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The third round of the Red Hook Criterium Championship series was filled with upsets as Ash Duban (Affinity Cycles) and David Van Eerd (8bar Team) shocked the pre-race favorites in Barcelona.
In contrast to the previous race in the series, held in London a little over a month ago, riders and spectators were treated to beautiful sunshine in Barcelona on Saturday. With dry track conditions resulting in faster speeds, the riders had to pour all their concentration into the two hairpin turns on the course.
Turn 8, the final hairpin before the finish line, proved to be the most decisive point in both races, but the way it played out was very different for the men and women.
In the women’s race, Duban bridged to a flying Ainara Elbusto (DC Road) and the duo held off the field with Duban executing the final corner perfectly to outsprint Elbusto.
The men’s race was aggressive from start to finish as teams launched attacks and counter-attacks all night. Despite the intense pressure at the front of the field, a large front group stayed together to contest the sprint, which Van Eerd won.
Duban returns to the top step in Barcelona
The women’s race was set to be a tight battle for the championship lead between Eléonore Saraiva (Aventon Factory Team) and London champion Raphaele Lemieux (Team iBike). Saraiva started fast, trying to shore up her series lead early by winning the first lap prime and claiming the three bonus points. Lemieux followed closely, but just two laps into the race her chance at wearing the Castelli leader’s skinsuit in Milan ended with a flat rear tire.
With Lemieux out of the race there was a momentary lull at the front of the field. Elbusto, a five-time Red Hook Crit winner who returned to the peloton in Barcelona, decided to take advantage of the pause and launch the first of many attacks. An experienced racer, Elbusto was clearly interested in creating a small group from which she could win the sprint.
The technical course, combined with wind off the Mediterranean, began to wear on the legs in the peloton.
Duban, who has raced with Elbusto for the past four years at the Red Hook Crit, marked Elbusto’s early moves knowing that she is often the wheel to watch. Behind them Brooke Philips (ELF Huez*), Carla Nafria (Specialized-Rocket Espresso), and Tanja Erath (Fixedpott) were not giving up without a fight, and took turns bringing the front group back together as the riders headed for the mid-race prime.
Saraiva won the prime decisively, putting several bike lengths into the field with her sprint, clearly still motivated by maximizing her series lead. But as the field regrouped on the next lap it was Duban who counter-attacked, hoping to capitalize on the post-prime lap fatigue. Erath chased her down, and the single-file field followed.
Elbusto launched again just as things were coming back together and it looked to be decisive as she instantly took several seconds from the field. Duban knew she needed to get to Elbusto and jumped from the bunch, committing fully to a bridge effort that took the American two laps.
As the lead duo joined up, their gap was out to eight seconds with the field waiting for Saraiva and Aventon Factory Team to bring back the duo. As Duban and Elbusto co-operated their gap extended to a maximum of 17 seconds with three laps to go. At this point, Saraiva knew she had to commit to bringing back the breakaway herself and drilled it one last time hoping that the leaders would start looking at each other in the final sprint. But she had left it too late.
Elbusto lead through the line with one lap to go claiming the Rockstar Games Top Antagonist Award, but the final between her and Duban came down to that last hairpin.
“I knew Ainara (Elbusto) is a really strong sprinter” Duban said. “But I felt that I could take the final hairpin better than she could. I went for the inside and got my bars out front forcing her to go wide in the turn.”
Exiting that last corner first, on the better line, gave Duban the advantage she needed to hold on for her first Red Hook Crit win since she won in Milan three years ago.
Behind the duo, Erath won the field sprint for third with series leader Saraiva finishing fifth to extend her championship lead by 24 points over Lemieux.
With her win, Duban moves up from fifth to third. Despite her DNF, Lemieux remains in contention to take the series from Saraiva but Lemieux will have to repeat her very dominant performance from London in Milan to have a shot at the championship.
Van Eerd stays calm navigating a chaotic final to win in Barcelona
Attacks and counter-attacks ruled the night in the men’s final. Tim Ceresa (8Bar Team) won pole position as well as his qualifying heat, and kept the streak alive by also winning the first-lap prime ahead of Eamon Lucas (Specialized-Rocket Espresso), Marius Petrache (Intelligentsia Racing), and Davide Vigano (Team Cinelli Chrome).
Specialized-Rocket Espresso put all four of their riders into the top 10 early with the clear intention of making up for London.
Current series leader Colin Strickland (Intelligentsia Racing) was attentive and present at the front right from the start as well.
Intelligentsia Racing had two new riders with them in Barcelona: Kevin Girkins and Cesar Valenzuela were racing to support Strickland and Petrache at the front, where so far this season they have been outgunned by other teams.
Girkins was particularly impressive in his first Red Hook Crit event, as he made his presence felt at the front, going on the attack several times as well as covering moves.
Intelligentsia Racing needed all the help they could get because every lap a move was going up the road. Cinelli-Chrome, Bahumer, and Aventon Factory Team all launched riders up the road in the hopes of something sticking. But as the race ramped up for the mid-race prime the front group of 30 riders was still intact.
Van Eerd (8Bar Team), who had already been on the attack several times, took the mid-race prime but was immediately countered by Girkins.
A lap later Stefan Schafer (Specialized-Rocket Espresso) chased Girkins down, with Evan Murphy (MASH SF) on his wheel. Murphy, who was riding in the final with no teammates, was very happy to play spoiler to the big teams as he tried to get away almost every chance he had.
Team Bahumer found itself in trouble with its leader Filippo Fortin completely isolated at the front heading into the final laps of action. With just 10 laps left to race, Strickland tried to break the field with yet another attack. Specialized-Rocket Espresso was not having it and it seemed clear that the race was headed towards a frantic sprint finish.
Specialized-Rocket Espresso put all four of its riders on the front again with four laps left in the race. But their efforts to lead out Alec Briggs fell apart as first Aldo Ino Ilesic pulled out of the race with nothing left in the tank.
Then, with two laps to go, Schafer overcooked Turn 8 while leading the field and hit the deck. The crash cascaded through the front of the race to split the front group and took out Petrache, Strickland, Murphy, as well as a few other pre-race favorites with just over one lap left to race.
Van Eerd, who avoided the crash, led through the bell and earned himself the Rockstar Games Top Antagonist award.
“After the crash I had a good position, so I kept pushing,” he said. “On the last lap they [Fortin and Vigano] caught me and I was just fucked. But then I got into third wheel and on the last corner I managed to take the inside line.”
Vigano took second again and was visibly frustrated with the result, but his consistency earned him the Championship Series lead which he will carry into his home race in Milan on October 14th.
Fortin rounded out the podium in third. He now sits second in the rankings with Van Eerd in third, just one point ahead of Strickland who will be looking to turn his luck around in the final stop of the series.