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By Steve Frothingham
Las Vegas is a good place to put on a show.
Jen McRae and Hilton Clarke — each of whom are looking for new teams next year — produced brilliant late season performances with wins at the USA CRITS Finals, held during the Interbike trade show in Las Vegas Thursday night.
Clarke said the win under the lights at the Mandalay Bay Resort on the Vegas Strip will not be the end of his season. His Toyota-United team is expected to fold at the end of this season, or perhaps return with a much more modest program next year.
“I’m not finishing my season until I get a job … all I can do is keep winning races until I get a job,” he said.
McRae, whose Advil-Chaptick team is losing its sponsorship at the end of the season, likewise said a win in Las Vegas could be key to earning a spot on a team next year. McCrae said she has felt like a bridesmaid this season, with a series of third place finishes.
“I woke up this morning thinking, you know it just might come together here, and how great would that be, because this is quite the spectacle, all the sponsors are here: it’s a good place to do it.”
A few thousand spectators, mostly bicycle industry members in town for the trade show, filled the resort’s parking lot, which was made into a combination criterium course, beer tent and expo area.
The one-kilometer course was flat as a board, featuring a series of fast turns and a short finish straight that had riders heading straight at Las Vegas’ neon skyline, before dropping them into the first tight left-hander, the scene of many crashes during the evening.
The first half of the 40-lap women’s race was fast as the Vanderkitten and Cheerwine teams sought to control the race for Cheerwine’s Kelly Benjamin and Vanderkitten’s Jennifer Wilson, who were in a tight race for first and second in the USA CRITS series. As the two teams tried to control the pace, opportunities arose for those with smaller teams and no series ambitions, including cyclocross star Katie Compton (Spike Shooter) and Aaron’s Meredith Miller, who had no teammates in the race.
Miller and Compton were major animators in the first part of the race, but with 12 laps left, McCrae took off after a series of attacks and counter attacks. Christina Smith (Lonestarworks.com) — like McCrae an Austin, Texas-based rider — went with McRae and the two worked together to build a tenuous lead. Smith was unable to stay with McCrae, however, who went off on her own with nine laps to go and quickly built a nearly 45 second lead.
McRae held the gap to the end, while Smith was absorbed by the pack. Perennial crit specialist Tina Pic (Colavita-Sutter Home) finished off her season by taking the field sprint for second.
Benjamin finished sixth to Wilson’s ninth to secure her overall USA CRITS title.
Like the women’s race, the 60-lap men’s race was dominated by teams dueling for overall series victory and those hoping to set up a single race win before the milling crowds.
Yosvany Falcon (Toshiba-Santo) entered the final series event with a narrow lead over TIME’s Adam Myerson, and each of their teams was determined to help their man wrap up the series lead.
Meanwhile, Toyota-United’s small squad — just Clarke, Ivan Stevic and Sean Sullivan — was laying low. Stevic went after a few primes, but Clarke stayed out of the wind, but kept very close to the front, the entire night.
With two laps to go Stevic and Sullivan put the hammer down at the front, while TIME riders tried to set up Myerson and Toshiba riders tried to position Falcon.
Clarke entered the final left hand corner in front and floored it, winning with enough time to pump his right arm in victory. Slovenian Ilesic Aldo was second, followed by Myerson.
“The word of the night was composure,” Clarke said. “Really in the last three laps I had to keep my composure because it got just crazy out there.”
Myerson’s third place did not earn him enough points to unseat Falcon, who was seventh, from the series lead.
Unofficially, however, Myerson won the prize for the best combined placings in the crit and Wednesday night’s CrossVegas cyclocross race, where he was 19th.
1. Hilton Clarke Toyota-United
2. Aldo Ilesic
3. Adam Myerson Time
4. Jonathan Cantwell Jittery
5. Tony Cruz Bmc
6. Maxime Vives Calyon
7. Yosvany Falcon Toshiba-Santo
8. Tom Soloday Time
9. Eric Barlevav Time
10. Mark Hekman Toshiba-Santo
11. Facundo Bazzi Aerocat/
12. Evan Elken Jittery
13. Michael Mueller Atlas
14. Jim Mohan Horizon
15. Andrew Dahlheim Metro
16. Matthew Hansley Locos
17. Yuriy Metlushenko Amore
18. Steve Tilford Trek
19. Jaime Gandara Team
20. Brian Forbes Rideclean
21. Jake Hollenbach Ccb/volkswagen
22. Grant Potter Herbalife
23. Jonny Sundt Kelly
24. Christian Helmig Metro
25. David Harward Canyon
26. Devon Vigus California
27. Seth Hansley Locos
28. Chris Demarchi Team
29. Louie Amelburu Paultracy.com
30. Ryan Mele Richmond
31. Frank Travieso Toshiba-Santo
32. Boyd Johnson Dlp
33. Chuck Coyle Successful
34. Vincent Owens Sierra
35. Alessandro Bazzana Team
36. Ricardo Escuela Team
37. Philip Cortes Amore
38. Ivan Stevic Toyota-United
39. Michael Stevenson Amore
1. Jen Mcrae Team Advil Chapstick
2. Tina Pic Colavita-Sutter Home
3. Gilder Van Laura Cheerwine
4. Martina Patella Valueact
5. Samantha Schneider Colavita/sutter
6. Kelly Benjamin Cheerwine
7. Sabrina Savage Veloforma
8. Jennifer Wilson Vanderkitten
9. Christina Smith Lonestarworks.com
10. Tiffany Pezzulo Park
11. Beatriz Rodriguez Sc
12. Katie Compton Spike
13. Taitt Sato Valueact
14. Meredith Miller Aaron’s
15. Lauren Franges Team
16. Melissa Sanborn Vanderkitten
17. Kacey Manderfield Verducci/breakaway
18. Kendall Ryan Major
19. Melodie Metzger Vanderkitten
20. Carrie Cash-Wootten Team
21. Shontell Gauthier Colavita/sutter
22. Liza Rachetto Team
23. Elizabeth Morse-Hill Hub
24. Alicia Boland Banning’s
25. Nicky Wangsgard Colavita/sutter
26. Yukie Nakamura Team
27. Shannon Koch Metro
28. Jessie Maclean Verducci/breakaway
29. Leigh Valletti Vanderkitten
30. Liz Hatch Vanderkitten
31. Allyson Brandt Cheerwine
32. Hilary Crowley Banning’s