Race preview: The 2023 Sunny King Criterium
The American Criterium Cup heads to Anniston, Alabama for its second stop.
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The Sunny King Criterium in Anniston, Alabama, is the second stop in the American Criterium Cup. Like Athens Twilight, Sunny King is a four-corner race. And at just 1 kilometer with 17 feet of elevation gain per lap, it’s another race for the sprinters.
This year, Sunny King is a little later in the season than in previous years. With the race now directly following Speed Week, athletes will be coming more tuned for the style of fast, flat racing prevalent in the Southern United States. It’s a race where strength dominates, and the rider or teams that can push the speed, taking advantage of the slightly downhill back stretch to recover are the ones who prevail.
With a short distance between corners three and four and an uphill drag to the finish, positioning is crucial in the final few laps. With a full day of live streamed video, including amateurs, whether you’re watching online or in person, the Sunny King Criterium is a race not to miss.
Also read: Race recap: Alexis Ryan and Bryan Gomez win Athens Twilight
ACC Women’s Race
Alexis Ryan of L39ion of Los Angeles is the ACC Women’s leader, and she won’t as easily jump away this time; all eyes are on Ryan now in the series leader’s Selle Italia red jersey. But Ryan won’t be alone this time and will have Lizbeth Salazar to support her lead. Ryan is a rider who can duplicate her solo Athens Twilight success, but it will be more challenging for her to do so in Anniston.
Trying to grab the jersey will be Andrea Cyr of the Miami Nights. Andrea got second last year in the ACC overall, second in Athens, and is currently second in ACC. Andrea went home ill from Speed Week and may be off for a race like Sunny King. However, with a deep team talent behind her, including riders like Verena Eberhart and Paola Munoz, she could still be in a position to take the lead. Or any one of these athletes ready to take over.
The competitiveness of both Miami Nights and Denver Disruptors caught many off-guard in Athens, with Miami’s Cyr in second and Denver’s Erica Zavetta and Leah Kirchmann sitting in third and fourth. Denver and Miami are also first and second in our team competition, with DNA Pro Cycling rounding out the top three.
But coming from Speed Week, many riders are finding form. DNA Pro Cycling will have riders returning from Speed Week and Tour of the Gila. This squad is one of the more cohesive racing groups, so expect to see the pink squad at the front. DNA Pro Cycling has two riders in the top 10: Heather Fischer and Rachel Langdon, fifth and eighth, respectively.
LA Sweat will join the ACC in Aniston, so it’s time to see how their preparation has gone. Given her success last year, Mariana Valdez will likely be the designated leader, but the team always has riders who can upset. ButcherBox Cycling p/b LOOK started finding form last week as well. Primarily a new team on the women’s side, it may take a few races to start finding consistency, but we saw signs of this during Speed Week.
In the sprint competition, Denver Disruptors’ Erica Zavetta is wearing the green jersey with 35 points. Rachel Plessing of ButcherBox sits in second with 25 points over Denver Disruptors’ Leah Kirchmann with 15 points. But as of this writing, Denver may be sitting out Sunny King, and if so, we’ll see a shakeup in the sprint competition, with Plessing the best opportunity to take over. This year’s sprint competition is standalone, so look for different riders to focus on these intermediate sprints. If you’re keeping track, these sprints occur at seven laps in, midway, and seven to go.
ACC top three (full results):
- RYAN, Alexis: L39ION of Los Angeles 100
- CYR, Andrea: Miami Nights 90
- ZAVETA, Erica: Denver Disruptors 81
- ZAVETA, Erica: Denver Disruptors 35
- PLESSING, Rachel: ButcherBox Cycling p/b LOOK 25
- KIRCHMANN, Leah: Denver Disruptors 15
- Denver Disruptors 154
- Miami Nights 142
- DNA Pro Cycling Team 129
ACC Men’s race
Bryan Gomez of the Miami Nights comes to Sunny King in the leader’s Selle Italia red jersey. And while he has a strong team behind him, including last year’s ACC second and third in Clever Martinez and Alfredo Rodriquez (who won Sunny King last year), it was clear in Athens and the following Speed Week that American Cycling Group (ACG) and Danny Summerhill are queued up to be spoilers this season. Being beaten by Gomez by mere inches in Athens, Summerhill sits second overall and in the sprinters green jersey. Summerhill has been showing some serious speed early season on the track and now on the road may have to decide on one ACC jersey over the other, but could he eventually take both?
L39ion of Los Angeles is sending just three riders, Justin Williams, Gavin Hoover, and Ty Magner. It’s not an entire squad, but all crit-racing heavies, so expect to see them at the front, contesting Gomez and Miami Nights for the lead. Ty Magner will be a challenge to anyone looking to win, but he also sits 10 points off the sprint lead, an easy task for a sprinter of Magner’s caliber if he contests. If he makes it a goal, Magner could be in Green Saturday night.
We will see the new Austin Aviators for the first time in the ACC. But despite them sending only four riders instead of the allowed six, we should still be able to see how these riders go and how they might shape the competition this year. The Maimi Blazers are sending a full squad of hitters, including Brandon Feehery, Danny Esteves, and Tanner Ward.
But if any team shows early-season promise, it’s the ButcherBox Cycling p/b LOOK men. Dusan Kalaba and Evan McQuirk sit second and third in the sprint race, tied with Mager in fourth with 15 points. McQuirk is sitting sixth overall, and Kalaba in fifteenth. Andrew Giniat rounds out the top 20 in 17th. This team had a phenomenal Speed Week and will come into Sunny King with significant momentum. While everyone eyes the overall win, this team’s mark very well could be in the sprint and team competitions as well.
AUTOMATIC | ABUS Racing and Texas Roadhouse Cycling p/b VQ Labs also have been having a great start. AUTOMATIC | ABUS’ Thomas Gibbons, an experienced rider, is just off the podium in fourth, and Robert Stobel in ninth. Texas Roadhouse has two riders in the ACC overall top 20, Arthur Fergus, seventh, and Andrew Dillman, 20th.
ACC top three (full results):
- GOMEZ, Bryan: Miami Nights 100
- SUMMERHILL, Danny: ACG 90
- CARPENTER, Robin: L39ION of Los Angeles 81
- SUMMERHILL, Danny: ACG 25
- KALABA, Dusan: ButcherBox Cycling p/b LOOK 15
- MCQUIRK, Evan: ButcherBox Cycling p/b LOOK 15
- Miami Nights 159
- ACG 139
- AUTOMATIC | ABUS Racing 116
The Sunny King Criterium is one of the ACC races streaming live this season. The women’s race is at 5:20 p.m. CST, with the men racing at 6:30 p.m. CST. Coverage starts at 5 p.m. CST. You can find stream links at annistoncycling.com or right here on Outside.