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- 2016 Goose Island Grand Prix
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Superior Ambulance Elmhurst Cycling Classic
pb Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare
Friday, July 19, 2013
"I'm from Florida, and it's blazing," said David Guttenplan (AG Bicyles/Guttenplan Coaching) when asked by announcer Todd Busteed, who lost his voice by night's end, about racing in the fifth mid-ninety degree day during the Intelligentsia Cup Prairie State Cycling Series.
Some of the races earlier in the day were cut short, and racers who won Weber Grills as primes needed only to lift the lid to have an instant BBQ-ready grilling surface. Kids playing with tar bubbles were sure to face lengthy bath time once back home. Even the official Series photographer found himself temporarily overcome by heat and unexpectedly a patron of the local venue's presenting sponsor.
The pace was slower than usual during this second of four USA Cycling National Criterium Calendar (NCC) Intelligentsia Cup date as racers struggled to conserve energy as best they could. All said, spectators of the Superior Ambulance Elmhurst Cycling Classic presented by Elmhurst Memorial Hospital were treated to an outstanding day of racing.
In the Pro Men's contest presented by MB Financial, three riders went up the road just 15 minutes in to quickly see the field 30 seconds behind them. Alexander "ARay" Ray (ISCorp-Intelligentsia), Jeanmichel Lachance (Predator-Carbon Repair) and Brian Ellison gave the fans, harassed by biting flies who seemed to grow incrementally with the increase in humidity, quite a show for much of the 90 minutes. Uncharacteristically early, UnitedHealthcare was already staging their blue train on the front of the field with two-thirds of the race remaining.
The three-man break cranked in the heat to build a gap of nearly 40 seconds but steadily chasers and the field chipped away at the lead like a chisel to an ice sculpture. UHC stayed up front as Team ShareCare, Team SmartStop-Mountain Khakis and Predator-Carbon Repair were never far off their collective wheel. With 20 laps to go, the break fell to two as Ellison, in his first Cat 1 race after having been upgraded just one night prior, dropped after logging an extraordinary effort. As the lap counter flipped to 15, the gap matched in seconds as Brandon Feehery (Astellas Oncology) bolted past UHC for a field prime while the break was on the brink of folding.
The catch was made on the backside of the course with a dozen remaining after Carlos Alzate Escobar picked up yet another prime for UHC. ARay attempted a counter attack with Emile Abraham (Predator-Carbon Repair) and Chad Hartley (Team ShareCare) on the chase but the effort came unglued. Four to go saw UHC, Predator-Carbon Repair and SmartStop-Mountain Khakis all up front with Texas Roadhouse teammates Nicholas Ramirez and Adam Leibovitz going over the top of UHC just one lap later. Stunned expressions everywhere.
Taking offense, UHC took control with two remaining and stayed there until the locked n' loaded sprint for the finish line, to which one-third of the Pro Men's starters never crossed thanks to the heat. Coming down the line, it appeared a mirage. The announcers hoarse, the crowd screams deafening.the speed so fast it appeared unreal and in slow-motion. What was witnessed by all in attendance was Ricardo Escuela (Predator-Carbon Repair) coming out of nowhere to steal the blue thunder and upset UHC's Luke Keough for the win. Keough teammate Carl Menzies took the third step on the podium. Sheer pandemonium. Often stoic in demeanor, Escuela exhibited a broad smile on his bike as Predator teammate Abraham celebrated with a hotdog along with a supportive hug for his teammate and waves to the adoring crowd lining the barricades. The podium girl's hair turned from orange to red. Nothing short of shock and awe.
In the Intelligentsia Cup omnium competion, the Pro Men's Yellow Overall leader's jersey would be sitting in Feehery's (Astellas Oncology) closet Friday night, as he climbed atop the standings, just one point ahead of Guttenplan (AG Bicycles). The hotly contested, closely watched competition is a true battle with Feehery teammate Ryan Aitcheson and ShareCare's Hartley and White all less than nine points away from Feehery, with two solid days of NCC racing remaining.
In the Pro Women's race presented b Blair Hull/Ketchum Trading earlier in the afternoon, the race exploded just 15 minutes in as three launched off the front while fractured chase groups shagged. But the heat took a definite toll on the women's field as well as even Skylar Schneider (Team TIBCO) soloed off the back with 20 minutes remaining. The unsaid rule of the race seemed to be conserve your energy for the final fight.
The field all together, back-to-back primes got the field stirring with five laps remaining but once again, it came down to the mighty field sprint. Crowd favorite Laura Van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom) earned that top step on the podium as she hauled it hard to the line for the win. U.S. Crit Champion Theresa Cliff-Ryan (Fearless Femme-Pure Energy) and Christy Keely (Pepper Palace) stood second and third, respectively.
Jeannie Kuhajek (VanderKitten) stays in the Pro Women's Yellow Overall Leader's Jersey, closing out the day 15 points ahead of Jennifer Perricone (ISCorp-Intelligentsia).
Soon after the night's final podium ceremony, the sky grew angry and the rain fell hard. The wind roared and thunder struck as the lights flickered and power eventually zapped out as much of Elmhurst fell dark Friday night. For the many fans who cheered and the athletes who put forth incredible efforts, the night of peaceful rest was well-deserved.
The pentultimate day of the Intelligentsia Cup Prairie State Cycling Series continues Saturday at the Northwestern Medicine Lake Bluff Criterium before the Series finale in St. Charles on Sunday.