Huff, Tamayo new crit national champions

Two upset wins went down in the books Sunday in Greenville, S.C. at the Volkswagen USA Cycling Professional Criterium Championships.

Brad Huff (Rally Cycling) sprinted past the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling blue train in the final 200 meters of the race and Lauren Tamayo (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling) won in a breakaway upset leaving all the sprinters behind.

“UHC rode and an amazing race,” Huff said in a post-race interview. “Everyone just had to play their cards. We’ve all been in this game for a while. Everyone wanted to finish the race in tact. [UHC] sat up going into the last corner – I was savvy enough and know their tricks. I got on their last three guys, and on the last corner it was luck and leg speed.”

Huff crit nats

Photo by Casey B. Gibson

Much of the race was controlled by UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling, Rally Cycling and Holowesko-Citadel p/b Hincapie Racing, as Rally perpetually seemed to send a rider into a break that was continually pulled back.

Jesse Anthony (Rally Cycling) took off with about 13 laps to go, and as his teammate joined him, the UnitedHealthcare blue train formed and began to pull them back, controlling the peloton.

Crit specialist and multi-time champion Daniel Holloway (Giant Racing) knows a thing or two about freelancing UnitedHealthcare’s train, but he was “working hard,” Huff said.

“We were all just going for it and I was lucky enough to come around,” Huff said.

Huff went down in an early-race crash, then got into a breakaway mid-race and finished it off by crossing the line first in a show of sprint power to outlast the blue train.

Danny Eaton (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling) said it was great for his first time being a part of the blue train in a crit. He said he was working in the train from 15 laps to go and then peeled off with one and half laps left.

“It went well but [we] just got rolled at the finish,” Eaton said. “I loved reppin’ the blue and white in the nationals crit.”

Tamayo’s shock and awe

Lauren Tamayo (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling) ruined the sprint party in a late-race breakaway with Elle Anderson (Rally Cycling) and Sara Tussey (Visit Dallas DNA Pro Cycling) in the women’s championship.

Tamayo sailed away toward the line off the break and won, followed by Anderson and Tussey, in an upset finish for a race chock full of some of the best crit sprinters and tacticians in the game.

“It’s kind of surreal,” Tamayo said after the race. “Our plan coming into the race obviously wasn’t for me to win. Coming in to the last few laps I was off the front, and I saw that we had such a big gap I thought, ‘OK, this might come down to me and I better start thinking about how to win.’ It’s been such a long time since I’ve won a race for myself, so I had to change my thinking quite a bit.”

Throughout the entire race, Rally Cycling and Visit Dallas DNA Pro Cycling relentlessly tag-team attacked the group with Rally’s Jessica Prinner and Visit Dallas’ Anna Sanders leading the charge, putting the hurt on UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling.

“We were aiming for a podium today, so in that regard it was a success, but we would have preferred to be on the top step,” Sanders said. “It was an exciting race with lots of attacking and counterattacking.”

The attack strategy appeared to be to wear out the blue train and set up Rally’s Erica Allar and Visit Dallas’ Mia Manganello for a sprint finish, not to mention those waiting in the wings – Sam Schneider (ISCorp Cycling p/b SmartChoice MRI) and Tina Pic (BMW Happy Tooth) – but Tamayo covered those attacks.

With about 10 laps to go, the peloton was back together and it appeared that teams were beginning to organize for a final sprint.

But Tamayo, Anderson and Tussey took off with three laps left, and with three of the biggest teams represented in the break, the peloton didn’t have the firepower to chase them down and the race ended with a Tamayo victory.

“I have a lot of trust in my teammates,” said Coryn Rivera (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling), who was one of the big sprinters who ultimately didn’t have to battle it out for the win. “We did a great job controlling and covering moves with only four of us, and I knew with the mix up the road that Lauren had the best chance of winning.

Rivera said she was surprised that the teams that weren’t in the break didn’t try to bring it back.

“But it was in the last few laps so everyone was looking at each other,” Rivera said. “The race was really fun and aggressive. It was great to be back racing in the states and a great way to start the teams racing block in the states.”

For a play by play, see @clippedin on Twitter.

Photos by Casey B. Gibson/USA Cycling