Clarke negotiates 500 corners to win the Clarendon Cup

Miller sprints to victory in criterium

Hilton Clarke (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis) outpaced his six breakaway companions who all lapped the field to snag a victory at the finish line of the Air Force Cycling Classic's Clarendon Cup on Saturday in Arlington, Virginia. The Australian sprinter relied on a dominant team lead-out in the closing laps to deliver him to the line ahead of runner up Valodymyr Starchick (Amore e Vita) and Daniel Holt (Team Type 1).

"This race is one of my favorites and it suits my ability as a bike racer, I call it the race of 500 corners," Clarke said. "It's all about saving energy through those corners."

"My team showed a lot of composure at the end of the race," he added. "None of the attacks mattered because it was all about us sticking together in numbers which was what we had at the finish. It didn't matter who went because we could bring them back."

Even though Clarke was the odds-on favorite to win a bunch sprint against some 150 starters at the start of the day, he decided to do things the hard way and lap the field to better his odds against a six-man breakaway. His companions included Valodymyr and Holt along with his own teammate Bradley White, Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies) and National Racing Calender (NRC) series leader Luis Amaran (Jamis Sutter Home-p/b Colavita).

"Having Brad White with me was a bonus and for the first few laps I wanted to assess what was going on," Clarke said. "Amaran didn't look interested in working but afterward he started contributing, but not fully. I decided to ride five laps all out and suddenly we could see the field. White never ever missed a turn and got me back into the field and started working for me."

Clarke left his previous team to join the UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis for the first time at the AirForce Cycling Classic. He wanted to make a good first impression for his new banner and he did not disappoint.

"Today I really wanted to make an impact on this team, right away," Clarke said. "Not only did I, but the team made a huge impact on me because they delivered me to the line so easily. On paper we are much stronger with me there. I was a bit nervous today, first day on team Kuota bike and Speedplay pedals but everything worked out great."

Hutcheson inspires local fans

A large pro men's field rolled the line under very warm temperatures ready to contest the AirForce Classic's National Racing Calendar's Clarendon Cup, a 100-lap criterium held on a one kilometre circuit that included five corners positioned in the shape of a figure-eight. Chuck Hutcheson (Battley Harley-Davidson) was a local rider from Arlington who was the first rider called to the line ahead of a number of sprint talents for his honorable position with the US Military.

The first significant breakaway of the day included Rob Bush (Kenda p/b Geargrinder), Isaac Howe (Mountain Khakis), Luis Amaran (Jamis-Sutter Home p/b Colavita), Karl Menzies (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis), Bernardo Colex (Amore e Vita), David Kemp (Fly V Australia) and Reid Mumford (Kelly Benefit Strategies). Bush tried to escape his breakaway companions for several laps however, the fast-paced peloton reeled the entire early move back within the first quarter of the lengthy criterium.

Hutcheson was the next to attack in front of a fan-filled audience. His efforts resulted in a solo breakaway where he picked up the $1000 cash prime and a set of race wheels. Following his return, the main field separate with a front group of 15 riders. Multiple riders in the field tried to bridge across to the move and subsequently closed down the gap completely.

"I was just hoping to get some more NRC points plus this race is huge for me," Hutcheson said. "I would come close to lapping the field but never made it. I just wanted to impress everyone so bad and have the best ride ever."

Mid-race, the winning six-man breakaway set sail that did not include a rider from Kenda-Gear Grinder nor Fly V Australia. Both teams spent time on the front of the field trying to reduce the breakaway's advantage but the six-men proved to be too strong and lapped the field with approximately 30 laps to go.

"The race was so fast for so long that it just became easier to go off the front and have people come up to you," Holt said. "I did that a couple of times and it seemed to work out. Everyone was working well and we were working efficiently so it was smooth."

"It seems like every time we do this race, we go really hard and it feels like you are never going to make it," he added. "Then you look up at the lap counter and you have 98 laps to go."

Two chase groups formed that included Hutcheson, Sergey Grechin (Amore e Vita) and Luca Damiani (Kenda p/b Geargrinder) followed by teammates Andres Pereyra and Demis Aleman (Jamis-Sutter Home p/b Colavita). These riders were racing for seventh place. Hutcheson crashed twice from his chasing group and was forced to return to the field.

