Eric Young won the second US Pro Criterium title of his career yesterday in High Point, North Carolina, successfully defending teammate Ken Hanson’s 2012 championship for Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies in the process. Hanson finished 2nd after executing the team’s strategy for the day perfectly, catapulting off of the backs of a full compliment of Orange and Black, including Mike Friedman, Scott Zwizanski, Tom Soladay, Mike Sherer, and Jeremy Durrin. Jake Keough (UnitedHealthcare) finished third.
Young and Hanson are all smiles on the twilight podium after recieving a $2500 check for the win. Keough (UnitedHealthcare) finished third.
“It’s hard to put into words how awesome the team was tonight,” said a jubilant Young after the race. “Our teammates got Hanson and me into such a good postion on the last lap, that either of us could have won. Criterium Nationals gets me more excited than any other criterium we do all year, and to be able to win 2 in a row for this team and win my second national championship, is simply amazing.”
The team has amassed an impressive array of national championships in 2013, including a sweep of the women’s road titles in Canada, and now again collecting the road, time trial, and criterium titles in the US, shared amongst Jade Wilcoxson, Tom Zirbel, and now Hanson helping to successfully transfer the stars and stripes jersey onto his teammate’s shoulders.
Young identified Candelario as a key catalyst for the win, guiding Young and Hanson to the finish line after a concerted team effort overtook rival leadout trains over the race’s closing laps.
“We wouldn’t have won this without Cando,” he said of the veteran sprinter and team captain. “Once again, he just stayed right where we needed to be until one lap to go, and we just shot like a cannon down the right side of the course. It was down to Cando, Hanson, and myself with two corners to go, and Cando took the perfect inside line. I was able to get the run on him into the last corner with a lot of speed, and hit a little riser with a lot of acceleration. It was a perfect setup.”
Performance Director Jonas Carney, fully cognizant of the behind-the-scenes team effort that dictates winning and losing at such high-stakes events, brought the team’s best 8-man roster to the race.
“This race is a priority for our team every season, and we’ve won the USPRO criterium 4 times in the last 7 years. There are so many things the guys do as selfless teammates in a race like this. From Tom Soladay’s constant presence and hard work at the front of the leadout train, to having Friedman in the early break, to Zwizanski launching a solo flyer, these are the things that make a win like this possible. It feels awesome to see how finely tuned the team’s racing has become as the year has progressed.”
Carney, an former standout criterium racer and multi-time national champion himself, enjoyed watching his team claim their second consecutive criterium title from the side of the road.
“This is the first back-to-back national championship I have been a part of as a director, and it was one of my favorite wins so far. I feel like we have two of America’s fastest sprinters in Young and Hanson, so to go 1-2 makes it even sweeter. We were called underdogs in the press prior to the race, so it was fun to defend our title and hopefully prove some people wrong in the process.”
In the women’s race, sprinter Lauren Hall narrowly missed the podium after battling for third place. Hall battled for third after Alison Powers (NOW-Novartis) and former Optum p/b KBS cyclo-cross racer Amanda Miller (Team TIBCO) escaped and held off the chasing peloton to finish 1-2. Teammate and road race champion Jade Wilcoxson continues her on-the-bike recovery from wrist surgery as the team prepares for next week’s Tour of Elk Grove in Elk Grove, Illinois.
Current national title count for Optum p/b KBS:
Tom Zirbel – US Time Trial National Champion
Eric Young – US Criterium National Champion
Ian Moir – US Track National Champion – Scratch Race
Jade Wilcoxson – US Road Race National Champion
Joelle Numainville – Canadian Road Race National Champion
Joelle Numainville – Canadian Time Trial National Champion
Leah Kirchmann – Canadian Criterium National Champion
Lauren Hall – US Track National Champion – Scratch Race
Lauren Hall – US Track National Champion – Individual Pursuit
Courteney Lowe – New Zealand Road Race National Champion