Lion's Den crit postponed, no Jingle GX Gravel - North American roundup

Into The Lion’s Den criterium
Into The Lion's Den women's top 3 in 2021 (Image credit: Kit Karzen)

There will be no roar from Into the Lion’s Den Powered by SRAM this fall, as event founder Justin Williams (L39ION of Los Angeles) announced the popular criterium with one of the nation’s largest payouts would be postponed until next year.

Taking to his personal Instagram to make the announcement one week ago, Justin Williams said, “After much contemplation, I’ve decided to postpone Into the Lion’s Den until 2023. I only have so much energy, and I've decided to focus on my goal of building community; I’m prioritizing L39ION’s event resources to produce an additional junior day camp, community rides, and outreach programming.”

SRAM had indicated it would return for a second year as a top sponsor for Into the Lion’s Den, scheduled for Saturday, September 10 in Sacramento. Last year, the invitation-only event was held on October 30 on a one-kilometre circuit around the California Capitol grounds, with the start/finish line located on 11th Street and N Street.

The inaugural event paid out $100,000 for 140 minutes of racing, with the cash prizes distributed evenly to the top 10 riders and primes in each race for women and men. Olivia Ray (then with Rally Cycling) won the overall title for women, with Kendall Ryan (L39ION of Los Angeles) in second and Amy Pieters (Team SD Worx) in third. Justin Williams won the pro men’s event, with Luke Lamperti (Trinity Racing) in second and L39ION’s Cory Williams in third. 

In addition to community outreach and overseeing the second edition of the pro races, Justin Williams has had a full season of racing for the L39ION of Los Angeles squad. He is currently with his brother Cory Williams in England at the Commonwealth Games, where they will compete in cycling events representing Belize. The brothers are expected to both compete in the Warwick Road Race on Sunday, while Cory Williams will compete in the individual time trial on Thursday.

Intelligentsia Cup crowns Omnium winners 

Marlies Mejias Garcia wins Omnium for women at 2022 Intelligentsia Cup

Marlies Mejias Garcia wins Omnium for women at 2022 Intelligentsia Cup (Image credit: Virginia's Blue Ridge TWENTY24)

The Intelligentsia Cup concluded Sunday with the 10-day criterium series taking place in the Chicago area of Illinois for its 10th anniversary edition, July 22-31. Nine of the 10 races (excluding Juy 27’s road race) were part of an Omnium competition.

Marlies Mejias Garcia (Virginia’s Blue Ridge TWENTY24) dominated the women’s Pro 1/2 division as she amassed seven podiums, including four wins. Paola Muñoz (CWA Racing p/b Goldman Sachs ETFs) was second overall and U23 US pro time trial champion Zoe Ta-Perez (LUX/CTS plb Specialized) third.

Clever Martinez (Blazers) secured the men’s Pro 1 / 2 division on the final day in a points battle with Brandon Feehery (Project Echelon Racing). Martinez raced all of the events and faired no worse than sixth place, scoring two wins among his six podiums. Feehery did not finish in the points on the final day, but had enough to take second overall, with his teammate Ethan Craine third overall.

American Criterium Cup update

Intelligentsia Cup's Lake Bluff Criterium was the seventh stop of the American Criterium Cup, with men's leader Brandon Feehery

Brandon Feehery (Project Echelon Racing) in the men's ACC leader's jersey at Intelligentsia Cup's Lake Bluff Criterium  (Image credit: Kai Caddy/ Project Echelon Racing)

The penultimate day of racing at Intelligentsia Cup, Northwestern Medicine Lake Bluff Criterium, was also the seventh stop of the American Criterium Cup. 

Maggie Coles-Lyster (DNA Pro Cycling) leads both individual categories for the women, with a 142-point advantage over Andrea Cyr (ButcherBox Cycling p/b LOOK) in the overall standings and a 45-point lead in the sprint standings. There is just a single point separating the two top women’s teams, DNA Pro Cycling in the narrow lead over Colavita Factor Pro Cycling.

