With a dominant win at the High Point Cycling Classic, Coryn Rivera and the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team’s women’s squad have won the US National Criterium Championship, and made it a complete season sweep of the women’s 2014 US National Championships, building on the Road Race and Time Trial titles won by Alison Powers in May.
“It feels pretty amazing to have won all three titles in the first year of having a womens’ component to the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team,” said director Rachel Heal, “We knew we’d hired strong riders, but to be able to create the team chemistry and teamwork to bring those results is very satisfying.”
When Powers won both the time trial and road race earlier this year, she became the first rider to ever hold all three women’s national championship titles simultaneously, having won the criterium championship in 2013. The team’s goal heading into the 2014 criterium national championships was obvious: to keep the jersey in the UnitedHealthcare family.
Rather than sit on the front of the field and chase breaks all day, the team took a more aggressive approach to the event. This served to catch much of the rest of the field off-guard, as the UnitedHealthcare squad not only marked attacks, but made breaks of their own, and comfortably followed anyone who dared to chase or bridge to a break containing a UnitedHealthcare rider.
The first half of the race saw Alison Powers boldly attack on her own, stringing out (and tiring out) the chasing field. Counter-attacks and additional moves came quickly through the first hour of racing, with Ruth Winder, Scotti Wilborne, Cari Higgins and Lauren Tamayo all spending significant time off the front, forcing other teams to adjust and chase. The field dwindled in size as riders were dropped before the pace decreased with just over ten laps to go, as the heat and the effort took their toll on the peloton, and everyone looked to regroup for the final charge to the line.
Activity from the field picked up again with eight laps to go, following a cash prize the lap prior. A few riders tried their hand at an escape, but at that point, the race was all but certain to come down to a sprint as it was controlled first by the Colavita team, and then by the UnitedHealthcare Blue Train. With barely more than two laps to go, a crash saw both Powers and Higgins hit the deck, along with several competitors. All of the riders were ok save for a few scratches and some disappointment. The remaining UnitedHealthcare racers quickly regrouped, with Winder setting pace on the front ahead of Wilborn and Tamayo, while Rivera sat comfortably in their draft.
The UnitedHealthcare Blue Train delivered Rivera out of the final corner and into the closing meters of the race. From there, Rivera did what she does best, finishing the task at hand, winning the sprint, and taking the win, keeping the national championship jersey within the UnitedHealthcare team.
“From the outset, we were going all-in for Coryn in a sprint finish. We’ve been working really hard on perfecting our leadout, and we were confident of it going into the race. Unfortunately, we lost our last two leadout riders with two laps to go, but the remaining racers were able to adjust and still deliver Coryn to the line,” said Heal.
For Rivera, it marked her fifty-ninth career national championship. After the race, she put it in this context, “It’s pretty incredible. It’s my first pro national title. Sometimes I get a little grief for having so many junior and collegiate titles. This one tops them all, and I’m so happy to have won it with the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team.”
John Murphy Wins US Men’s Pro Criterium Championship
In the High Point Classic, host to the men’s US National Criterium Championship event in High Point, North Carolina, the racers threw out the script almost from the first pedal strokes of the day. The UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team was able to adjust their strategy on the fly, and they came out victorious, with John Murphy claiming the stars and stripes jersey and national championship that it symbolizes. This marks the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team’s fourth national championship of the 2014 season.
What everyone did expect as the race began was to see early attacks, which did, in fact, materialize. What no one expected was for an attack to go away within the first few laps, and for those riders to eventually go on to lap the field. Expected or not, the move was well covered by the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling team, which placed three riders into the group of thirteen. Murphy and his teammates, Brad White and Adrian Hegyvary, were active in the move, and could be seen discussing adjustments in tactics as it became clear that the break would go on to lap the field.
Team Director, Mike Tamayo said of the unexpected developments, “We knew this would be a hard race to control, so we planned to cover the moves and refine our plans as the race developed. We figured if it came down to a bunch sprint, we have Luke Keough and Ken Hanson, and if a break stayed away we were content with our chances as long as we had White, Hegyvary, Jeff Louder or Murphy in it. As it went, we had three guys in the bunch that lapped the field, and we were more than happy to play those cards.”
Back in the peloton, the remaining UnitedHealthcare riders adjusted their own plans, settling in and waiting for the leaders to come around. The efforts of the Blue Train would still be required, but the lead out would now be for Murphy rather than Keough.
The breakaway lapped the field with what was expected to be over 45 minutes of racing left to go, and the UnitedHealthcare squad knew they would have to chase a few more attacks before elevating the speed for a sprint finish. There was briefly a bit of confusion as race officials shortened the event, however, owing to the threat of thunderstorms, which loomed in the distance. Officials reset the race to fifteen laps to go, and the UnitedHealthcare Blue Train organized on the front not long after that.
Despite persistent challenges from the Athlete Octane team of Daniel Holloway, the rider who initiated the race’s early break and animated much of the event, the UnitedHealthcare Blue Train did what it does best: increased the pace over the closing laps, keeping its riders safe and well positioned for the finale, in which they went 1-2 over the line, with Murphy taking the win, and White close behind, both with arms raised, celebrating what they had just accomplished for the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling team.
“It was a great weekend of racing, winning the stars and stripes jersey with both the men and the women. We’re very pleased. The race tonight was dynamic and exciting from the start. It wasn’t your perfect script, but the guys adapted really well and gave us the win,” Tamayo concluded.
For Murphy, this is his second time winning the US National Criterium Championship, but this one feels more special to him than his first title. Of the win, he said,”It’s a good feeling to put your arms up as the winner. This is my first win of the year, and to have it come at national championships is really special. It feels great to have won this title for the UnitedHealthcare team.”