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by Michael Better
August 11, 2018
Photography by Craig Huffman; Snowy Mountain Photography
From the San Rafael Sunset Criterium in California at the end of July, to a stop in Colorado last weekend, and now to the East Coast — the USA CRITS series heads to West Chester, Pennsylvania on Saturday as the peloton treks across the continental United States.
Formerly the Iron Hill Twilight Criterium, the renamed Benchmark Twilight Cycling Classic remains an electric nighttime criterium in the small town of West Chester, just outside Philadelphia. Don’t count out West Chester for its size though, the town certainly knows how to throw a party. The tight course and exciting atmosphere has seen the race compared to Athens Twilight on more than one occasion.
Downtown West Chester is shut down on race day with a wide selection of bars and cafes lining the streets. The racers make sure to put on a show, as to not disappoint the packed crowd lining the course. Unlike Athens Twilight and its college crowd, West Chester is more of a family affair. The town puts on a giant festival in the center of town with a specific kids’ zone featuring an inflatable obstacle course and a Hawaiian-style shaved ice stand. With temperatures expected to soar into the upper 80s Fahrenheit (26C), we may see a rider or two jump into the kids’ zone for a cool and refreshing drink.
Josie Talbot has been an incredible domestique for ISCorp this season. She’s consistently on the front of the peloton chasing down attacks and still somehow manages to nearly always make the podium alongside teammate Samantha Schneider. Photo: Craig Huffman/USA CRITS
After the L-shaped six-corner affair in Colorado, we’re back to the USA CRITS staple four-corner course in West Chester. The circuit is contested counter-clockwise and the rectangular shape means there are two long straightaways that can string out the peloton.
Furthermore, the course is narrow in West Chester, so positioning will be key throughout the race. It can be difficult to move up through the peloton, so in order to conserve energy and risk not missing a winning breakaway, the top riders will have to stay up front throughout the race. Also, the pavement is rough, and there are sections that are covered in bricks, not tarmac.
There is a 50-percent chance of rain on Saturday and into Saturday evening. A wet course in West Chester could make the racing interesting with the various brick sections becoming treacherous.
The pro women’s race will certainly be an interesting one with only 30 riders pre-registered as of Friday morning. However the entire top 10 in the overall series rankings are set to race.
Samantha Schneider led an ISCorp sweep of the podium last weekend in Littleton and is poised to win the USA CRITS series overall in a few weeks time. ISCorp has been dominant all season and that is shown by the squad having four riders in the top 10 of the overall standings. Caroline Baur, a great secondary sprinter to Schneider, leads the JL Velo Best Young Rider classification and sits fourth overall. Baur will need to have strong finishes in the final two races if she’ll want to stand next to her teammate on the final series podium in St. Louis on September 2.
Samantha Schneider (ISCorp) has been virtually unbeatable this season when it comes down to a bunch sprint. Photo: Snowy Mountain Photography/USA CRITS
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 them the last two weekends. Pic and Gokey-Smith are second and third in the overall standings, and it’s looking more and more likely both of those riders will have to force a breakaway without Schneider present, as the ISCorp sprinter looks nearly unbeatable in a bunch sprint.
U.S. national criterium champion Leigh Ann Ganzar (Wolfpack-Hyperthreads) is enjoying life in the stars and stripes and continues to put on a show, attacking off the front in every race. Fifth through ninth place in the overall standings are only separated by 107 points and Ganzar is right in the middle of it, sitting in eighth. She’s been on incredible form since winning the national champ jersey in mid-June.
CyclingTips Lap Leader Rachel Langdon (Gray Goat Mobile-Bullseye Total Media) looked strong in Littleton after missing the previous two races. She told CyclingTips prior to the Colorado race that she was going to start conservatively due to the altitude, but that was not the case, as he was attacking off the front early in the race with her characteristic aggressive-style; expect more of the same in West Chester.
On the men’s side, both Johnny Mitchell (Palmetto State) and Best Young Rider classification leader Spencer Moavenzadeh (ButcherBox) had races to forget last weekend in Littleton and will look to bounce back in Pennsylvania. Mitchell dropped from second overall to third overall and Moavenzadeh dropped down to seventh overall after missing out on crucial finish points due to being involved in a crash in the final laps.
Team Clif Bar showed Zach Allison’s win in San Rafael was no fluke, as Conor Mullervy drove the breakaway in Littleton and finished second. However, Mullervy’s twin brother, Kevin, crashed on the final corner of the race and will be looking for a bit of redemption. Kevin Mullervy is the CyclingTips Lap Leader on the men’s side. Overall, the positives outweighed the negatives for Clif Bar, as Allison moved up to second in the series overall standings. He is just 242 points behind leader David “Gutt” Guttenplan (Support Clean Sport-Guttenplan Coaching).
Zach Allison (Clif Bar) is making a run at the series overall, but only two races remain. Photo: Snowy Mountain Photography/USA CRITS
Also in the men’s race, UCI Continental team Cyclus Sport will be fielding a full six-rider squad in Pennsylvania. The team includes Oliver Flautt, who finished in third place at the recent Littleton Twilight Criterium.
Race coverage begins on usacrits.tv at 4:30 p.m. EST on Saturday with the amateur races, before the pro women take to the start line at 6:45 p.m. EST. The pro men’s race begins at 8:00 p.m. EST.
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:John Murphy (Holowesko-Citadel)
Bandit Award: Frank Travieso (EDA-Evolution Cycling)
D1 Team Leader: Team Clif Bar
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
September 2: Giro della Montagna (Gateway Cup) – St. Louis, Missouri
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.