U.S. criterium champion Danny Estevez sprinted to his second USA CRITS win in El Paso, Texas on Saturday night. Posting up in the stars-and-stripes at speed in the darkness, it was a repeat of his Spartanburg Criterium win, only this time he had his Best Buddies teammate Michael Hernandez right behind him for second and Sam Rosenholtz (ButcherBox) in third.
In the women’s race, Tina Pic (Colavita-Hello Fresh) won from a four-rider breakaway that escaped with 10 laps to go. Kaitlyn Agnew (ATX Wolfpack-Jakroo) attacked on the last lap, and Pic chased her down and came over the top around the final corner. Agnew was second and Hayley Bates (Levin Law Group) was third.
Rachel Langdon (InstaFund) and Thomas Gibbons (Automatic) held on to their lead in the 10-race USA CRITS series.
Bittersweet win for Colavita
“I was pedaling my head off,” Pic told VeloNews after her win. “I didn’t know the gap. At first, I heard ‘they’re gone,’ but no one was saying if they were going to catch us. Kaitlyn took off on the last lap, so I chased her not knowing if anyone was on me. I caught her right around the third turn. I was blown; it was just a lucky day.”
The women lit up the streets of downtown El Paso in a thrilling race with Langdon fighting to hold onto her lead ahead of Colavita’s Christina Gokey Smith. The leader’s orange jersey escaped in a break soon after the start, with three other companions including Colavita, Levine Law Group, and Team Wolfpack. Gokey Smith was chasing in the field, with a teammate driving to control the gap.
Langdon was racing solo in El Paso, while teammates continue to recover from injuries sustained earlier in the season. She drove the break for the first half of the race, with a gap that grew up to 30 seconds at one point before they were chased down and caught with 17 laps to go.
Once the second break had established a gap that would take them to the line, Langdon had hoped to sprint for points. But instead a last-lap pileup prevented that from happening.
“I was happy until the last lap with the crash,” Langdon said after the finish. “It was an unnecessary move that could have been avoided; seemed absurd at the time with the break already gone. My goal today was to get through the race safely. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. It could have been a lot worse but hopefully the riders in the hospital are okay and ready to race for Winston-Salem.”
It was a bittersweet win in the end for Pic, after learning her teammate Gokey Smith had crashed heavily in the final lap, along with Brenna Wyre Simpson (DNA). Both were taken to the hospital following the race.
While waiting to learn of Gokey Smith’s injuries, Colavita teammates said it is likely her season has ended before the finals in Winston-Salem. Despite not finishing, Gokey Smith remains in second overall.
Best Buddies 1-2
After a lengthy crash delay, the men were underway in El Paso. Several teams were motivated to increase their lead in the overall standings with L39ion of Los Angeles choosing to skip the race for other races up north. Best Buddies fought for control throughout the race, with both Butcherbox and Clif Bar fighting to break them up.
Several breaks came and went, with Best Buddies’ Ruben Companioni and Ben Wolfe taking turns covering each attempt and closing them down. Butcherbox lead the moves with Connor Sallee, tired of settling for top ten finishes. The team in red arrived in El Paso going all-in for the win but would finish fourth on the line with Sallee.
For Clif Bar, Conor Mullervy was left to defend his twin brother’s title from back in 2019, when Kevin Mullervy sprinted for victory. Mullervy would come up short in the end, finishing fourth, but moved up to third overall for his efforts.
“There were a lot of moves coming off the front and back in the final laps,” Danny Estevez told VeloNews. “Butcherbox wanted to play a breakaway today. They tried to go up the road, but we fought to go. We played our strengths in the end and got it done. We’re going to give it a go at the finals. We’re right up there in all of the standings. We want to play to our strengths and do the best we can.”
On Saturday night, the Best Buddies 1-2 with Estavez and Hernandez demonstrated how the team has built their momentum with two wins in a row, after L39ion dominated the majority of the USA CRITS season. Best Buddies has brought together many top names in American racing, including Travis McCabe, Wolfe, and Companioni. Now, the team is looking for one more strong race to wrap up the series.
“I think we nailed our plan to perfection,” Hernandez told VeloNews. “Our plan was to go 1-2, so it was executed perfectly. Our main goal now is to move into the lead for the team overall. With all the big names we have, we work for different guys each race. We’re up there on every podium and that’s what matters. We’re fighting for everything.”