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The difficult, hilly course of the Stillwater Criterium was not enough to change the overall standings of the North Star Grand Prix on Sunday, with GC leaders Ryan Anderson (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) and Carmen Small (Specialized-lululemon) securing overall victory of the six-stage race.
Travis McCabe (SmartStop) put in a blistering attack with three laps on Stillwater to take the stage win, with the field breathing down his neck.
In the women’s race, Lizzie Williams (Vanderkitten) a bold solo move with six laps to go on the 14-lap circuit and held her lead to win the Stillwater stage. It was Vanderkitten’s second win in two days, after Gillian Carleton took the stage 5 win in Menomonie by several bike lengths.
The stage 3 Cannon Falls Road Race proved to be the decider for the overall, as both Anderson and Small took the race leadership, and then held the lead for the remaining three stages.
Anderson’s overall win, his first USA Cycling National Racing Calendar stage race victory, was the fourth title in a row for his Optum team. Anderson finished strong by taking third on the sixth and final stage.
“I was glad I was able to be good to finish because the guys rode so well,” Anderson said. From day one, the first criterium, we took responsibility for the race and the guys rode pretty much all week. For our team it’s a really important race because most of our partners are from the area. I’ve had a bit of a bumpy year, I’ve had some success but I’ve also had some downs this year so to get this win is really motivating for me going forwards with the rest of the year.”
Luis Amaran (Jamis-Hagens Berman) finished second overall, 16 seconds down, while Anderson’s teammate Jesse Anthony was third, a further four seconds down.
The Optum men’s team won the overall team classification with three riders in the top five of the general classification.
National road champion Eric Marcotte (SmartStop) retained the green Xcel Energy Sprinter jersey, and Fabio Calabria (Horizon Organic-Einstein Bros) took the Sports Beans King of the Hills competition.
Finishing only six seconds down on the Stillwater stage put Orlando Garibay (Incycle-Predator Components) in the white TRIA Orthopedic Center Best Young Rider jersey. Coulton Hartrich (SeaSucker-Guttenplan Coaching) took the green North Star Top Amateur jersey.
Belgian Tom Devriendt (Team 3M), winner of Saturday’s 101-mile Menomonie Road Race in the pouring rain, was awarded the red Penn Cycle Most Aggressive Rider jersey.
The race within the race
In the women’s race, a battle for the overall win took place behind Williams’ solo move.
Leah Kirchmann (Optum- Kelly Benefit Strategies) and Alison Powers (UnitedHealthcare) were both 14 seconds behind Small coming into the stage.
Powers, the opening time trial winner, attacked in the final lap, nearly closing down the gap to Williams; Powers finished second on the stage, but it was not enough to put her in the overall lead. Small finished two seconds behind Powers for third on the stage, and Kirchmann finished 12 seconds behind Small, for fourth on the stage.
With three laps to go Williams had opened up a gap of over 40 seconds.
“I honestly didn’t know that Lizzie was up the road,” laughed Powers. “I stuck to out team’s plan, and I heard someone say ‘42 seconds’. What? Someone’s up the road?”
That’s when a chase ensued that quickly brought down the time gap as both Specialized and Optum strung out what was left of the fewer than 20 riders left on course.
With just under two laps to go, Kirchmann made her move for the general classification. She and teammate Denise Ramsden headed up Chilkoot Hill with a slight advantage over the group, which contained Small and Powers. The duo was caught by the top of the hill.
Powers launched her attack after the top of Chilkoot Hill.
“With just under one to go, I could see [Specialized rider] Tayler [Wiles] was fading a bit, and so that’s when I attacked,” said Powers. “Unfortunately Carmen was just a little too strong. I couldn’t get away from her on the last lap, so kudos to her and her team. My entire team gave everything they had, every single person. We tried, we didn’t quite get it, but it was a good team effort. We wanted to either win or go down trying.“
Small said she’d been pushed to her limit in defending the overall lead.
”They did a really good job of attacking me in the last two laps,“ said Small. ”I wanted to die a thousand deaths, just hold on for dear life. I’m really lucky the girls are so great because I couldn’t have won this race without them. Especially going against UnitedHealthcare and Optum, they both have really strong girls. The girls rode out of their minds today.”
Kelly Catlin (Kakookies Collegiate All-Stars) was the day’s top-placed amateur and the only amateur who finished the race without receiving a prorated time, extending her lead in the amateur jersey to over 17 minutes.
The Collegiate All Stars program is designed to give riders a well-rounded experience of what it’s like to be on a professional team, from providing technical and physical support in the form of mechanics and a masseuse, to skills development and encouragement.
”Stillwater was a lot of fun,“ said Catlin, who has a double major in biomechanical engineering and Chinese, with a minor in music, at the University of Minnesota. ”It was a really good experience to measure up against the pros. I feel a little more confident now. I feel like if I wanted to go pro I could possibly do it. I’ll try to manage with collegiate cycling for the first few years and see how that goes it goes from there.“
The North Star Grand Prix also features the Carla Swart jersey, a jersey of recognition given to the rider who sacrifices the most for her team as voted on by other members of the peloton. This year’s jersey recipient was Joy McCulloch (KHS-Maxxis). According to several riders, McCulloch”did not care about her time and was worried about the rider on the ground after the crash we were involved in on Friday night. She raced well and fought strong. She represents this sport at its highest level.“
Coryn Rivera (UnitedHealthcare) had her Xcel Energy Sprint Competition Jersey on lock, coming into stage 6 with enough points to keep her lead even if she didn’t gain any more sprint points.
Wiles secured her Jelly Belly Queen of the Mountains by collecting an additional eight points at Stillwater.
The Penn Cycle’s Most Aggressive Rider jersey was given to Williams for her impressive solo ride.