The car park at the Mandalay Bay hotel on Las Vegas' famous 'strip' may not sound like the greatest place to decide the final overall of the USA Crits Series, but with the hotel lit up as the backdrop, big crowds behind the barriers and the colourful spectacle of a bike race in town, it was transformed into quite a spectacle
With the Interbike trade show in town, and with those crowds having had their appetites whetted by the CrossVegas cyclo-cross race on the other side of town the night previously, there were plenty of spectators on hand to enjoy what proved to be a thrilling evening of racing, with the overall prize of the USA Crits Series at stake in both the women's and men's events.
Leader Laura Van Gilder of the Mellow Mushroom team proved her dominance in the women's series, scorching to victory from Veloforma's Christina Smith and Team TIBCO's Brooke Miller to wrap up the overall.
Van Gilder's Mellow Mushroom teammate, Kristen Lasasso, had already spiced up what proved to be an aggressive race earlier in the evening.
"With Kristen going away in the breaks, that took the pressure off for me," Van Gilder told Cyclingnews. Vanderkitten Racing had tried to control the race with their four riders, but it was a case of David and Goliath as the two-woman Mellow Mushroom squad once again proved their dominance in this year's series, with Lasasso claiming the third spot on the overall podium behind Miller.
Team Type 1's Alison Powers led the sprint out, but Van Gilder positioned herself in front for the last corner, and there was only ever going to be one winner.
"And I want to thank Mellow Mushroom, who stepped in after my previous team pulled their sponsorship in March," an elated Van Gilder said. "Kristen and I last rode together in 2006, but it's really come together for us.
"It's just so rewarding," the 44-year-old Van Gilder continued. "We've been in the top 10 in almost every race of this series, and to get this title is just huge. It's been a magical season, despite the rocky beginning."
Team Mountain Khakis dominates
The men's race was won by Mountain Khakis rider Eric Barlevav, who delighted the crowd, first by bridging the gap to a five-man break, and then outsprinting his breakaway companions to take victory.
The race had earlier been animated by a flurry of attacks, which were never allowed to get far. After a season of racing in Europe, Cervélo TestTeam rider Dominique Rollin was one of the most active riders at the front of the race, but a puncture halfway through the race put him out of the event.
With 12 laps to go, a five-man break did get the gap they needed, and were later joined by Barlevav as he soloed across the gap to join them with nine laps to go.
Despite one last-ditch attempt by the chasing peloton to bring the break back - and they had it back down to 14 seconds with a lap to go - the leading six were never going to be caught.
Barlevav flew out of the last corner, leaving the rest to fight it out for the runner's-up spot, with Hagens-Berman Llp Cycling's Adrian Hegyvary taking second, and Champion System Racing's Gavi Epstein third.
At last year's race, Barlevav had only managed to finish ninth, and was clearly thrilled after dominating the final sprint.
"This is huge. It's great for the team, but then this is what we came here for," said Barlevav.
It wasn't all the Mountain Khakis team were smiling about, either. With Barlevav's teammate Mark Hekman having finished two places ahead of series leader Jake Keough of the Kelly Benefit Strategies team, there was a tense wait while the final points were totted up, falling in the favour of Hekman by just six points.
"It was tough. They [Kelly Benefit Strategies] had three riders here, and we had four, so it was always going to be a fight," Hekman said. "But this is awesome. We came here to put on a show, and I love Las Vegas!"
Keough was humble in defeat. "The Khakis guys were super-aggressive here, but that's what it's all about. Mark rides aggressively, and did an awesome sprint, so hats off to him."
