Jesse Anthony of Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth was the catalyst for a relentless Univest Grand Prix Doylestown Criterium in Pennsylvania Sunday, winning the race, the sprinters jersey, and the overall weekend title after attacking, staying away for multiple laps, and taking the sprint out of a decimated field.
Anthony outsprinted Jackie Simes (Jamis/Sutter Home) and Robin Carpenter (BikeReg.com) for the win on a slightly uphill finishing straight. Simes took a flyer with a lap remaining in the 36-lap, 50-mile race, and only Carpenter and Anthony were able to bridge to him halfway through the bell lap.
“We worked together for a little bit and then I got stuck to lead out,” Simes said. “I thought I timed my sprint pretty well. It was an uphill sprint. I jumped at a pretty good time but I was just overpowered at the end.”
Anthony, who earlier attacked the field with 18 laps remaining, was eventually joined by his teammate Thomas Soladay, plus Brett Tivers (Garneau Club Chassures) and Johan Landstrom (Cyklecity). The break stayed away from 13 laps to five laps remaining, thanks to a surging group of eight chasers. The front split gained a gap of almost a minute by the bell lap.
“There were two different teams blocking and covering moves, keeping the chase from getting too close,” Carpenter said. “A lot of the amateur guys just came to the front and just started working and got close enough where the attacks and counter attacks managed to get the break. At one point it got just hard enough where a gap opened up. I knew I just had to be racing at the front to make the split.”
The 1.4-mile course of the Univest Doylestown Criterium wreaked havoc on the field, reducing the size of the peloton to 40 out of the 89 starters with 15 laps remaining. Anthony called it a “grueling” course.
“Some of the corners kind of string things out on the downhill, and then the whole back section is just slightly uphill,” he said. “No matter where you’re riding in the pack it’s really hard. There’s not much sitting in. It’s not really a field sprinter’s course because it’s hard to stay at the back with all the whiplash. It’s definitely a great crit course because it weeds out all the strong guys from the guys who are kind of tired.”
Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth, however, managed to get two riders in the four-man breakaway, and several riders in the front split that battled for the last five laps.
“The whole team came out to race aggressively today,” Anthony said. “That’s what it takes to win races. You need a full team. One rider never wins a race by himself.”
The peloton surged to speeds faster than 30 miles an hour at times, giving no one time to sit up or the field to be anything but single file on the way to the fastest finish in eight editions of the race. In addition to Anthony taking the Leidy’s Pork Products Best Sprinter Award and the Univest Overall winner’s jersey, Tivers took home The Intelligencer’s Most Aggressive Rider Award.
“This high-level field really took advantage of this race course and ripped it to pieces,” Univest Grand Prix promoter John Eustice said. “It was a bar fight out there … a tremendously exciting race. The crowd was 10 deep at the finish line. I’ve never had a crowd like this. Again, it’s an example of how great American bike racing is and how great the American professional class is. I believe in them.”
Anthony, a Beverly, Massachusetts, native who won Stage 1 of the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and the overall at the Nature Valley Grand Prix, said the Univest Grand Prix is as prestigious a win as any in the United States.
“The Univest Grand Prix is a staple on the American racing calendar and one of the biggest in the U.S., being a UCI race,” he said. “It showed by the crowd and the attendance here today in Doylestown. It was fantastic. Coming up that finishing straight, I was going deaf the last few laps. That’s an awesome feeling.”