"I have old equipment and when I squeezed my front break it stayed squeezed," Hutcheson said. "I went into the turn really fast and flipped over my bars but I couldn't get my brakes unsqueezed and there were no more free laps. We would have stayed away for sure."

In the closing laps, UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis assumed their role at the front of the field with Clarke positioned safely on the back of the train. Zwizanski did not like his chances in a sprint against Clarke and attacked three times. However, he did not gain time on the sprinter before the finish line.

"We didn't want to sit back and go for the sprint because Hilton and Amaran are definitely better sprinters than I am," Zwizanski said. "My teammates did a great job and we tried to do a few attacks. We gave it a short early because waiting for the last lap was kind of hopeless for me."

Miller tops Clarendon podium

Brooke Miller (Tibco) weaved her way through a crash-filled sprint finale unscathed to win the AirForce Cycling Classic's Clarendon Cup held in to win the AirForce Cycling Classic's Clarendon Cup held in Arlington, Virginia, on Saturday. The former national criterium champion outpaced the legendary Laura van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom) in second place and last year's winner Erica Allar (Vera Bradley Foundation).

"This win makes me feel good and our team is really ready for next week's Nature Valley and we are going to show that we have a really strong team," Miller said. "It makes me feel good how well my team put me in good position to win this race today."

Colavita-Baci p/b Cooking Light dominated the last lap lead-out. They bumped elbows with riders from teams Tibco, Vera Bradley Foundation and the savvy Van Gilder, who rounded the last few corners in second wheel. Odds-on race favorite Theresa Cliff-Ryan (Colavita-Baci p/b Cooking Light) crashed with 50 metres to go causing upset in the final sprint.

"It is a really unfortunate way to win a race," Miller said. "I have immense respect for Theresa because she is an awesome rider and has been racing really strong all season. "

The Air Force Cycling Classic provided two days of racing that began with the Clarendon Cup criterium, formerly called the CSC Invitational. Some 40-women pro and elite racer lined up to take on the 50-lap event known as one of the fastest criteriums in the country.

Talented competitors called to the line included defending champion Erica Allar (Vera Bradley Foundation), former Olympian Nicole Freedman, former national criterium champion Brooke Miller (Tibco), Sarah Caravella (Team Card), Cath Cheatley and Theresa Cliff-Ryan (Colavita-Baci p/b Cooking Light) and Laura van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom).

The first half of the race was ignited by a furry of attacks from the dominant teams Tibco, Colavita-Baci, Vera Bradley Foundation and Kenda. One of the most significant breakaway's included Cheatley, van Gilder, Emma Mackie (Tibco) and Robin Farina (Vera Bradley Foundation). One lap later, Allar made her way across to the join the move with Cliff-Ryan. The move gained approximately 10 seconds but was reeled back in several laps later.

Several individual attacks were unsuccessful in gaining more than a few metres on the field before returning back into the field. However, the aggressive moves did succeed in dwindling the main field down to approximately 25 riders mid-race. Eventual race winner, Miller made one strong attempt for a solo break with 13 laps to go but she too was brought back by the start of the early lead-outs.

Colavita-Baci recruited all riders to the front of the field to set a fast pace for their sprinter Cliff-Ryan, who recently won the Tour of Somerville followed by a third place at the Liberty Classic held in Philadelphia last weekend.

Tibco and Vera Bradley Foundation rode up along side the Colavita-Baci train on the last lap with lone-star Van Gilder mixed in amongst the top five riders. The peloton rounded the final corner in a full sprint mode headed to the finish line. An unfortunate crash sidelined Cliff-Ryan from contesting the sprint. Miller pulled ahead and convincingly outpaced Van Gilder and Allar to the line.

"There were a lot of really good sprinters here," Miller said. "We wanted to try to get a break away off to and try to make it stick. There are so many other sprinters here that we have to try and pay attention to so we would like to get a break going if we can. But since it looked like it was going to come together for a sprint, my team went up front, rode hard and kept me in good position, shredding themselves. They allowed me to win the race."

Brief Results

Men
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Hilton Clarke (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis)  
2Valodymyr Starchick (Amore e Vita)  
3Daniel Holt (Team Type 1).  
Women
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Brooke Miller (TIBCO)  
2Laura Van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom)  
3Erica Allar (Vera Bradley Foundation)  
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