In a similar scenario in the men’s division, Brandon Feehery (Project Echelon Racing) is the top rider in the individual standings. He has a 169-point advantage over Alfredo Rodriguez (Best Buddies Racing) in the overall, with early leader Rodriguez not scoring points in the past three races as he recovers from a broken collarbone suffered in Boise on July 10. Feehery leads Michael Hernandez (Best Buddies Racing) by 80 points and Thomas Gibbons (Automatic - ABUS) by 85 points in the sprint standings. 

Having the American Criterium Cup on the final weekend of the Intelligenstia Cup saw some teams bring in extra riders, such as ButcherBox, Best Buddies and L39ION on the men’s side.

“It really creates a unique dynamic where we h ave two competitions going on at the same time,” Eric Hill, director of Project Echelon Racing, told Cyclingnews. “There is fatigue and the unwritten rules of the group, which kind of get sorted out during a series like that. Over the course of 10 days you build on an understanding with your competitors.

"When the teams came in for the American Criterium Cup races, it did play out differently than a one-day ACC event because of that, but it was fun. It was still really hard investment in racing on a really technical and fast course.”

The Lake Bluff Criterium came on the heels of the testy Salt Lake Criterium on July 16, where Michael Hernandez (Best Buddies Racing) was involved in a fist fight after the men's race with competitor Justin Williams. The duo were disqualified from the event and given a 72-hour suspension by the chief referee, as well as $500 fines. 

Since, Hernandez has agreed to serve a three-month suspension from competition - USA Cycling rule 8A3(a) for "acts of violence" among riders - for the physical altercation with Justin Williams. There is no verification about a similar ruling for Justin Williams, but Cyclingnews expects the same extended penalty will be confirmed in the coming days.

The eighth race out of 10 in the national series will be held August 6 in Colorado at the Littleton Twilight.

No jingle for UCI Gravel World Series in Iowa

The 2022 Highlands Gravel Classic covered 95% gravel

The 2022 Highlands Gravel Classic covered 95% gravel at the only stop in the US for UCI Gravel World Series (Image credit: Highlands Gravel Classic)

The second of two US stops on the Trek UCI Gravel World Series calendar would have taken place this weekend, but organisers of Jingle Cross GX Gravel Race in Amanda, Iowa cancelled the event in early July, just one month prior to the inaugural event.

Organisers said in a statement on July 6 that an abbreviated timeline to prepare as a UCI World Championship qualifier, and being a non-profit entity, were factors for cancellation, citing there had been some uncertainty for many weeks as the UCI sought a location and date for the championship competition. Jingle Cross GX had opened registration in late March, while the UCI waited until mid June to announce a host region and date for the final championships - October 8-9 in the Veneto region of Italy.

“Unfortunately, this [date and location for finals] was only recently established 3 and a half weeks ago which shortened our timeline and ability to promote as a UCI World Championship qualifier because it had been unclear if and when a UCI world championship would occur. Therefore,  after exhausting all possible options, we regret to announce we must cancel for this year,” organisers posted at the Jingle Cross web site. It was unclear if organisers planned to reinstate the event for 2023.

The Jingle GX Gravel Race was launched by the same group that organised Jingle Cross Cyclocross, scheduled for October 14-16. In May, the cyclo-cross event was cancelled after a run of 18 years, with event founder and Race Director John Meehan siting a scheduling conflict created by the UCI and Flanders Classics when a World Cup event was placed on the calendar in Fayetteville, Arkansas the same weekend.

Five rounds of the Gravel World Series have been completed, the last stop on June 25 in Fayetteville at the Highlands Gravel Classic. At each event the top 25% in each age category qualify for the UCI Gravel World Championships, the final venue not yet named for the first weekend of October this year. The UCI did announce Italy would host the World Championships for gravel in 2022 and 2023.

The next qualifier on the calendar is now Gravel Grit n Grind on August 20 in Halmstad, Sweden. There are no other events in 2022 in North America.

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