Harlem Skyscraper Classic: Dominance comes in different forms

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Dominance was on display in two forms on Sunday at the Harlem Skyscraper Cycling Classic in New York.

There was individual dominance in the way Justin Williams (Williams Racing) demonstrated his class to win the pro men’s race without a team. He calmly slotted himself into the right position on the final lap, and slipped through a tight gap between a rider and the barriers on the finishing straight to take the victory.

Team dominance was also present in Harlem. ISCorp swept the pro women’s podium, with Samantha Schneider taking her third USA CRITS race win of 2018. The squad rounded the final corner leading the peloton and methodically held on to lock out the podium.

A Father’s Day win for dad

Justin Williams couldn’t stop smiling after taking the victory in Harlem on Father’s Day in front of many of his father’s friends. Photo: Bicycle Racing Pictures

Williams is one of the best criterium racers in America, but in 2018 he’s flown under the radar. In 2017 he rode for the UCI Continental team Cylance, but after the team folded he was left without a ride. He wasn’t thrilled with the options available to him, so he created his own solo program, Williams Racing. His top sponsors include Specialized and Monster Energy.

While Williams is able to travel the country doing what he loves, racing alone means he has to be totally focused throughout the race. A lapse in concentration can mean missing a breakaway or being shuffled down the peloton and he has no teammates to help him get back to the front of the race.

In Harlem, Williams had added to pressure to win. The area has a rich Belizean community, where Williams’ parents are from. His Dad, who lives in California, had been trying to get him to race in Harlem for the past few years, but the race just never seemed to fit into Williams’ schedule — until this year.

“It was the first race in a long time that I really felt that kind of hunger to want to get it done,” Williams told CyclingTips. “My dad is a funny guy and I didn’t get him anything for Father’s Day, so he said I should I get the win for him. He’s always had really high expectations of me and my brothers. It really makes or breaks in the day when we do well or not.”

Williams was not only racing for dad back in California, but also had a contingent of fans at the race. When he crossed the line the champion, the jubilation was immense. When he finally rolled to a stop, he was immediately surrounded, the smile across his face a mile a wide. There wasn’t just happiness, but a bit of relief as well.

Justin Williams being interviewed after the race by Frankie Andreu on USACRITS.tv. Photo: Bicycle Racing Pictures

With three laps to go, Williams found himself off the front with one other rider. He hadn’t meant to attack; he was just following the wheel in front him. In a split second, he had to make a decision of whether to continue with the move and try to hold it to the finish or rejoin the pack and wait for the sprint. As it turns out, his dad made the decision for him from across the country.

“I actually thought about going solo for a second, but then I figured that is completely against my character. I could only imagine the phone call from my dad if I lost the race trying to go solo,” Williams said with a laugh.

After he rejoined the race, a late crash occurred taking out many riders and causing others to hit the brakes. Luckily for Williams, it was behind him. He heard the carnage, but it didn’t impact him.

After rubbing shoulders with Shane Kline (SmartStop Self Storage) and former teammate Scott Law (Elevate-KHS) for positioning heading into the final corner, Williams calmly turned on the afterburners and took the win for his father, on Father’s Day.

All for one, and one for all

The podium in Harlem is unique. It’s on the front steps of a local’s brownstone. Photo: Bicycle Racing Pictures

At the ISCorp team, there is a hierarchy. Samantha Schneider is the team’s premier sprinter; she demands and deserves a dedicated lead-out train.

However on Sunday in Harlem, the ladies in blue showed Schneider isn’t the only quick finisher on the squad. The team finished 1-2-3 with Schneider taking the victory, followed by Yussely Soto and Caroline Baur.

ISCorp is a tight-knit group. The team was founded in 2015 and the core of the team’s riders have stayed with the program. “We’re best friends both on and off the bike, so it makes racing a lot of fun when we get to go to cool places like [Harlem].” Schneider said.

The team is dominating the USA CRITS series in 2018, with Schneider having won at three of the four stops in the series. After a substandard performance at the previous USA CRITS event in Oklahoma City — Schneider missed the breakaway and finished 14th, losing her lead in the series overall — ISCorp was racing in Harlem with a point to prove.

“Oklahoma City, that was an interesting night for us,” Schneider said after the Harlem podium sweep. “I was really excited for Yussely to get second that day, so that was cool to see. But I’m really happy to come here and I had an incredible team effort here today and really happy I could pull it off for all their efforts.”

ISCorp swarmed the front of the peloton on the final lap and turned up the pressure. The pace was simply too much for anyone to come around. The team rounded the final corner holding the top four positions and swept the podium with apparent ease. Josie Talbot also finished seventh for ISCorp.

The USA CRITS series continues on July 6 in Bentonville, Arkansas with the Natural State New American Town Criterium.

ISCorp has a strong one-two punch with Caroline Baur (left) and Samantha Schneider. Baur leads the U25 USA CRITS series standings and Schneider leads the USA CRITS overall series standings. Photo: Bicycle Racing Pictures

Men’s Top 5: 2018 USA CRITS Harlem Skyscraper Cycling Classic

1. Justin Williams (Williams Racing)
2. Shane Kline (Smartstop Self Storage)
3. Scott Law (Elevate-KHS)
4. Stalin Quiterio Cuello (Crca-Dave Jordan Racing)
5. Alberto Rafael Ramos Vargas (EDA-Evolution)

Women’s Top 5: 2018 USA CRITS Harlem Skyscraper Cycling Classic

1. Samantha Schneider (ISCorp)
2. Yussely Soto (ISCorp)
3. Caroline Baur (ISCorp)
4. Laura Van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom-Van Dessel)
5. Emma Bast (Levine Law Group-Huseby)

2018 USA CRITS Pro Men Series Leaders (After 4 OF 11 Events)

Colavita Overall Leader: David Guttenplan (Support Clean Sport-Guttenplan Coaching)
Cycling Tips p/b BikeReg Lap Leader: John Murphy (Holowesko-Citadel)
JL Velo Best Young Rider: Spencer Moavenzadeh (Butcher Box)
FSA Fastest Lap: John Murphy (Holowesko-Citadel)
Bandit Award: Frank Travieso (EDA-Evolution Cycling)
D1 Team Leader: Holowesko-Citadel

2018 USA CRITS Pro Women Series Leaders (After 4 OF 11 Events)

Colavita Overall Leader: Samantha Schneider (ISCorp)
Cycling Tips p/b BikeReg Lap Leader: Rachel Langdon (Gray Goat Mobile-Bullseye Total Media)
JL Velo Best Young Rider: Caroline Baur (ISCorp)
FSA Fastest Lap: Caroline Baur (ISCorp)
Bandit Award: Georgia Baker (Fearless Femme Racing)
D1 Team Leader: ISCorp

Remaining events in the 2018 USA CRITS series

July 6: New American Town Criterium – Bentonville, Arkansas
July 14: Andersen Schwartzman Woodard Brailsford Twilight Criterium – Boise, Idaho
July 28: San Rafael Sunset Criterium – San Rafael, California
August 4: Littleton Twilight Criterium – Littleton, Colorado
August 11: Benchmark Twilight Cycling Classic – West Chester, Pennsylvania
September 2: Giro della Montagna (Gateway Cup) – St. Louis, Missouri
September 15: Atlantic City Resurgence Fest Criterium – Atlantic City, New Jersey

CyclingTips is the official media partner of the 2018 USA CRITS series. Race coverage of the series will include pre- and post-race stories on each event and feature stories on each D1 Team.

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