The men’s elite team had a fantastic weekend of racing in the Kalamazoo area this weekend. The BTR/Miller Energy criterium on Saturday went very well, and the 74 mile Maple Hill Race for Wishes today went even better.
Saturday’s criterium was the first race for which we had all eight team members. Team Priority Health was very excited to test its metal against some very talented criterium teams including Bissell Nuvo, Cleveland Orthopedics, Leadout, and Wolverine, to name a few. The weather was sunny with wind coming from the southwest. Temperatures were in the low to mid-90s.
From the gun, the pace was fast. There were many attacks with teams trying to get the advantage early. Nothing stayed away until about 15 minutes in (of a 90 minute race) a group of five of us got a nice gap on the field. I was with teammate Jason Young. Bissell had Derek Graham and Dan Lam, and Cleveland had one rider. Everyone was motivated, and the combination of riders was good except Cleveland didn’t like the odds. We and Bissell drove the break up to about a 30 second advantage, but the other teams who missed the break decided they weren’t done racing, and eventually the race came back together.
Our team was very aggressive, and we always made sure we had at least two riders in every move. Finally with about 30 minutes left, a solid break went up the road. We had Ryan Cross and Jason Young. Cleveland had two riders, Bissell had two riders, and there was another unattached rider along to make seven. Most of us thought that was the race, but Leadout and Wolverine eventually got organized and gradually whittled down the break’s lead.
On the final lap, the break was reeled in. I moved to the front and let Ryan know I was on his wheel. With about 450 meters to go, he started his leadout, but he ran out of steam about 100 meters before the last corner. I looked for wheels to tag. Cleveland came by on the left side, and I tried to jump on, but couldn’t quite close the gap. They ended up getting 1st and 2nd (Jeremy Grimm with the win), and I finished 3rd.
The team did everything right until the last 200 meters. Fun racing, great teamwork!
Sunday’s Maple Hill Race for Wishes was a 74 mile road race. Team Priority Health was only missing Alan Antonuk, so we still had good representation with 7 riders. Bissell had a full squad of 7 as well. Cleveland was missing, but Wolverine Racing had 4 guys, and Leadout had 6.
The race started at 8:00 AM, and thankfully, temperatures were below 80 when we started. The race consisted of 6 12.5 mile loops. The terrain is rolling with a couple steep bumps thrown in.
Again, the action started quickly, and after only about 5 miles, Priority’s Andrew Florian got himself a nice gap. Bissell and Wolverine were quick to cover the move, and the field decided to sit up. After the first lap, the break’s advantage was about 1:30 on the field. Behind, Bissell quickly realized they had the wrong rider in the break, and they started launching attacks. I countered off of one of their moves on the only significant climb, and a group of 5 of us rolled away. Bissell had two riders (Nate Williams and Dan Lam). Wolverine had a rider, and Sammy’s had a rider. At this point, Bissell’s rider up the road had been dropped. Now we priority riders in the break had no reason to contribute, so we had a free ride with Bissell had to chase. Dan Yankus, Chris Gottwald, and I were able to relax and conserve while Bissell tried to figure out what to do.
Eventually 4 more riders joined us from behind including Priority’s Ryan Cross. Now we had the advantage in numbers in the chase group, and Bissell had to do all the work. Meanwhile, Andrew Florian and his Wolverine break-away companion were drilling it. The gap to those two never dropped below 50 second, and on the last lap, Bissell knew their chase was hopeless.
At the finish, Andrew rode an incredibly smart race and managed to win his first Pro/1/2 event with a very gutsy, hard ride! He greatly deserved the win for all the hard work he has done for the rest of us, always without complaint or hesitation. We are all amazingly happy for him!
Dan Yankus won the field sprint for 3rd. I was 5th, and Chris Gottwald was 7th. Very solid showing for Team Priority Health. Stay tuned!