Stop number four took the Speed Week peloton down to the Low Country of Walterboro, South Carolina, where Daniel Holloway (Alto Velo-Seasucker) and Tina Pic (Pepper Palace Pro Cycling) took tighter holds on their series leads.
After a brief rain delay the pro women got underway for 25 laps around the streets of the quiet southern city. Right from the gun, Pepper Palace decided to send Julie Kuliezca to the front of the field to try and force an early separation because the nearly one mile Walterboro course has historically favored breakaways.
That move having proved unsuccessful, things settled down until Fearless Femme’s Amy Cutler opted to get involved in chasing down some points and primes. Amy, however, could not parlay her efforts into an escape as soon the pack was all back together.
By the time of the mid-race points prime, Pic decided that it was time to start defending her hold on the overall Speed Week jersey. The veteran rider came across the line with a scowl of pain on her face as she got max points on the lap.
Last minute nerves prompted a crash on the back stretch involving an undetermined number of riders but that didn’t deter Debbie Milne of DOM360 continue to threaten the leaders as she’s done since the beginning of Speed Week in at the Athens Twilight crit.
With three laps remaining, the riders were stretched out single file. Laura Van Gilder sent her Mellow Mushroom team toward the front to keep an eye on Pepper Palace and Fearless Femme. That’s when Sarah Fader (Pepper Palace) and Ashley Barson (Rise Racing-Cyclepath) tried an 11th-hour breakaway. Irish national champion Fiona Meade saw fit to drag that back and set things up for what was now an inevitable field sprint.
Pic came rocketing out of the final turn, and despite the long drag to the finish, was able to put two bike lengths on challenger Lauretta Hanson who held on for second thanks another strong lead out by her Fearless Femme teammate Christy Keely.
On the men’s side of the proceedings, it was Roswell Criterium champion Hector Aguilar stomping on the throttle over the first of 40 laps.
After 10 laps of jockeying, Chris Uberti (Team UnitedHealthcare-The 706 Project) tried hard over several laps to get up the road. The lap times were clocking in at just under two minutes initially, but by the time the riders approached the midpoint of the race things began to settle down somewhat. Other riders who decided to take advantage of any tired legs after four days of racing, included Ryan Aitcheson (Astellas Cycling), Marco Aledia (Alto Velo-Seasucker), and Ben Renkema (Team Finish Strong Elite Cycling).
In the meantime, Holloway, who took a confident win at the Park Circle Criterium in North Charleston, South Carolina, the day before, sat quietly around 13th or 14th place. With 10 laps to go, an attempt at putting together a breakaway by one of the visiting German track riders, Christian Grassman, looked like a possibility. Veteran Speed Week rider Yosvany Falcon (Stradelli Cycle) wasn’t having it though, and things began setting up for the now inevitable sprint.
On the final trip through the backstretch the peloton turned into an uncontrolled swarm. But as he had been essentially laying in wait for most of the race, Dan Holloway conducted a surgical strike coming out of the final turn and took the win handily ahead of Aguilar in second and Martin Reinert in third.
"A lot of guys were shutting stuff down but not participating in the breakaway,” Holloway said about why an escape didn’t rule the day. “I think a lot of guys are active instead of reactive. A lot of guys aren’t willing to risk it for the victory. Then it just comes down to a field sprint. Some guys just are great at positioning, and these two tight corners going into the finale are really bike handler corners and you have to carry a lot of speed through them. It’s a narrow short finish [here] and you can’t make up a lot of ground. You have to come out first.”
With their Walterboro wins Holloway and Pic increased the buffer between their overall leads and other riders chasing for podium positions. They now take their leads to the series final event, the Spartanburg Regional Classic on Friday.