Cigar City Twilight Criterium
By David Guttenplan
My new team AG Bicycles/Guttenplan Coaching’s national debut was this past weekend thankfully at home in Tampa, FL, just hours north of our base in Miami, FL so as you can expect we were all motivated and ready to put on a show for our home crowd! The crowd was awesome as you can expect from any USACRITS race and after getting a call up, I was excited! From the line I heard the all-to-familiar $250 prime on the first lap, and it was go time. I sprinted it out taking it by a bike throw after little to no warm-up and the best 1 minute power of my life. The pain of the cool air in my lungs and poorly warmed-up body really made the next 10 minutes full of suffering exciting.. as I lost my position, fought fresh guys for wheels, and missed the first move.
Unfortunately my teammate Calixto Manuel had a mechanical and they wouldn’t give him a free lap, so while I thought he definitely was in the big split because he was so strong and active when I last saw him, it turned out we missed it. Thankfully, he showed back up, after chasing back on and passing the entire 150 rider field, and went straight to the front to bring back 20 guys. He did it too! Then came the $250 mid race prime, this time I was warmed up and won it with ease only to find myself up the road for a few laps gassed. Then the counters came and I was still in contention, but another huge crash happened right in front of me and Calixto. If you look at my video off my seatpost cam (with attached 2nd blinky light so all my local friend’s could see me), https://vimeo.com/62112657 you will likely see some of the carnage and maybe even spot the crash taking out Calixto!
Anyway, I realized we weren’t going to catch the break so I picked up another prime and then got Calixto to set me up for the sprint. More crashes ensued, but thankfully he placed me near the front to avoid them or at least be the last guys to catch back on. In the end, I was just trying to stay safe because I’d already missed out on the win. Plus, the top 5 spots were all gone from the lapped riders anyway, so I didn’t want to mess up those guys’ lead-out’s. I finished 13th and scored a few points for the NCC and found out I’m still riding ok at the elite level despite not leaving Florida yet this year! More importantly, we showed our little first year elite team AG Bicycles/Guttenplan Coaching can slightly affect the outcome at some big races. Now we are motivated for more National Racing and another hometown race Delray Twilight!
Obviously though, the real winner of the night was Hilton Clarke (who wins pretty much every crit he does except when he leads out his teammate for the win) and United Healthcare after they did what they do best. The only break that UHC was going to let roll was one with Hilton in it and sure enough, he made a big break which lapped the field within 15 minutes! Then, the UHC team sends all of their guys to the front to control the field making it more difficult to get around them and get across to the break. So, everyone just fights for their wheels making for some slower/scarier riding behind. Next, the break laps and it’s on! UHC takes control riding the perfect pace not too fast to blow up their guys but fast enough to keep control of the front and keep their winner, Hilton, safe making everyone else fight behind spending much more energy. Finally, with one lap to go all of their race winners in their own right hit it full gas leaving everyone else to fight for the leftovers! Thanks to all of the spectators, sponsors, and people who put on this event for bringing national level crit racing back to Florida! We love it and I have to admit it seems it is here to stay!!!