By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor in Kenosha, Wisconsin
The third last race in the 17-day Superweek series in the American Midwest was a turning point in the battles for the overall and sprint jerseys. Firstly, the sprint jersey changed hands back to its previous owner Chad Hartley (Jittery Joe's) from Rahsaan Bahati (Rock Racing) who was taking time off to attend a friend's wedding. But more controversially, what had been a hard-fought but clean duel for the yellow jersey between Sterling Magnell (Rock Racing) and Jonathan Cantwell (Jittery Joe's) seemed to turn sour as many riders thought Magnell's tactics crossed the line.
"He was just bashing guys off the wheels, throwing elbows and doing anything to win in a very unprofessional way," said current series leader Cantwell. "Yesterday I gave him credit for the way he was riding, but today he almost killed half the bunch! My respect is just slowly getting taken away from the guy. He might be a pro but he is certainly not riding like one."
Besides Cantwell, Jonathan Page (Planet Bike) was upset over the final sprint, which Magnell contested for 14th place as 13 riders had lapped the field, including Page. Page felt so strongly about it he made his comments known during his post-race interview in front of the assembled crowd.
Magnell said he was riding in response to others, saying the 'rubbing' was going both ways. "Page in particular wanted the wheel I had and he actually punched me in the back with five [laps] to go. I'll use my skill but I'll never take my hands off the bars. A lot of guys were yelling and had problems but I didn't have any problems - I can ride my bike."
Regarding the final sprint, which seemed to cause the most uproar, Magnell said: "In the sprint I wanted to do two things, I wanted to get points on Cantwell and lead-out Dawson who was in the break. But the Colombians made the exact same move I did and I wasn't able to hold it."
Cantwell has a six-point lead on Magnell, while Hartley has a four point lead over Bahati, who has told Cyclingnews he will be back for the next race. With the infamous Downer Avenue race up next, fans can expect to see the heat turned up even more - maybe even to boiling point.