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North Star: Williams wins stage 4, Huff nabs lead

Justin Williams and Skylar Schneider take sprint victories in the fourth stage of the North Star Grand Prix

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Justin Williams (Cylance – Cannondale) sprinted to a second North Star Grand Prix stage win Friday as Rally’s Brad Huff grabbed control of the overall race lead.

Racing on an urban criterium circuit in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Williams proved the fastest rider in the bunch on a rainy day that saw a few riders hit the deck.

Tom Zirbel (Rally), who started the day in the leader’s jersey, crashed inside the final 10 kilometers. He finished on the same time as the peloton, but his teammate Huff jumped to the top of the general classification thanks to bonus seconds.

Things came down to a sprint after the breakaway was caught in the waning moments of the stage. Williams launched himself early out of the final corner and didn’t look back, holding out all the way to the line to take his second win in three days — he also won the second stage of the event.

“Going into the last corner, I opened up my sprint and it was just enough to keep everyone behind me,” said Williams. “I’m really good at top-end sprints so I just figured I had to trust myself.”

Alfredo Rodriquez (KHS – Maxxis) was runner-up on the stage, while Huff crossed the finish line in third. That was good enough for Huff to nab the GC lead.

“Those behind [Williams] got caught in the debris of catching the breakaway,” said Huff. “They all sprinted for the corner then they had to check out because they went for it too fast. I had to do some evasive maneuvers, some Jedi Knight moves, to get my way back up there. Luckily I had the snap to get back into third place.”

Bryan Gomez (Gateway Harley-Davidson – Trek) slotted into second overall, four seconds back, thanks to bonuses earned at intermediate sprints. Zirbel now sits in third place, five seconds behind his teammate Huff.

Schneider wins women’s stage (on junior gearing)

17-year-old Skylar Schneider (ISCorp – SmartChoice MRI) sprinted to victory in the women’s race, with Coryn Rivera (UnitedHealthcare) crossing the line second. Samantha Schneider, the stage winner’s sister and lead out rider, nabbed third.

The lead changed hands multiple times throughout the criterium, but UnitedHealthcare appeared to have things under control as the kilometers ticked down. Schneider jumped rounding the final corner, however, and no one was able to catch her. Rivera, among the fastest sprinters in the women’s peloton, tipped her cap to the up-and-comer, who is still riding on junior gearing.

“If anyone was going to beat me today, I’m happy it was Skylar,” said Rivera. “She deserves it. I remember when I was that punk kid who beat senior riders with regular gears. I’m really impressed by her.”

Brianna Walle (TIBCO – Silicon Valley Bank) retained her race lead over teammate Lauren Stephens, with Rivera nabbing enough bonus seconds to slot into third on GC.

The North Star Grand Prix continues Saturday with a rolling stage 5 in North Mankato, Minnesota.