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Australians Hilton Clarke (UnitedHealthcare) and Kimberley Wells (Exergy Twenty16) won their respective events at the Andersen Banducci Twilight Criterium on Saturday in Boise, Idaho.
Clarke, who had two previous Boise victories to his credit (including 2012), was near the tail end of his team’s trademark leadout train when a last-minute crash involving two of his teammates changed the dynamics of the night’s finale.
Seemingly unfazed by the confusion, Clarke managed to outsprint Ricardo Escuela (Predator Cycling) and Alex Candelario (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies).
“Two of my guys went down in the last corner and created a huge gap for me. It wasn’t the way that I wanted to win,” said Clarke. “Our tactic was to hang back and just do the sprint, but our team did a great job. I love this town and I love this race.”
His boys indeed did keep to themselves throughout most of the 90-minute event, while other teams did their best to convert cash and points premes into successful attacks.
With less than 40 left on the lap counter crit ace Candelario made a bid for a solo getaway, but Predator wasn’t having any of it, sending Sergio Hernandez up the road to shut the move down.
CashCall Cycling began to man the front of the field once their Michael Weicht ran off with a cash preme. Mat Stephens (Elbowz Racing) and Timothy Root (Elite Protocol-Look) joined him, but the effort proved short-lived.
Next Kevin Mullervy (Champion System-Stan’s NoTubes) tried an escape. The 2013 Terrapin Twilight winner grabbed a fistful of cash over several laps, but could not turn his advantage into another upset victory.
Throughout the evening, the riders maintained average speeds of approximately 30 miles an hour. As the laps ticked down, however, that paced increased to over 32 mph, mostly due to UnitedHealthcare having taken control of the front of an already agitated field.
With just one lap to go, the “Blue Train” opened up the throttle with Luke Keough and USA Crits series leader Carlos Alzate leading the way. But with the streets darkening minute by minute, Alzate overcooked one of the final turns and went into the barriers hard, taking Keough with him. That left the sprint up to Clarke, who once again came across the line first.
Alzate’s spill meant that Clarke also moved into the overall lead of the series.
In the women’s race, riders from Team Novo Nordisk and Primal Pro-Map My Ride made initial forays, but then Exergy’s Lauren Tamayo gave the first indication that her team was there to play hardball, getting away for several fast turns around the course.
Wells, Allar duel for victory
Then last year’s Boise champion Kristin McGrath jumped away with less than 10 laps to go. For several laps it looked as if McGrath would once again carry the day, but she was brought back with one lap remaining, due largely to the efforts of Colavita’s Lindsay Bayer.
USA Crits leader Erica Allar (Care4Cycling-SolomonCorp) was well placed in the finale, but so was Wells, and the current Australian criterium champion got the better of Allar just before the line.
“When (Kristin) went, it was a great move.” Wells said. “It was the right time to go for a solo win. But the bunch were too hungry, so when it looked like it wasn’t going to stick, I got excited for the sprint.”
Allar leads both the USA Crits and the National Criterium Calendar (NCC), and her lead in both series is essentially unimpeachable at this point. As long as she finishes on or near the podium in the races remaining on both calendars, she will walk away from this season with two championships to her name.