By Bruce Buckley
UnitedHealthcare was outnumbered, but couldn’t be outwitted at Kelly Cup in Baltimore on May 23. The four-man squad claimed the top two steps on the podium with Jake Keough taking first in the bunch sprint followed by teammate Eric Barlevav.
In the women’s race Laura Van Gilder (Twenty-Twenty C3) had a double-win weekend, taking Saturday’s Wilmington Prix in Delaware and Saturday’s Kelly Cup — it was the third time she has topped the podium at the Baltimore event.
UHC out numbered in men’s race
With Kenda-Geargrinder fielding an eight-man squad and the host team of Kelly Benefit Strategies bringing a 17-man roster to the 35-mile criterium, UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis selectively marked breaks and kept fresh for the finish.
“We played the numbers game,” Keough said. “We only followed the breaks with the most numbers. We were smart and saved energy for when we needed it.”
Despite the threat of rain, the 1-mile course remained dry and fast, while a headwind on the uphill finishing straight ate into every attack. The conditions didn’t dissuade teams from launching a steady stream of riders. Kelly got active early, firing riders off the front all day. As breaks began to gain numbers by midway through the race, Kenda alternated between sending Rob White and Nick Keough (Jake Keough’s younger brother), while UnitedHealthcare kept Roman Kilun and Jonny Clarke in the mix.
“When there were breaks, we were only in there to represent for the team,” Kilun said. “We wanted a field sprint. We weren’t looking to attack.”
In the waning laps, Kelly made some final attempts, launching local strongman Evan Fader on a couple of fliers, but other teams were already eyeing the field sprint. With three laps to go, a four-man train of Kenda riders ramped up the pace, pulled back Fader, and strung out the field.
Kilun softens up the competition
One lap later, Kilun rocketed off the front, forcing Kenda to dig deep and chase hard. Heading into the final lap, Kilun was brought back in the pack, but the damage had been done to Kenda’s leadout men. As Kenda riders fell off the pace, Clarke came around to deliver Keough.
With his teammates spent, Kenda’s weapon in the field sprint, Luca Damiani, squeezed between Clarke and Keough with Barlevav sweeping in fourth. Clarke spotted Daimiani on his wheel and pealed off with 200 meters to go, leaving the Kenda sprinter to battle the uphill finish in the wind.
“Jonny is a smart guy,” Damiani said. “He moved out early and there was nothing I could do but sprint from there.”
With 70 meters to go, Keough came around Damiani, followed by Barlevav to claim the top of the podium for UnitedHealthcare. Iggy Silva of Trek-Livestrong, who jumped in multiple breaks during the day, landed just off the podium in fourth.
The win was Keough’s first at Kelly Cup in three tries, including a fifth place finish last year when he rode for Kelly Benefit. Keough is showing strong form heading into next weekend’s Tour of Somerville, where he will look to improve on last year’s second place finish.
The one-two finish capped a solid weekend in the mid-Atlantic for UnitedHealthcare. Although a series of crashes on a rain-soaked course dashed Keough’s hopes for a field sprint finish at the Wilmington Grand Prix on Saturday, Clarke was able to break off the front and grab third. It was Jamis-Sutter Home that took the top spots in Wilmington, with Anibal Borrajo earning the win alongside teammate Luis Romero Amaran. Silva finished fourth in Wilmington, while Damiani took the field sprint for fifth overall.
Van Gilder reigns supreme
Van Gilder used the Wilmington-Baltimore weekend to show that she remains a dominant force on the women’s criterium circuit.
The women’s field stayed in a tight group for most of the first half of the race, until Van Gilder decided to shake things up. With eight laps to go, she took a flier and forced teams to chase.
“I knew there were several good young sprinters in the field today and I was reluctant to let it come to a field sprint,” the 45-year-old Van Gilder said. “I thought I should mix it up and really make the girls work so that if it came to a field sprint, it wouldn’t be that easy for them.”
The strategy paid off. With four laps to go, Van Gilder was back in the pack with time to recover. Heading into the final straightaway, she jumped early and managed to hold off the charging field. Nicole Wangsgard (Roosters p/b Edge Composite) and Anna Lang (Vanderkitten Racing p/b Kenda) took second and third, respectively.
Although Van Gilder raced at Wilmington under the Mellow Mushroom Racing banner, she donned her Twenty-Twenty C3 kit for Kelly Cup in honor of the Baltimore-based sponsors that have backed her cyclocross campaign for the last two seasons.
Van Gilder started her season later than usual and saw the double weekend as an opportunity to test her form going into Memorial Day’s Somerville Classic.
“I’m thrilled,” she said. “I had the legs, I raced smart and I had some luck. You don’t always get all three of those in a race. It gives me added confidence going forward.”
- 1. Jake Keough UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis
- 2. Eric Barlevav UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis
- 3. Luca Damiani Kenda p/b Geargrinder
- 4. Ignacio (Iggy) Silva Trek-Livestrong
- 5. Shane Kline BISSELL Pro Cycling
- 1. Laura Van Gilder Twenty-Twenty C3
- 2. Nichole Wangsgard Roosters P/b Edge Composite
- 3. Anna Lang Vanderkitten Racing p/b Kenda
- 4. Emma Petersen 7thgroove/re:form Body Clinic
- 5. Jennifer Purcell Msu/hhh