Report by Eddie Clark
Zirbel and Fisk make their first returns to the peloton victorious.
(April 2, 2011) LOUISVILLE, Colo.—Pleasantly warm and sunny spring weather graced the criterium racers for a great day of competition at the Louisville criterium on Saturday. Since it was held a couple weeks earlier this year than the previous year’s edition, a fair contingent of local pros would miss out on the racing due to the Redlands Classic which occurred on the same weekend. However, by the number of racers taking the line on this day, four hundred and fifty three, there was no doubt that the road racing season was well under way.
The Women’s 4 race was first off, and Lilly Hansing had the best finishing kick to overcome a field of ladies whom mostly rode the entire race as a pack. Next up was the Women’s 3 race, which started without much fanfare until the attacks started going off at a regular pace and the field was split in half. Not surprisingly, Rachel Scott and young up-comer Laurel Rathbun dominated the sprint with Scott taking first and Rathbun a close second by saving their energy and sitting in while others rode on the front to no avail.
As always, the Men’s 45+ race proved to be quite entertaining as the veteran racers attacked with brutal force and their teammates rode smartly and defensively. Notably, Rod Yoder (Natural Grocers), Jim Dickerson (Great Divide Brewing), and Matt Vawter (Mix 1) all three broke away from the main field after a flurry of random attackers softened up the field in the first few laps. Afterwards, the Great Divide Brewing and Mix 1 teams could be seen at the front of the pack controlling the race for their teammates in the breakaway. The Vic’s Espresso team made some noteworthy attempts to reel in the breakaway, but was outnumbered in the disorganized peloton and came away with only Joseph Paulson finishing within the top 10. Yoder handily won the sprint against his breakaway companions Dickerson and Vawter whom finished second and third respectively.
Later in the day, the Men’s 3’s also provided an interesting race with more blistering attacks than one could keep track of for the first half of the race, but in each case the peloton quickly closed down the gap to neutralize any breakaways. After one of the many attacks had been reeled in, Pavel Prchal caught the peloton flat footed and quickly opened up a sizable gap that just a few others were able to partially bridge. Prchal rode solo for the last 15 minutes to claim the win with what seemed to be an extra gear over his competitors as William Wall (Natural Grocers), Chris Johnson (Echelon Energy), and Aaron Bouplon (Rocky Mounts) tried in vain to bring him back and ultimately all finished in the respective order.
The Women’s 1-2 race looked as though it would finish in a mass sprint until a crash in the pack upset the apple cart and left the door wide open for Beth Fisk (Natural Grocers) and five others to establish a gap over the dis-organized field. In her first return to racing after recovering from a broken neck nearly two years ago, Fisk was sure to stay at the front of the race to avoid trouble, which was a good strategy. After receiving a lead-out from teammate Margell Abel, Fisk succeeded in not only staying at the front of the race but also at winning it.
Also making a return to racing was Tom Zirbel. The US Anti-Doping Agency recently ended his two year doping suspension (from a positive test for DHEA at the 2009 US TT championships) 8 months early as a result of his cooperation with ongoing investigations, and the USADA also noted in a formal letter that contamination was a possibility for his positive result.
As expected, the Pro 1-2 race provided plenty of action minus the team tactics since a fair portion of the field contained riders with only a few teammates or none at all. One of the obvious protagonators was John Tarkington (Natural Grocers) who was at the front or off the front for most of the race. With four laps to go a lead pack of nearly ten riders had formed until Tarkington attacked one lap later and blew it apart. Among the chasers were Zirbel and Eddy Gragus whom worked together to bring Tarkington back. With two to go, Zirbel launched an incredible attack that pegged his power meter, and he held it for a solo finish and first place while Tarkington came across a couple seconds later in second.
For more results, please visit the ACA.
More photos here.