Team Mountain Khakis also took the overall team prize.
|1||Laura Van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom)||1:04:17|
|2||Christina Smith (Veloforma)|
|3||Brooke Miller (Team TIBCO)|
|4||Tiffany Pezzulo (Dft P/b Treads)||0:00:01|
|5||Nichole Wangsgard (Colavita-Sutter Home p/b Cooking Light)|
|6||Kori Seehafer (Team Type 1)|
|7||Jennifer Wilson (Vanderkitten Racing)|
|8||Erika Graves (Kahala Lagrange)|
|9||Melissa Sanborn (Vanderkitten Racing)|
|10||Kristen Lasasso (Mellow Mushroom)||0:00:02|
|11||Alison Powers (Team Type 1)|
|12||Alicia Boland (Higher Cadence- Banning's Bike)|
|13||Julie Cutts (Colavita Vegas/ Wicked Cycling)||0:00:03|
|14||Leigh Hopkins (Vanderkitten Racing)||0:00:09|
|15||Alison Starnes (Team TIBCO)||0:00:16|
|16||Jennifer Reither (Vanderkitten Racing)|
|17||Keely Brooks (Colavita-vegas)||0:00:48|
|18||Hilary Crowley (Higher Cadence- Banning's Bike)||0:01:43|
|1||Eric Barlevav (Mountain Khakis)||1:24:32|
|2||Adrian Hegyvary (Hagens-berman Llp Cycling)|
|3||Gavi Epstein (Champion System Racing)|
|4||Jorge Alvarago (Kahala-lagrange)||0:00:02|
|5||Ryan Dewald (Batley Harley Davidson/ Sanoma)||0:00:07|
|6||Mark Hekman (Mountain Khakis)||0:00:09|
|7||Euris Paulino (Champion System Racing)||0:00:10|
|8||Jake Keough (Kelly Benefit Strategies)|
|9||Yosvany Falcon (Champion Porsche)|
|10||Alexi Martinez (Kahala-lagrange)|
|11||Adam Myerson (Mountain Khakis)|
|12||Danny Kam (Bearclaw)|
|13||Adam Carr (Ten Speed Drive / Bh Bicycles)||0:00:11|
|14||Rodney Santiago (Champion System Racing)|
|15||Kevin Attkisson (Texas Roadhouse)|
|16||Jaime Gandara (Kenda Pro Cycling)|
|17||Phillip Mann (Ciclismo Racing)||0:00:12|
|18||Jared Nieters (Haymarket/function Drinks)|
|19||Emile Abraham (Aerocat Cycling Team)|
|20||Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies)||0:00:13|
|21||Andrew Crater (Team Wheel & Sprocket)|
|22||Seth Hansley (Champion Porsche)|
|23||Isaac Howe (Mountain Khakis)||0:00:16|
|24||Kevin Kirkwood (Bicycle Haus Racing)||0:00:28|
|27||Matt McNamara (Sterling Sports Group)||0:00:31|
|28||Christopher Aten (South Lyon Cycle Race Team)|
|29||Victor Ayala (Kahala-lagrange)||0:00:32|
|30||Jay Salazar (Canyon Bicycle Of Salt Lake)|
|31||Bain Foote (Herring Gas Cycling Team)|
|32||Garrett White (Ten Speed Drive / Bh Bicycles)|
|33||Paul Che (Pista Palace)||0:00:33|
|34||Matt Inconiglios (Stage 1 / Fusionthink)||0:00:34|
|35||Johnathan Edwards (Barry Lasko Dds)|
|36||Gustavo Mendez (Kahala-lagrange)||0:00:35|
|37||David Harward (Canyon Bicycles)|
|38||Lang Reynolds (Hagens-berman Llp)||0:00:45|
|39||Dan Bowman (Kelly Benefit Strategies)||0:00:48|
|40||John Bergmann (Team Clif Bar)||0:01:11|
|41||Noe Alcala (Allegiant Airlines/pain Md's.c)||0:01:15|
|42||Hayden Godfrey (Subway Avanti Cycling Team)||0:01:30|
|43||Eric Marcotte (Bicycle Haus)|
|44||Jesus Zapata (Ten Speed Drive / Bh Bicycles)||0:01:43|
|45||Emiliano Jordan (Ten Speed Drive / Bh Bicycles)||0:03:30|