Oklahoma City Pro-Am Classic: The race to the final corner, under lights

by Michael Better


He appeared through the darkness and into the light of the final corner. The speed was high, the lean was hard, but he made it through the corner first. Mission accomplished.

Racing under the lights on a scorcher of a Friday evening in the Midtown district of Oklahoma City, Tina Pic (Colavita-Bialetti), and Miguel Bryon and John Murphy (Holowesko-Citadel) demonstrated just how the finish line of a criterium race sometimes occurs well before the final white line.

Final corner sprint

Speed is a criterium racer’s best friend. The faster the pace, the more strung out the peloton, the less likely crashes will occur from riders bumping shoulders and fighting for position.

At the Oklahoma City Pro-Am Classic, the third of 11 events in the USA CRITS series, a chaotic final few laps of the pro men’s race saw Holowesko-Citadel on the back foot. The strong Pro Continental squad was unable to fully set up its lead-out train in support of its sprinters John Murphy and Miguel Bryon. This resulted in the pace being less than ideal and led the riders to bunch up heading into the final downhill.

On this night, the true finish line was the final corner, 150 meters before where the white line lay on the road.

“We definitely really try for the organized lead out to try and keep it safe and super fast, but that’s in a perfect world, and racing is never perfect,” Murphy said. “We did a little freelancing on the last lap to do our own positioning and make it happen. That’s racing. You can’t always ask for a perfect situation.”

Murphy mustered the last of his strength on the final downhill stretch of the course to bring Bryon to the front of the peloton.

“I’ve been racing with John [Murphy] a good bit now and we kind of have the same ideas going through our heads, so we don’t really need to communicate,” Bryon said. “He knows where to be and I know I need to be on his wheel, so basically I just followed him. We made some good moves coming into the last lap, we got swarmed a couple of times, but I was never really worried that he wasn’t going to handle.”

Bryon passed Murphy just before the corner, leaned in tight and easily led the final 150 meters to take the win with Murphy just behind him.

For pro women’s winner Pic, instead of battling a full peloton to be first through the final corner, she found herself in a breakaway of 12 riders.

After an intense penultimate lap of attacking, Pic positioned herself near the front of the breakaway and had her head on a swivel. She was ready for someone from the back of the group to try and jump her to be first through the corner.

“I remember thinking ‘why is nobody going?’” Pic said of the final downhill. “I was just thinking somebody most certainly is going to jump from the back, but nobody jumped. Then we were at the barriers so close to that last corner and I thought ‘well then, I’m just going to go.’ I went right as we hit the barriers on the left side because no one was going. It was just really strange”.

Pic’s vast experience can be seen by the move only she made. No one else followed. She saw it as the obvious move, but to some of her competitors it seems it may not have been.

Despite never having raced at the Oklahoma City Classic Midtown course before Friday, Pic was able to dissect the course and understand what she needed to do to take the victory.

Tina Pic (Colavita-Bialetti) won the Oklahoma City Classic race in Midtown. Photo: Lee McDaniel

Racing at night

Adding to the excitement of these crit races is the nighttime atmosphere. The pro women had the advantage of starting their race with the full light of day. By the last lap, the sun had set, leaving the riders to finish with the twinkle of the lighting structures placed along the race corners just for them. A few of the straightaways on the course were covered in blackness as the men’s race began.

“It was almost hard to see what was going on,” Bryon said. “There were some crashes going on during the race and people going back to the pits to get their free laps, and you really couldn’t see much. You’re just coming up on people in the dark. It was a little scary, but we just try and stay on the racing line and hope it’s clear.”

Racing at night adds another element of difficulty for the riders, but most like the added dynamic it brings to the race. The intrigue of night racing attracts more crowds with people looking for a bit of entertainment to kick off the weekend.

“Most people party at night, so we’ll give them a show,” Murphy said.

Racing at night can be tricky with some sections of the course lit better than others. Photo: Lee McDaniel

Men’s Top 5: 2018 USA CRITS Oklahoma City Pro-Am Classic – Midtown

1. Miguel Bryon (Holowesko-Citadel)
2. John Murphy (Holowekso-Citadel)
3. Grayson Keppler (Giant Lakeside Audi McKinney)
4. Frank Travieso (Eda-Evolution Cycling Team
5. Cesar Sernsa (Oklahoma Bicycle Project)

Women’s Top 5: 2018 USA CRITS Oklahoma City Pro-Am Classic – Midtown

1. Tina Pic (Colavita-Bialetti)
2. Yussely Mendivil Soto (ISCorp Pro Cycling)
3. Starla Teddergreen (Hagens Berman-Supermint)
4. Rachel Langdon (Gray Goat Mobile-Bullseye Total)
5. Sharlotte Lucas (Roxsolt Attaquer)

2018 USA CRITS Pro Men Series Leaders (After 3 OF 11 Events)

Colavita Overall Leader: John Murphy (Holowesko-Citadel)
Cycling Tips p/b BIkeReg Lap Leader: John Murphy (Holowesko-Citadel)
JL Velo Best Young Rider: Miguel Bryon (Holowesko-Citadel)
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 3 OF 11 Events)

Colavita Overall Leader: Tina Pic (Colavita-Bialetti)
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: Erica Allar (Rally Cycling)
D1 Team Leader: ISCorp

Remaining events in the 2018 USA CRITS series

June 17: Harlem Skyscraper Classic – New York City
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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