A perfect leadout. Two timely shifts in the final 200 meters to accelerate to victory. For the Optum Pro Cycling Team Presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies, last weekend’s U.S. Pro Criterium Championship in North Carolina was a complete team effort.
Optum’s Eric Young took the win – his second U.S. Pro Criterium title – while teammate Ken Hanson was second. In fact, the top five finishers in the men’s race were all riding SRAM RED groupsets with Jacob Keough and John Murphy of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling placing fourth and fifth respectively and Brad Huff of Jelly Belly Pro Cycling fifth.
We tracked down Optum’s Eric Young to get the inside story on his victory:
At what point did it become apparent that the team has really riding such a flawless race?
It’s impossible to know you’ll win until you actually cross the line first, but we rode a great race the whole time. Mike Friedman, Tom Soladay and Scott Zwizanski did a great job racing aggressively in the breakaways and putting the pressure on UHC to chase. But we won the race in the last half lap. I knew we had done it right when I hit the last corner first with Hanson on my wheel. Then it was just a sprint to the line over the last 200m and I got there first!
How did your SRAM RED groupset perform in a fast, technically demanding race like the U.S. Pro Criterium Championship?
Our SRAM RED groupsets have been awesome. Managing your momentum and coming into the last two corners with exactly the right amount of speed was very important in the final sprint, and the SRAM RED brakes helped us do that perfectly. Also, I wouldn’t have won if there had been any issues with my drivetrain. I shifted down twice in the final 200 meters to continue getting as much acceleration out of the bike as I could. So, thanks to the SRAM DoubleTap for giving me every gear I needed!
While at Indiana University, you won the Little 500 race three times as part of the famed Cutters team. Now you’ve also won two US Pro Criterium titles. They such different races, but do these victories have anything in common?
Each of the five races has been very different. Little 5 is a total team race. There are only four members per team, so the pressure of the race is condensed onto each of those four sets of shoulders. In the U.S. Pro Criterium Championship, the team aspect is huge as well, but it’s sort of spread out because different guys have different jobs during different parts of the race. Without a doubt, though, teamwork has been critical in both of my crit nationals wins. In 2011, Frank Pipp and Andy Jacques-Maynes did a perfect job getting me into the top three in the final corner; and this year, it was Alex Candelario bringing Hanson and I past UHC and into the lead in the final 300 meters. Team work is huge!