As soon as the starting gun went off in West Chester, Pennsylvania, the skies opened up and a heavy rain pounded the riders. The course became treacherous and the race became one of survival and attrition. The winners would lean heavily on their teams for support, because even though only one person gets to stand on the top step of the podium, in criterium racing, victories are not achieved alone.
The crazy conditions at the Benchmark Twilight Criterium, the penultimate stop in the USA CRITS series, proved who the strongest teams and riders were in the race. Both the pro women’s and pro men’s fields were decimated when the race for the finish line occurred. Heavy rain, slick pavement, and rough brick sections meant riders had to take risks in order to come out on top.
Samantha Schneider of ISCorp once again stood atop the podium as winner of the pro women’s race, while Corey Davis provided a much-needed victory for the Cyclus Sport squad.
Crashing or taking the win
“Going into that corner, I was like, ‘I’m either gonna crash or I’m gonna take this,’ because I was coming into it way faster than any other lap.”
Davis told CyclingTips he risked it all on the final lap of the 75-kilometre pro men’s race in West Chester. The Danville, Virginia, native made a daring last-lap attack to steal the win away from USA CRITS staples like Frank Travieso (EDA-Evolution Cycling) and Conor Mullervy (Clif Bar).Davis attacked the greatly reduced peloton heading into the penultimate corner with such speed that he exited the turn with a gap no one would be able to close.
— USA CRITS Series (@USACRITS) August 12, 2018
“I actually didn’t feel that good during the race, but I feel so comfortable [racing] in the rain,” Davis said. “I raced motocross for so many years that I can handle my bike pretty well when it’s rainy.”
While Davis came out the victor with his blistering last-lap attack, he was able to have the strength to do so thanks to his teammates; Cyclus Sport fielded a full six-rider squad in West Chester. The first-year UCI Continental program has not had a stellar season and missed out on critical invitations to the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and the Colorado Classic. They entered the Benchmark Twilight Classic with something to prove.
The squad began the race with the game plan to attack and create a hard race. The team didn’t have a marquee sprinter in the field, so their best chance for victory was out of a breakaway. If the race did come down to a sprint, Davis would be responsible for finishing it off.
As the men’s race wore on, the rain and brutal nature of the circuit slowly reduced the peloton. The 80-minute race in West Chester is on the longer side compared to the other races in the USA CRITS series; the weekend before, the Littleton Twilight Criterium was only 60 minutes long.
“I think that could be part of the reason I got a gap in the end,” Davis said, when asked whether the duration of the race suited him. “Maybe the sprinters were a little more fatigued, whereas I was still feeling pretty good. It was definitely a big win for me and for my team and I can’t thank my teammates enough because they rode a perfect race and allowed me to go for it in the end.”
This was a big night! Super cool to finish the job, the @cyclus_sports boys raced a perfect race! I can not thank you all enough! @conzillla @parkerkyzer @olflautt @renkasaurusrex @winston.david Great having @carobaur94 there watching, even if she didn’t know I won ????????. ????: @jackmegawphoto #ironhill #usacrits #LBC #hammer #CBD??
The pro women toed the start line in dry conditions, but as soon as the starting gun went off, the rain came pouring down. The wet conditions would drastically altar the race and cause a chaotic affair with the peloton splitting in half.
Laurel Rathbun of Colavita-Bialetti would take advantage of the chaos and launch off the front of the bunch with 20 laps remaining.
The rainy conditions were definitely not playing into the hands of ISCorp early on, as the usually dominant team was having trouble controlling the peloton. However, veteran sprinter Schneider didn’t panic, and instead leaned onJosie Talbot, a teammate that has shown time and time again this season just how strong she is.
Talbot almost singlehandedly brought back Rathbun, who at one point had extended her advantage close to the 30-second mark.
“My team’s pretty phenomenal, and really let me sit in the race and be a little bit calm about Laurel getting the time that she did,” Schneider said at the finish. “Josie just rode like she was three people tonight and this win’s for Josie for sure because if it wasn’t for Josie I would not have been able to do that sprint.”
Rathbun was caught just two laps from the finish, but ISCorp was on the back foot. Instead of the Wisconsin-based squad putting multiple riders on the front to create a pace that would prevent attacks, Schneider was left alone and had to fend for herself. The true class and ability of a sprinter is shown in times like these, when they don’t have their faithful lead out and are left to freelance and find their own way to the finish line.
Fearless Femme’s Beck Wiasak, the Australian national criterium champion, led for much of the final lap, but was unable to holdoff Schneider in the end.
“We used Josie quite a bit to bring back Laurel, so I was freelancing quite a bit on the last lap or so,” Schneider said. “Fearless [Femme] is a very fast team, so I was comfortable behind them. They did a great race and they’re fast. This is my first time winning in West Chester. My sister won two years ago, so I’m happy to be back here and racing.”
Schneider is a cagey sprinter and showed her prowess in West Chester by taking the win without her strong lead-out train slotting her into prime position in the final laps.
At the end of the day one rider stands atop the podium, but more often than not, it’s due to the hard work of their teammates.
Men’s Top 5: 2018 USA CRITS Benchmark Twilight Criterium
1. Corey Davis (Cyclus Sport)
2. Tom Gibbons (Automatic Endurance)
3. Frank Travieso (EDA-Evolution Cycling)
4. Hugo Velazquez (UnitedHealthcare)
5. Stephen Hall (Maloja Pushbikers)
Women’s Top 5: 2018 USA CRITS Benchmark Twilight Criterium
1. Sam Schneider (ISCorp)
2. Beck Wiasak (Fearless Femme Racing)
3. Kristina Clonon (Fearless Femme Racing)
4. Christina Gokey-Smith (Colavita-Bialetti)
5. Tina Pic (Colavita-Bialetti)
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
Remaining events in the 2018 USA CRITS series
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.