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It wouldn’t be a USA CRITS race without a little bit of drama, and the Littleton Twilight Criterium in Colorado served up plenty. Whether the thin air at high altitude played a factor and put riders on edge is debatable, but USA Cycling race officials certainly had their hands full on Saturday night.
Both pro races ended in controversy, as riders argued with officials deep into the night. Arguments were still underway over the pro women’s results when CyclingTips left Littleton around 11 p.m. local time, two hours after the race ended.
However, there was no debate over who the victors were. Samantha Schneider captured yet another win, leading an ISCorp podium sweep for the second straight weekend. This is Schneider’s fifth USA CRITS victory in 2018 out of eight races, and the third time ISCorp has swept the podium.
On the men’s side, Kevin Girkins (Elevate-KHS) proved to be the strongest of a three-rider breakaway to take the victory. Girkins, Conor Mullervy (Clif Bar), and Oliver Flautt (Cyclus Sport) escaped from the peloton about halfway through the race and rode strongly all the way to the finish.
ISCorp feels the ill-effects of officials mistake
Adding intrigue to the start of the pro women’s race was the appearance of Sunweb’s Ruth Winder. Rumour has it, Winder decided to race Littleton the morning before the race and did a three-hour training ride prior to driving an hour to the evening event.
No stranger to the criterium scene after spending three seasons with UnitedHealthcare, Winder said she’d gone into the Littleton Twilight with the mindset of a sprinter, conserving energy throughout the race for a field sprint. But that would not be the case this go-round — Winder turned on her aggression, putting in multiple attacks deep into the race, forcing everyone on the back foot with a blistering flyer heading into the final lap.
“The sprint went a couple laps early with Ruth’s attack and I think it was bit faster than most expected with two or three laps to go,” Schneider said. “I think nobody was in the best position at that time and I think that caused a bit of chaos in the bunch.”
ISCorp did not reel Winder in until the final corner, and then finished first through fourth in the final sprint with Winder rounding out the top five.
However, it later emerged that riders involved in a crash in the final laps of the race were given a free-lap when free laps had ended. ISCorp’s Yussely Soto, who finished fourth in the provisional results, was one of those riders that was granted a free lap when she shouldn’t have been.
After protests by multiple teams, Soto was relegated to the back of the field. Though disappointing, it didn’t do much to dampen ISCorp’s spirit, as they once again asserted their dominance on the USA CRITS circuit.
A controversial ending
The podium for the pro men’s race was locked up about halfway through the 60-minute race when Conor Mullervy, Flautt, and Girkins rolled off the front never to be seen again. While the trio pushed their lead toward the one-minute mark in the finale, chaos ensued behind them in the peloton.
First, a crash with a few laps to go took out many contenders, including best young rider jersey wearer Spencer Moavenzadeh (Butcher Box). Then, while Girkins was raising his hands in celebration, the peloton came flying around the final corner and, again, a pile-up occurred.
CyclingTips Lap Leader Kevin Mullervy (Clif Bar) was one of the first riders to go down and after picking himself up, he rolled slowly down the finishing straight. He crossed the line with blood dripping down his right arm. He was understandably heated after the crash and the loss of points on the final sprint. He now sits seventh in the overall USA CRITS standings and missed out on more than a few finish points in Littleton.
Girkins, on the other hand, missed out on all the drama and took the victory over a hard-charging Conor Mullervy. His mission was to get in the breakaway with his teammate and fast finisher Scott Law sitting in the peloton throughout the race, waiting for the final sprint.
“The breakaway is kind of my forté,” Girkins said. “I definitely have to use my legs if I want to get any results. Scott’s one of those guys that can pull it off at the end for us, so I didn’t think it was a bad idea to go out, especially with the strong wind. The wind actually kind of helps to un-motivate people to get on the front.”
Crit racing and chaos go hand-in-hand. There rarely is one without the other. For ISCorp, it was a stellar night, despite Soto bring relegated in the end. The Mullervy brothers, on the other hand, will be contemplating what could have been with one coming so close to victory and the other hitting the pavement in the final corner.
Men’s Top 5: 2018 USA CRITS Littleton Twilight Criterium
1. Kevin Girkins (Elevate-KHS)
2. Connor Mullervy (Clif Bar)
3. Oliver Flautt (Cyclus Sport)
4. Scott Law (Elevate-KHS)
5. Jake McGee
Women’s Top 5: 2018 USA CRITS Littleton Twilight Criterium
1. Sam Schneider (ISCorp)
2. Josie Talbot (ISCorp)
3. Caroline Baur (ISCorp)
4. Ruth Winder (Sunweb)
5. Krista Doebel-Hickok (Cylance)
2018 USA CRITS Pro Men Series Leaders (After 8 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:John Murphy (Holowesko-Citadel)
Bandit Award: Frank Travieso (EDA-Evolution Cycling)
D1 Team Leader: Team Clif Bar
2018 USA CRITS Pro Women Series Leaders (After 8 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
Remaining events in the 2018 USA CRITS series
August 11: Benchmark Twilight Cycling Classic – West Chester, Pennsylvania
September 2: Giro della Montagna (Gateway Cup) – St. Louis, Missouri
Note: The USA CRITS race slated to take place Atlantic City on September 15 has been cancelled, so the Giro della Montagna will now serve as the final race of the series.