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By Fred Dreier
A pair of surprise winners took top honors at the National Road Race Championships in Park City, Utah, on Wednesday, as Webcor’s Katheryn Curi and mountain biker Carl Decker (Broadmark Capital) outclassed two strong fields of elite riders to earn stars-and-stripes jerseys in their respective events.
Worker bee no more
For the past few years Curi (Webcor Builders) had played second fiddle as a support rider –for Genevieve Jeanson on the Rona squad and more recently for Christine Thorburn at Webcor. But at Wednesday’s national championship race the 31-year old Vermonter proved her abilities range far beyond the role of domestique. Curi launched the decisive counter attack up the penultimate climb of the day and held on to claim the win, crossing the line almost 40 seconds ahead of a hard chasing peloton.
Curi seemed as shocked as anyone, repeatedly gasping “Oh my God,” for a minute after the finish.
“Christine and I knew that it could be either one of us today, and I just had the right move at the right time. I heard Christine cheering me on behind me,” said Curi. “It’s weird to be in a position where I wasn’t working for someone because it’s the natural role I’ve been in for the past few years.”
Curi’s breakaway came after the T-Mobile squad had completely dominated the 78-mile race, which climbed out of Park City and completed two 23.2-mile loops around the nearby town sof Kamas and Oakley. The ladies in pink controlled the pace of the peloton as the group rolled up the first two climbs, easing the speed after Lara Kroepsch’s (T-Mobile) early attack drew out the day’s breakaway.
Present in the break were Kroepsch, Sarah Uhl (Quark), NCCA collegiate Division II road race champion Mara Abbott (Sports Garage), Cat Malone (Webcor), Kele Hulser (Ford-Basis) and Ana Milkowski (Lipton). The group built a 1:50 advantage over the peloton by the start of the second loop, and as they hit the base of the climb back to Park City the group still maintained a 1:05 lead.
But the lead quickly vanished when Tour l’Aude winner Amber Neben (Buitenpoort/Flexpoint) attacked the base of the 1000-foot grind and caught the break less than a quarter of the way up.
Race favorites Thorburn, Kristin Armstrong (T-Mobile) and Lynn Gaggioli (Monex) followed Neben up the hill. After catching the break, Armstrong launched a stong attack that drew out the three other race favorites, as well as local Kate Sherwin (Utah Premier) and Grace Fleury (Quark).
Curi missed the initial move, but paced herself up to the leaders and quickly countered. No one responded.
“A few of us hesitated up the climb,” said Armstrong. “We started looking at her thinking, ‘who’s going to chase’ and by the time started to chase we were still in town. I didn’t want to do any work because I was waiting for my teammate Kim [Baldwin] to catch us on the next climb.”
Curi summated the first climb 40 seconds ahead of the six chasers, which by then was being driven by Neben and Gaggioli, and plummeted down the ensuing descent in full tuck.
“I kind of thought Katheryn would make up some time on the descent because she’s a really talented descender,” said Thorburn, who sat in the chase in case her teammate was caught.
Indeed, midway up the second pitch Curi’s lead had increased to 1:20, and the Webcor rider showed no signs of slowing as she topped out and sped into town. By the time Curi rounded the final corner and headed toward the finish line five miles later, not another rider was in sight.
Although Curi has raced primarily as Thorburn’s lieutenant this year, those who have raced against the Webcor rider know how talented a climber she really is. Curi rode to a seventh place finish at the Redlands Bicycle Classic and was a member of the U.S. national team at this year’s Tour l’Aude.
“Katheryn is so strong and is one of the up and coming rider in America,” said Armstrong. “If it wasn’t a T-Mobile rider winning today I’m glad it was her.”
Victory Brewing’s Lauren Franges took home the honors in the women’s U-23 race. Franges played it conservative after fellow U-23 riders Uhl and Abbott went off in the day’s first breakaway and T-Mobile’s Rebecca Much rode much of the day at the front for her team. Franges passed Abbott midway up the day’s penultimate climb, finishing the day in 8th place.
“It’s my last year racing U-23 and it’s nice to finally win the jersey,” said Franges. “I’ve been racing in the women’s pro field long enough, and I think it’s time I left the espoirs.”
King of the (off?) road
Riding with the Broadmark Capital road squad, mountain biker Carl Decker rode away with honors in the men’s elite road race, throwing down a powerful final sprint that put him off the front by three seconds at the line.
Decker, who rides on the Giant mountain bike team alongside Adam Craig, was in town for the previous weekend’s NORBA national and decided to make a week out of his Utah trip.
“I didn’t really know anybody in the race so I didn’t know what to do or who to follow,” he said. “I just tried to stay out of the wind.”
The men’s race spun four laps around the course for a grand total of 125 miles, and save for a small group that broke away early, the peloton stayed intact for the entire race.
Indeed, it wasn’t until the final lap that the pace heated up and the race began to sort itself out. For Decker, chances of victory seemed to evaporate as he suffered a flat tire at what appeared to be the absolute worst time, just as the peloton began its way back up to Park City. But a quick wheel change and a hard chase proved to worth the effort as Decker caught on midway up the climb and reached the leaders by the summit.
As the group rolled into town, riders at the front pushed the pace, stringing out the field. Showing the savvy of an experienced roadie, Decker moved to the front and attacked with 300 meters to go, and soloed to the victory.
“By the time it came into town I figured it was my race to lose,” Decker said. “When everyone started gearing up for the sprint, I went. Even a mountain biker could figure that part out.”
Despite the win, Decker doesn’t see himself spending much time racing on the road. “Adam [Craig] would give me too much of a hard time and I’d have to retire,” Decker said. “I think it’ll be an afterthought for a while.”
ELITE ROAD RACE
PARK CITY, UTAH JUNE 22
1. Katheryn Curi, Webcor Builders, 78 miles in 3:26:03
2. Lynn Gaggioli, Monex, at 0:39
3. Tina Pic, Quark, at 0:40
4. Christine Thorburn, Webcor Builders, 0:41
5. Amber Neben, Builtenpoort-Flexpoint, at 0:44
6. Rebecca Larson, Colavita-Cooking Light
7. Megan Elliott, JC Investors
8. Lauren Franges, Victory Brewing, at 0:46
9. Kristin Sanders, JC Investors
10. Meredith Miller, team SATS, all at s.t.WOMEN U-23
1. Lauren Franges, Victory Brewing, 78 miles in 3:26:49
2. Stefanie Graeter, Webcor Builders, at 0:18
3. Mara Abbott, Sports Garage, at 1:19
4. Molly Hummel, Team Dean, at 2:37
5. Sarah Uhl, Quark, at 9:51
6. Traci Carroll, Team Rubicon, at 10:30
7. Rebecca Much, T-Mobile, at 10:32.MEN
1. Carl Decker, Broadmark Capital, 125 mils in 4:50:31
2. Ben Raby, Bianchi-Grand Performance, at 0:03
3. Andrew Fischer, Broadmark Capital
4. Brad Huff, Mercy Cycling
5. Jed Schneider, AG Edwards
6. John Osguthorpe, Ogden One
7. Skylere Bingham, Northshore
8. Jonathan Garcia, RMCEF
9. Josh Bezecny, CU Cycling
10. Phil Wong, Fordifrutta
11. Ned Overend, Specialized, all at s.t.