Cliff-Ryan wins hometown Grand Cycling Classic

Van Gilder silver, Benjamin in bronze in rain-delayed race

Theresa Cliff-Ryan (Colavita-Forno D'Asolo) won the field sprint at the National Racing Calendar's Grand Cycling Classic Criterium held in her home town of Grand Rapids, Michigan. She used her notorious sprint to win the race ahead of Laura Van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom) in second place and her teammate Kelly Benjamin in third.

"Theresa had loads of family members out from parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles and friends," said Colavita-Forno D'Asolo DS Rachel Heal. "As a team we always go into a race wanting one of us to win and usually it doesn't make a difference who it is. Today we really wanted the race to come down to a sprint for Theresa because it was the third time she's done the race and it was the first time that she won it."

The Pro-Cat 1,2 women's some 25-rider peloton lined up to contest a shortened 40-minute criterium held on a 1.2km course that included six corners per lap. The Grand Cycling Classic is a valuable member of the National Racing Calendar for the women. Teams included Tibco-To the Top, Colavita-Forno D'Asolo, Athletes By Design, Team Kenda, Wheelworks along with several individual and regional riders.

"I've done this race three times and the course was different," Van Gilder said. "There were more corners and maybe it was extended. It was different. I've never won it, but I've been on the podium before."

It was held in conjunction with the men's USA Cycling Professional Criterium Championships. The women's Elite championships were held earlier this summer in Augusta, Georgia where Shelley Olds (Diadora-Pasta Zara) won the title. Today, the women's race was delayed and shorted by five minutes due to bad weather during the men's event.

"We were really lucky with the weather," said Tibco-To the Top DS Lisa Hunt. "The men's race was crazy. The girls were warming up and the wind, clouds and rain was very scary. The weather did get better for our race."

"The delay was a bummer for us but fortunately we hadn't begun racing," Van Gilder said. "The conditions didn't deteriorate but improved as we were racing and the roads started to dry up. They shortened the race to 40 minutes and it didn't necessarily have a chance to play out because it wasn't that little bit longer. But, it didn't really hurt us that much. I felt bad for the men who were racing in it."

Race organizers offered multiple $50 and $100 primes every other lap. The extra on-hand cash resulted in a fast-paced criterium and several intermediate sprints for the crowds to watch.

"Tibco made a big effort to try and mix things up today," Van Gilder said. "They were constantly attacking and then the primes also kept the race really animated. But, you could tell that Colavita wanted to keep the field together for Theresa because it was her home town. I think the writing was on the wall with that one."

Tibco-To the Top was one of the more aggressive teams that were trying to form a breakaway. Their attacks resulted in several short breakaways but nothing was able to stay away from the reins of the Colavita-Forno D'Asolo train.

"We didn't win, but the girls rode a really aggressive race before it came down to a field sprint," Hunt said. "Our plan was to be aggressive from the gun and get a break off with two of our riders in it. We wanted to force Colavita on the defensive. It was working and some of the smaller teams or single riders were trying to pull the breakaways back too. It wasn't meant to be for us this time. I really like the way the girls rode, they were aggressive."

Colavita-Forno D'Asolo set up its lead-out train for Cliff-Ryan on the last lap. Janel Holcomb guided the train into the first corner on the circuit, followed by Lauren Hall and Kelly Benjamin with Cliff-Ryan on her wheel. Van Gilder jumped onto Cliff-Ryan's wheel out of the last corner, but could not come around her at the line.

Full Results

#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Theresa Cliff-Ryan (Colavita Forno d-Asolo Pro Cycling)  
2Laura Van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom)  
3Kelly Benjamin (Colavita Forno d-Asolo Pro Cycling)  
4Carmen Small  
5Samantha Schneider (TIBCO to The Top)  
6Amy McGuire (Wheelworks Racing)  
7Erin Silliman (Virginia Asset Group)  
8Joanne Kiesanowski (TIBCO to The Top)  
10Lenore Pipes (River CIty Women's Racing)  
11Amy Stauffer (Priority Health)  
12Emma Bast (Speedfix)  
14Jacqueline Kurth (Team Kenda p/b Geargrinder)  
15Jennifer Wheeler (TIBCO to The Top)  
16Jane Weakley (Secret Cycling)  
17Sinead Miller  
18Johanna Schmidt (Einstein Racing)  
21Janel Holcomb (Colavita Forno d-Asolo Pro Cycling)  
22Lauren Hall (Colavita Forno d-Asolo Pro Cycling)  
23Sarah Demerly (ABD Cycling)  
DNSAmy Kneale (Farm Team Elite Women's Cycling)  
DNSAntonia Musto (Priority Health)  
DNFKendall Ryan (TIBCO to The Top)  
DNFKrystal McNutt (Secret Cycling)  
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