Saturday, July 28th, the US Pro Criterium Championships were held in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as part of the Herman Miller Grand Cycling Classic. With such an exciting race only three hours from me, of course I jumped in my car and decided to watch all the two-wheeled action!
I arrived just as the women’s race was finishing. I decided I would spend the day near the start/finish line, so I set up shop and started snapping photos. My full gallery is available here: http://cycling-news.posterous.com/pro-crit-media
The course itself was largely cobblestones in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids. It featured 8 turns, including a sweeping bend heading into the finish straight.
So first I watched the women’s podium presentation. As I was gonzo-reporting today, I couldn’t get in front of the podium for pictures. So, I settled for their rear entrance! Here, the top-5 women sat and awaited their bouquet of flowers. From a break, Jennifer Purcell (Team Tibco) and Jade Wilcoxson (Optum Pro Cycling p/b KBS) were 3rd and 2nd overall, but Theresa Clif-Ryan (Exergy Twenty12) took the overall win and, in addition to flowers, took home a piece of cobblestone.
Next, the winners for the Men’s 1/2/3 event were presented. Local team Bissell-ABG-NUVO took a podium sweep with Daniel Lam taking the overall win, flanked by Nathaniel Williams and Josh Johnson.
Next, the kids race was held. It looked like hundreds of kids of all ages participated! There were so many kids, they had to be separated into three heats. Every bike imaginable was used, including tandems and wooden push bikes. The crowd was incredibly supportive, cheering loudly and banging on the boards lining the finish straight! Who knows, perhaps a future Tour de France winner participated in his first bike race today!
Next was the men’s race. The 66 riders who started had to complete 66 laps of the course for a total of 80kms raced.
The vast majority of the day consisted of the riders staying in a bulk. Several times, riders tried to break away, including Jonathon Mumford of Optum with Travis Livermon (Mt Khakis/Smartstop), but only one break was every even mildly able to open a sizable gap–Sterling Magnell (Wonderful Pistachios) opened nearly 30 seconds with 33 laps remaining. He, too, was caught however with 30 laps to go.
The race officials had a rather scary moment when, with 28 laps remaining, a man wandered onto the course and had to be escorted to the barriers just as the peloton was flying by. Later, he returned to the middle of the course, and this time, several officials had to remove him.
With 20 kms remaining, Bissell, Jelly Belly, and Kenda were very aggressive, marking each other and forming lead-out trains for their respective sprinters. This intensity, however, resulted in a crash with 18 laps remaining. Michael Friedman (Optum), who was involved with the crash, described the situation as follows: “we slowed down, got bunched up, and someone hit the curb so domino effect.”
Regardless, the race continued up front as those involved in the incident worked their way to the Shimano neutral service station for their free lap. Next to attack was Joey Rosskpf (Team Type I), with 11kms to go. His move was caught rather quickly, however. But the end, everyone was together with Optum, Jelly Belly, Kenda, and Bissell doing the bulk of the work.
Throughout the day, there were a variety of primes available on course. Those who won various primes include: Andrew Dahlheim (Bissell), Brad White (United Healthcare), Magnell, Quinn Keogh (Team Exergy), Mumford, Yosvany Falcon (Pistachios), and Cody O’Reilly (Optum).
The ultimate prize, however, went to Ken Hanson (Optum), becoming the new national champion. He was flanked on the podium by Brad Huff (Jelly Belly pb Kenda) and Brad White (United Healthcare) respectively.
Overall, it was an exciting day of racing, and there were quite a few fans out to enjoy the hard work of the riders…myself included.