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After nine events over five months, it all comes down to this. The 2018 USA CRITS series concludes on the third day of the four-day Gateway Cup in St. Louis, Missouri, with the Giro Della Montagna.
For over 25 years, the Gateway Cup has coincided with Labor Day weekend in the United States. The four-day race series has hosted the USA CRITS finals on two previous occasions, and with the planned Atlantic City finale cancelled, the USA CRITS overall series champions will once again be crowned in the historic Italian neighborhood in St. Louis.
The Giro Della Montagna in The Hill district of St. Louis provides the perfect blend of old Europe and America. The neighbourhood was settled by Italian immigrants starting in the late 19th century, and generations of families continue to maintain their residence, creating a close-knit feel. The anchor for the community continues to be St. Ambrose Catholic Church, where the start/finish is located.
The Italian heritage continues to thrive with the Hill’s variety of Italian restaurants, bakeries, taverns, grocery stores, community organizations, and social clubs. Despite the European feel, fans are reminded they are indeed still in America, as riders whiz by on multiple occasions tackling the difficult criterium course.
The rectangular four-corner circuit is contested in a counterclockwise direction and is by no means easy. Lap after lap, racers will contest the steep climb on the backside of the course — the “montagna” — where the race will be won or lost.
A breakaway doesn’t always survive on the Giro Della Montagna course, but staying at the front is vital to have a shot at victory. Late in the race, as fatigue sets in, racers will be out the back; being caught behind a slow-moving rider on the climb can spell doom for a high result no matter how good someone might be feeling.
There is a 50% chance of rain on Sunday afternoon, which could make the racing interesting with the fast downhill section to the finish line.
Stacked fields will be contesting the four-day Gateway Cup, with Sunday’s Giro Della Montagna USA CRITS race highlighting the long weekend. The pro women’s race has over 70 racers pre-registered and the men have over 100 pre-registrants. With the racing coming late in the year and now serving as the USA CRITS final, the pro fields are filled with many of the top criterium racers the U.S. has to offer.
Samantha Schneider and ISCorp come into the race with an immense amount of pressure. Schneider and her teammates have been dominant all season, but Colavita-Bialetti has been consistent and are still in with a chance at victory.
Veterans Tina Pic and Christina Gokey-Smith of Colavita-Bialetti are not going to back down without a fight, despite Schneider stretching her advantage over the last few races. Pic is just over 100 points behind Schneider in the overall series standings, and with 200 points on offer for the winner, anything is possible. Schneider has avoided crashes and mechanicals throughout the season, but bike racing can be a cruel sport, and disaster can strike at the most inopportune moment.
On the men’s side, David “Gutt” Guttenplan (Support Clean Sport-Guttenplan Coaching) has maintained the Colavita orange leader’s jersey since the Harlem Skyscraper Classic, the fourth race of the series. However, he has a trio of Team Clif Bar riders breathing down his neck. Conor Mullervy and Zach Allison sit second and third respectively in overall standings, but will definitely need “Gutt” to have a disastrous race in order to claim the top spot. Mullervy’s twin brother, Kevin, sits fourth overall and has all but sewn up the CyclingTips Lap Leader jersey as well.
Also in the men’s race, a host of UCI Continental and Pro Continental riders will be taking part. 303 Project, fresh off competing at the Tour of Utah and Colorado Classic, will have a full squad on Sunday. UCI Continental team Cyclus Sport will be out in force, including Benchmark Twilight Criterium winner Corey Davis.
Arider more suited to hilly road races than criteriums, Davis upset the sprinters at the last USA CRITS race in Pennsylvania with a daring last lap attack. Cyclus Sport will also have Oliver Flautt, who finished third at the USA CRITS Littleton Twilight Criterium.
Pro Continental team Rally Cycling will have U.S. criterium legend and former U.S. national criterium champion Brad Huff, as well as current U.S. national criterium champion Ty Magner. Also racing will be 2014 U.S. national road champion Eric Marcotte, for UnitedHealthcare.
Live coverage begins here and on usacrits.tv at 12:20 p.m. CST on Sunday with the amateur races, before the pro women take to the start line at 3:10 p.m. CST. The pro men’s race begins at 4:25 p.m. CST.
2018 USA CRITS Pro Men Series Leaders (After 9 of 10 Events)
Colavita Overall Leader: David Guttenplan (Support Clean Sport-Guttenplan Coaching)
Cycling Tips p/b BikeReg Lap Leader: Kevin Mullervy (Team Clif Bar)
JL Velo Best Young Rider: Spencer Moavenzadeh (Butcher Box)
FSA Fastest Lap:Hugo Scala Jr. (Matrix-RBM)
Bandit Award: Frank Travieso (EDA-Evolution Cycling)
D1 Team Leader: Team Clif Bar
2018 USA CRITS Pro Women Series Leaders (After 9 of 10 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: Samantha Schneider (ISCorp)
Bandit Award: Marta Morris (Stages Cycling)
D1 Team Leader: ISCorp
Note: The USA CRITS race slated to take place in Atlantic City on September 15 has been cancelled, so the Giro Della Montagna will now serve as the final race of the series.