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) and Eugenia Bujak of Poland (BTC City Ljubljana) at the end of the 91-kilometer race that comprised eight laps of an 11.5-km circuit.
“It’s probably my favorite win of the year by far,” Olds said. “It’s my country and I never get to race here. Now, to see some riders racing over here that I normally see in Europe, it kind of mixes up the whole dynamic of the racing. You don’t just have American style racing or European racing. You have a combination of both. It makes it much more exciting. It was really fun.”
Alé Cipollini set up Olds perfectly, shutting down multiple attacks throughout the day. Olds also played a role in ensuring the bunch sprint by marking an acceleration by UnitedHealthcare’s Alison Powers with two laps to go, and again on the final lap. Erica Allar (Colavita-Fine Cooking) also made her way onto the wheel of Powers, who tried a final time to attack solo on a descent. But even a 10-second advantage was not enough to prevent the bunch finish, as she was caught on the steep section of the final climb that featured a maximum gradient of 10 percent.
“This actually was supposed to be my break after my block in Europe,” Olds said. “But, we found out about this race and it’s really important for our team to be here and race today. I didn’t know how I was going to feel, I’m trying to take sort of a rest from the whole block, but I think the rest did me good last week with my family and now I am kind of fresh.”
Alison Tetrick (Twenty16 Pro Cycling) won both the “Queen of the Mountain” and the sprint competition after attacking on the second lap and staying away until about two-and-a-half laps remained. She gained as much as a 90-second lead, but an attack by Powers brought a select group to her wheel. But that move was eventually neutralized by the field.
“Our team just wanted to race hard and show Winston-Salem a little bit about women’s cycling,” Tetrick said. ”Sometimes you can’t plan for bike racing, when the moment’s right you just go for it. It was pretty early, but it was a beautiful course and a lot of fun to ride. I definitely enjoyed that time. I think this is my first solidified queen of the mountains jersey of my career. I won a sprint jersey on Ronde van Drenthe, so now this is my second of those.”
McCabe times it perfectly
Later Friday, McCabe used a perfectly-timed attack on the final climb to solo to victory, ahead of Australian Joe Lewis (Hincapie Sportswear Development Team). Canadian national road champion Zach Bell (SmartStop) sprinted to third out of a small group, five seconds later.
“This is huge,” McCabe said of the victory. “The team is based out of Winston-Salem. It’s our home town, so it was a race we really wanted to win. The team was always there in all the moves and all of the splits. It’s a big win for us. We’re really excited.”
The chaotic race came down to a group of 14 riders which formed in the final nine laps of the 171-kilometer race that comprised 15 laps of an 11.4-km circuit. A three-rider escape group of David Cueli (UnitedHealthcare of Georgia), Matt Green (Astellas), and Oscar Clark (Hincapie Sportswear) stayed away out of that group for several laps starting at that point. A seven-rider chase group formed behind those three, and Green was eventually dropped. A group of 10 formed with three laps to go, but there was a regroupment of 34 riders about half a lap later.
Attacks continued to fly, but a strong counter attack by Will Routley (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) with two laps remaining upped the pace in the group significantly. By the time Routley was caught due to an acceleration from Bell, there was only a lap to go and the front group had splintered.
Several teams were well-represented in the small group that contested the finish. Smartstop had four riders, Hincapie Sportswear had three and the Optum and 5-Hour Energy-Kenda squads each had two. Smartstop took over the front to set up McCabe, with the 2013 U.S. national elite criterium champion launching his winning attack on the final climb.
“I went on the steepest part — the last 50 meters of that climb,” McCabe said. “It was sort of like a stair-stepper. You had the kicker, it flattened out, then a kicker, and then the last 50 or 100 meters it was just steep. I knew right there we had four guys. I just lined it up and we just took a chance and I went as hard as I could up over the hill. It was so short after the hill that if I could get up and over with a gap, I could recover over the rollers. If anyone caught me I had enough of a kick. So I just took a chance and it played out really well.”
Smartstop team director Michael Creed said McCabe’s victory in the UCI-National Racing Calendar event builds on the team’s earlier accomplishments this season: a stage win by McCabe at the Redlands Bicycle Classic, second and third at last weekend’s Novant Health Invitational Criterium, and a runner-up finish with Rob Britton at Vuelta Independencia Nacional in February.
“To see the guys who didn’t know each other from the start, who had very few connections amongst them, come together and to be at the helm of that – for them to do what I say and trust it is very satisfying,” Creed said. “It’s one thing to say this is a tactic, and another for the riders to have a mentality to make sure it happens. These guys did that and there is a tremendous amount of satisfaction.”
In addition to the runner-up finish for Lewis, Hincapie Sportswear swept the king of the mountains and sprint competitions with Lewis and Alexander Ray, respectively.
The two-day Winston-Salem Cycling Classic continues Saturday with the fourth round of the USA Crits Series. The women will contest a 60-minute criterium, followed by a 75-minute men’s event. Both races will stream live at VeloNews.com.