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John Murphy laps field, wins U.S. criterium championships

Murphy claims his second criterium national title in a race shortened by the threat of thunderstorms

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UnitedHealthcare’s John Murphy claimed the stars and stripes jersey at criterium national championships Saturday in North Carolina at the High Point Classic.

Attacks went early, as expected, in fact, but it was a surprise to see a move go away within the first few laps, and for those riders to eventually lap the field.

UnitedHealthcare placed three riders in the lead group of 13. Murphy and his teammates, Brad White and Adrian Hegyvary, were active in the move, and could be seen discussing adjustments in tactics as it became clear that the break would go on to lap the field.

“It was early. It was a big split. I was with two teammates, Adrien and Brad. It was a little bit big of a move for us. We wanted different numbers but in the end it out worked well for us,” Murphy said. “Every national championship, the tactics go haywire. It’s almost impossible to predict what’s going to happen. “Obviously we wanted to lap up to get with the rest of our boys.

“This time the odds were in our favor. We have the best crit squad in the U.S and the world, and it’s amazing to wear the stars and stripes jersey.”

Team director, Mike Tamayo said, “We knew this would be a hard race to control, so we planned to cover the moves and refine our plans as the race developed. We figured if it came down to a bunch sprint, we have Luke Keough and Ken Hanson, and if a break stayed away we were content with our chances as long as we had White, Hegyvary, Jeff Louder or Murphy in it. As it went, we had three guys in the bunch that lapped the field, and we were more than happy to play those cards.”

The breakaway lapped the field with what was expected to be over 45 minutes of racing left to go. There was briefly a bit of confusion as race officials shortened the event, however, owing to the threat of thunderstorms, which loomed in the distance. Officials reset the race to 15 laps to go, and UnitedHealthcare organized on the front not long after that.

Despite persistent challenges from Daniel Holloway’s Athlete Octane team — he was the rider who initiated the race’s early break and animated much of the event — UnitedHealthcare increased the pace over the closing laps, keeping its riders well positioned for the finale. They went 1-2 over the line, with Murphy taking the win and White close behind. Holloway finished third.

“It was a great weekend of racing, winning the stars and stripes jersey with both the men and the women. We’re very pleased. The race tonight was dynamic and exciting from the start. It wasn’t your perfect script, but the guys adapted really well and gave us the win,” Tamayo concluded.

For Murphy, this is his second time winning U.S. national criterium championships. Of the win, he said, ”It’s a good feeling to put your arms up as the winner. This is my first win of the year, and to have it come at national championships is really special. It feels great to have won this title for the UnitedHealthcare team.”