It’s over. The 2018 USA CRITS series is finished, and the ending could not have been scripted any better. On a hot and humid day in “The Hill” district in St. Louis, Missouri, a pair of US national criterium champions stole the day.
The Giro Della Montagna is the third day of the four-day Gateway Cup, held on Labor Day weekend. The Hill district is known for its Italian heritage. So on the day before Labor Day, American flags mixed with Italian flags and it was only fitting that the US national champions would take the wins, albeit in different ways.
LeighAnne Ganzar (Wolfpack-Hyperthreads) made it into the impressively strong breakaway in the women’s pro race and held off WorldTour pro Skylar Schneider of Boels-Dolmans to take the victory. Schneider got a release from her Boels-Dolmans squad in order to don the kit of the ISCorp squad, her former team which is run by her father Dave, all weekend.
Men’s national champion Ty Magner (Rally Cycling) stole the entire weekend, winning the first three days of the Gateway Cup, including the Giro Della Montagna. The three-rider Rally squad of Magner, Kyle Murphy, and Brad Huff were extremely motivated, as Missouri native Huff, a two-time national criterium champion, closed out his career at the Gateway Cup.
“We were never really working for a particular person this weekend,” Magner said. “It was kind of just how it played out. I mean Brad loves doing the lead out, but secretly I was hoping Brad would get a win.”
Huff did not get that career-ending win, but he did take home a Gateway Cup banner signed by all the riders and even the fans. He even signed the banner himself, unaware at the time that he would be the one receiving it.
The course at the Giro Della Montagna is unconventional by US criterium standards. Riders have to deal with the long hill on the backstretch; the road drags upward and it seems to go forever. It has more of a false-flat feel than a steep “punch in the gut” climb. Since the backstretch is a hill, that means the finish straight is downhill and fast, and that a breakaway rarely survives.
However, in the pro women’s race a large 10-rider breakaway won the day with fast finishers Starla Teddergreen (Hagens Berman-Supermint) and Schneider present. Ganzar is the national criterium champion, but she isn’t a typical sprinter. She doesn’t have a quick burst of speed, but instead goes from a long way out and winds up the gear until she is up to speed.
Playing into the favor of the breakaway was that none of the USA CRITS overall contenders were present, which meant ISCorp and Samantha Schneider were happy to see the breakaway go up the road and sweep up most of the series points. Colavita-Bialetti teammates Tina Pic and Christina Gokey-Smith, second and third overall at the start of the race, both missed the split and lost any hope of overhauling Schneider for the overall title.
As the final lap neared, Ganzar noticed she had a shadow. “I was trying to keep an eye on Skylar, but she was kind of sitting on my wheel for most of the time, so I couldn’t actually see her,” Ganzar said. “I knew that she was going to be the one to watch.
“In the final laps, I just knew if I was in good position I’d have a shot. Coming into the downhill finish I went for it and [Skylar] was coming, gaining right on me, but thankfully the finish line came soon enough. I’m not a pure sprinter, so it takes me a little bit of time to really get going. Because it was a long finishing stretch I think that that played into my favor.”
Samantha Schneider safely finished in the main peloton to seal the 2018 overall USA CRITS title for the pro women. ISCorp dominated the series all year with Schneider capturing six of the 10 races in the series. The squad out of Wisconsin also captured the team title, and Caroline Baur won the Best Young Rider jersey for the squad.
After the finals in St. Louis Samantha Schneider took home the @ColavitaOil orange jersey as the 2018 individual leader. Congrats to Sam and your @iscorprocycling! Tina Pic of @TeamColavita came in a close 2nd place & teammate Christina Gokey Smith in 3rd #racefororange #usacrits pic.twitter.com/64jl2qcplf
— USA CRITS Series (@USACRITS) September 6, 2018
Just having fun
Magner, fresh off competing at the UCI 2.HC stage races in Utah and Colorado, came to the Gateway Cup looking to have fun and send Huff off into retirement in grand style. While Magner and Murphy were not able to bring Huff a career-ending victory, the trio did have quite a good time in St. Louis. Magner took the win on the opening three days of the Gateway Cup, including the USA CRITS final race at the Giro Della Montagna on Sunday.
“I mean I’ve been hanging out back home in Kentucky for the past two weeks after Utah and Colorado. Just hanging with my girlfriend, drinking some beers, doing some fun riding and drove here on Friday night and yeah, we had good legs all weekend, so it’s just a blast being here,” Magner said.
Interestingly, despite Magner winning the first two days of the Gateway Cup series, the Rally squad didn’t grab the race by horns at the Giro Della Montagna. The men in orange instead chose to sit back and watch. They were banking on a field sprint and the death of a breakaway on this day seemed to be the headwind on the downhill finishing straight.
Magner took the win handily on the downhill sprint, crossing the line several bike lengths ahead of the rest of the field. Unlike Ganzar, who chose to go from a long way out and wind up her sprint, the key for Magner was patience. The national champ waited and waited, until finally launching toward the line and taking the victory.
“It feels great,” Magner said. “Huffy has been such a good teammate this year and it’s our first year as teammates, but I’ve known him for years and to finish up here, in basically his hometown in the state of Missouri, it’s definitely a great send off for sure.
“I mean you need guys like Huff as teammates and friends. He’s a great guy to have around the team. He keeps the mood light and it’s going to be a blow to the team, but you’ve got to move on and we’ll still see him around and we’ll still be good friends.”
David “Gutt” Guttenplan (Support Clean Sport-Guttenplan Coaching) captured the overall 2018 USA CRITS series on the men’s side, a goal he had set for himself at the beginning of the year. After Guttenplan was hit by a car in 2016 while training in Florida and nearly died, 2018 marked his first full season back racing. He was able to hold off the hard-charging Clif Bar squad, which finished with Conor Mullervy and Zach Allison taking second and third in the series overall classification.
Congratulations to David Guttenplan @SCSGuttCoaching for winning the @ColavitaOil orange jersey as the top individual competitor for 2018! Conor Mullervy of @TeamClifBar finished 2nd with teammate Zach Allison in 3rd. #racefororange #usacrits pic.twitter.com/9ucGk1Mmtf
— USA CRITS Series (@USACRITS) September 5, 2018
MEN’S TOP 5: 2018 USA CRITS GIRO DELLA MONTANGA
1. Ty Magner (Rally Cycling)
2. Griffin Easter (303 Project)
3. Noah Granigan (CCB Foundation)
4. Thomas Gibbons (Automatic Endurance)
5. Brad Huff (Rally Cycling)
WOMEN’S TOP 5: 2018 USA CRITS GIRO DELLA MONTANGA
1. Leighanne Ganzar (Wolfpack-Hyperthreads)
2. Skylar Schneider (ISCorp)
3. Starla Teddergreen (Hagens Berman-Supermint)
4. Rachel Langdon (Gray Goat Mobile-Bullseye Total Media)
5. Laurel Rathbun (Colavita-Bialetti)
2018 FINAL USA CRITS Pro Men Series Leaders (After 10 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 FINAL USA CRITS Pro Women Series Leaders (After 10 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