Photo Essay: USPRO Criterium Championships

The 2015 USPRO Criterium Championships took the men and women of Optum Pro Cycling through downtown Greenville, South Carolina around a straightforward four-corner course. A profile of four “simple” left turns and one punchy down-and-up didn’t mean the race would be easy – with a year’s worth of stars and stripes glory on the line, the pace was intense from start to finish in both races.

Brianna Walle took bronze in women’s race as late-race chaos disrupts the final sprint.
The trio of Walle, Alison Tetrick and Amy Charity had their work cut out for them as one of the smaller teams in the race. The UnitedHealthcare “blue train”, known for their commanding presence on the front of the peloton in the final laps of criterium racing, was undoubtedly the biggest competition for any rider looking to earn a medal in the event. The train assembled as planned, and Optum sprinter Walle stayed close to their hard charge in the final laps. Unfortunately, a crash in the final turn, on the final lap, determined the outcome of the race – most of the UnitedHealthcare team, looking like favorites to speed home with the win on the final straightway, was derailed in the crash. Walle was able to maneuver through the chaos, and landed herself a bronze medal in the process.

There was some disappointment for Eric Young in the fast, tactical, and chaotic men’s event.
The men’s race was equally chaotic, but for different reasons, with lots of shuffling, reshuffling, and more reshuffling of different combinations of riders looking to make their move be the one that stuck. The Optum team’s deck was stacked for Eric Young, the 2013 winner of the event. A powerful solo flyer over dozens laps of the race by Tom Soladay helped the team’s cause, but he was caught with just three laps remaining, and the final chess game began. Current US road race champion and one of the stockiest men in the peloton, Eric Marcotte of Team SmartStop, made a daring attack on the final lap that led him to his second national title. Young finished fourth after some hesitation in following the surprise attack, and the team was left with a bit of disappointment in their first criterium race of 2015.

Photos and words by Sam Wiebe.

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Mechanics Eric Maresjo and Vince Gee install a new Thule rack system on the RDX. Believe it or not, they eventually fit eight individual bike mounts on the roof of the car (the team’s previous record was seven).

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Not participating in the all-American criterium race, Canadians Jasmin Glaesser and Leah Kirchmann are on-hand for Sunday’s team time trial.

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Just in time for the NHL playoffs, this cyclist was representing with one of the most original kits this photographer has ever seen.

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There are still some remnants of the “old South” in Greenville, like this beautiful brick facade.

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Eric Young looking focused and confident at the start line.

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Lead men’s mechanic Vincent Gee is an elder statesman in the pro peloton, having worked for some of the world’s biggest teams. That doesn’t stop him from being a kid at heart.

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Even the Greenville police aren’t afraid to lean on some barriers and watch a bike race, as the Orange and Black goes screaming by at the front of the peloton.

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Tom Soloday’s long solo flyer was a tactically savvy move and a big crowd pleaser. It forced the stronger teams to assemble at the front to chase him back, which they eventually did after expending lots of precious energy.

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A long day of racing means nighttime cleanup and preparation for the next day of racing for the mechanics. It’s something they are very, very used to.

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Brad Huff stuffs his laundry bag on the ground outside the trailer, sporting the team’s stylish new Vasque footwear.

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Goodnight from Greenville, and stay tuned for coverage from tomorrow first-ever US Team Time Trial national championship.

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