The UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team marked the beginning of its 2013 U.S. racing calendar and the USA CRITS Series with a win, as Sandwich, Massachusetts native, Luke Keough brought home the team’s first victory of the season on Saturday night, March 9, at the Optum Tucson Medical Center Old Pueblo Grand Prix in Tucson, Arizona. Keough, the youngest member of the team, topped the runner-up, Demis Aleman (Jamis Hagens Berman presented by Sutter Home) and Rahsaan Bahati (Sharecare Cycling presented by Wheelsandsprocket.com), who took third place, on an unseasonably chilly night in Arizona. UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team member, Hilton Clarke, the 2012 National Criterium Calendar (NCC) Champion, also finished in the top five in 4th place.
The win for Keough, last year’s USA CRITS overall champion, however, was not without its challenges. In the middle of the race, the younger of the two Keough brothers on the team was caught in a big crash and went into the barriers. He emerged from the pile up with a bruised shoulder and arm and quickly got back on track.
Commenting on the events that unfolded, General Manager and Team Director, Mike Tamayo, said, “The guys showed excellent teamwork tonight. Outside of the crash, things went really well for us and it is nice to start off the criterium season with a win. It was great to see the sacrifice from the boys ultimately deliver Luke and put him in great position with 150 meters to go and watch him bring home the win. They couldn’t have done it any better. Hats off to all of them.”
Riders Luis Amaran (Jamis Hagens Berman presented by Sutter Home), Gord Fraser (Body by Vi presented by VeloVie) and Chad Beyer (Champion System Pro Cycling Team), dominated the race early, building and holding onto a lead that grew to as much as a 21 seconds until UnitedHealthcare’s Brad White and teammate Adrian Hegyvary took to the front of the field working to reel in the three escapees. And with 12 laps to go, the UnitedHealthcare Blue Train aligned and officially left the station. With the pursuit of the leaders in full swing and the Team focused on bringing the breakaway back to the field, Hilton Clarke, picked up the field lap prime with nine laps remaining (followed by Keough and White) and closed the gap to 11 seconds. From that point on, the unit never stopped picking up steam, cutting the gap to just four seconds with four laps left. Two laps later, the valiant effort from the trio of Fraser, Amaran and Beyer, ended and everything was back together.
“The breakaway had us nervous at one point and the responsibility fell on our shoulders to bring it back,” Tamayo added. “We recognized we would have to work pretty hard to do that but the boys rode with confidence and delivered a beautiful win tonight.”
Next on the Team’s U.S. racing calendar is the Cigar City Criterium (a.k.a. Tampa Twilight Criterium) on March 16 followed by the March 23 Delray Beach Twilight Criterium, both in Florida.
In the Pro Women’s race Leah Kirchman (Optum Pro Cycling pb Kelly Benefit Strategies) soloed to win ahead of Eric Allar (Care4Cycling pb Solomon) and Joanie Charon (Primal Pro Women pb BH).
Photo by Jonathan Devich, epicimages.us