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Denver Disruptors run away with win at inaugural National Cycling League race in Miami

Denver’s men’s team finishes the job after strong start from the women to spoil Miami Nights home race. 

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The Denver Disruptors won the inaugural National Cycling League race at the Miami Beach Invitational on Saturday, ushering in a new league with a completely new points-based criterium race format. 

On a typically summery south Florida evening, the women’s race rolled out from a grid start against a glitzy ocean-front backdrop for the first of 25 laps on a flat, four-corner course. 

The Disruptors, one of two NCL teams racing against eight invited teams in the four-race season, took to the front and scooped up the first six points on offer — three for the first rider to cross the line, two for second, and one for third, which is the same number of points awarded every lap except the final one where those values are tripled.

From there, it quickly became a two-horse race as Denver went head to head with the hometown Miami Nights, the other of two NCL teams competing in the four-race NCL season, to earn most of the points. Halfway through the race, Denver was up 33 to 15 over Miami. 

Also read: National Cycling League preview: A wild new race format and $1 million up for grabs

A few other teams struck early and made their presence known, with CCB Alpine Carbon scoring 16 points over the course of the race, and Goldman Sachs ETFS Racing securing nine. But Denver and Miami put everything out of reach by creating a two-rider break, one rider from each team, allowing the teams to scoop up five of the six points available each lap. It eventually became all six points after both teams managed to place a second rider in the break.

Denver would finish the race with a margin of 69 points to Miami’s 53. The drop-off in points after the top four was severe, with the remaining six teams earning between one and four points for the entire race. 

“What a hard event,” a gassed Leah Kirchmann of the Denver Disruptors said after the race. “I’m so proud of the team. We really worked well together and we’re just so happy to come away with the win.” Kirchmann captured about a third of her women’s team’s 69 points.

Besides being a points race, the NCL separates itself from other races by allowing teams to substitute in fresh riders in the middle of the race. Denver made ample use of the tactic to add to its point total. 

“We did quite a few substitutions and I think that played into our hand tactically,” Kirchmann said. “We had a few times we substituted a rider and then they were able to take points the next lap.” 

But in the NCL, each team is made up of a women’s and a men’s squad, and a team wins the event only by having the highest point total combined between the women’s and men’s races, which are run successively with a short break in between.

In other words, Denver carried a padded, though by no means assured, lead heading into halftime. Plenty of racing remained between Denver and Miami in the men’s race. 

High energy start from the men

From the gun, the men’s race brought high energy as teams looked to go on the offensive and crack into Denver’s lead.

In contrast to the defensive, tepid start in the women’s race, the first five laps of the men’s race saw aggressive racing with full-on sprints each time around the fast criterium circuit.

In an interview before the men’s race, Miami coach Sebastian Alexandre called for an aggressive approach, trying to eat into the Denver lead, and his riders were among those battling it out in the early sprints. 

But with 25 laps of racing in the heat, an all-out attack can last only so long. Teams like Kelly Benefits Cycling (racing in partnership with the women’s Primeau Vélo team for the four NCL races) who came out hot and put all five riders in the race rather than withhold one as a substitute, faded away, but not before getting 10 points. Texas Roadhouse (racing with the women’s Goldman Sachs ETFS Racing) put an impressive 23 points on the board as well over the course of the race.

That was no match for the two NCL teams, however, who continued their methodical strike on the point total.

Denver held steady and proved strongest once more. The men’s squad matched the 69 points of the women, while Miami’s men’s side could only muster 40. The final tally: 138 to 93, followed by a steep drop to the third place Goldman Sachs/Texas Roadhouse team with 32 points. 

The top three teams win $7,500, $5,000, and $4,000 respectiely, with the other seven teams earning smaller cuts of the $30,000 race prize pool. An additional $140,000 will be split among the teams at the end of the season based on overall standings. Additionally, Denver has a chance at earning bonus money for winning three or four races outright. Three races will earn the team a $100,000 payout, while a clean sweep of the four-race season brings that total to $700,000.

With the next race scheduled for May 14 in Atlanta, teams will have a little over a month to reset, re-strategize and take another crack at Denver. 

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