Anniston, Ala. (Apr. 8, 2017) – – The first of two days of racing at the Alabama Cycling Classic saw a Southern slugfest in downtown Anniston for the 15th annual Sunny King Criterium. The crit crown for the women went to Lauren Hall (Cortez, Colo.) of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team. The victory for the men was taken by John Murphy (Horse Shoe, N.C. ) of Holowesko l Citadel Racing Team presented by Hincapie Racing.
The Alabama Cycling Classic combines the well-established Sunny King Criterium with the McClellan Road Race for two full days of road racing. This is the second stop for the year on USA Cycling’s Professional Road Tour. Saturday offered 21 categorized races for a variety of age groups and skill levels, capped under the lights with the signature professional races for women and men.
The Pro 1/2 women’s criterium featured 72 riders from nine countries, with enthusiastic crowds lining the four-turn, one-kilometer course. Attacks were launched early, and often, from the UnitedHealthcare squad.
“The girls just wanted to be aggressive today, because we have great sprinters in this peloton. We wanted to be aggressive and give something to the crowds as well. And we attached like crazy, when one came back, another went,” said Hall, describing the constant turns at the front by several of her teammates throughout the one-hour-plus contest.
With seven laps to go, UHC was still driving at the front and battling riders from Papa John’s Racing presented by TREK and Visit Dallas DNA Pro Cycling. A final bunch sprint saw three UHC riders in the top six places, with Hall raising her arms for the win. Erica Allar (Demorest, Ga.) riding alone for Rally Cycling finished second and Kendall Ryan (Ventura, Calif.) of Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank finished third. UHC riders Diana Penuela (Garland, Texas) and Ruth Winder (Lafayette, Calif.) finished fourth and sixth, respectively. Last year’s crit champ Samantha Schneider (West Allis, Wisc.) finished eighth.
“We knew it would come down to a field sprint. Basically, my job was to sprint as early as possible, hopefully for Diana (Penuela) to go around, and I just kept sprinting and I came across the line first,” added Hall, who’s parents traveled from Jackson, Miss. to see the race.
The men’s 60-lap criterium saw a record 148-rider field take the line under calm skies. With 43 laps to go, the decisive separation was made by 10 riders. The break, which built as much as a 45-second lead, included Murphy, his teammates Oscar Clark and Brendan Rhim, Carlos Alzate Escobar (Colombia) of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling, Karl Menzies (Australia) and Andres Diaz Corrales (Boise, Idaho) of Team Cylance, Rally Cycling’s Jesse Anthony (Newbury Park, Calif.), Michael Hernandez (Clermont, Fla.) of Aevolo Cycling, Julio Padillo (Guatemala) of Arapahoe Resoures l Garneau, and Bryan Gomez (New York, N.Y.) of Gateway Harley-Davidson Treack U25.
The lead came down to just five seconds on the final lap, with Holowesko l Citadel attacking off the front. From the 98 riders who completed the journey, Murphy crossed the line first in 1 hour, 29 minutes, 13 seconds.
“Holowesko l Citadel (presented by) Hincapie was super aggressive all day and that‘s usually our style. It’s a new team to me and I really like the aggressive style this team adopts,” said Murphy, who rode the past four seasons with UnitedHealthcare. “It really just makes racing that much more fun when you have a chance to hit the wind and attack and follow moves and watch the race as it unfolds.”
Two past winners of the Sunny King Criterium finished on Murphy’s wheel to round out the podium. UHC’s Alzate Escobar, the Sunny King champion in 2013 and 2014, finished second, and Cylance’s Menzies, the Sunny King winner in 2009, rode to third. Last year’s champion for the men Travis McCabe (Tucson, Ariz.), riding this year for UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling, finished 10th.
“I was in a few breaks early. We had a pretty good shot to stay away. We had the numbers,” Murphy said about having two teammates with him in the 10-man breakaway. “We like to have the numbers as always, but our guys did a lions share of the work to stay away. In the finish, they did a super job to cover all the attacks. My focus was to get to the last corner and take it all the way to the finish line. I’m really happy with the win today.”
On Sunday, the Alabama Cycling Classic moves to the Historic Buckner District for the McClellan Road Race. There are two pro-only races that include multiple laps over the challenging Bains Gap climb. The women’s road race will be 69 miles and the men’s 91 miles, both featuring a new start/finish in the Historic Buckner District, known for its circular, tree-lined park surrounding homes once used for U.S. Army officers.
All cycling events for the Alabama Cycling Classic will be broadcast online, presented by Alabama Power. Webcast coverage begins at 10 a.m. CT., and is available at the main event website, www.annistoncycling.com, as well as cycling news sites, including clippedin.bike, cyclingnews.com, cyclingtips.com, pezcyclingnews.com, and velonews.com.
For full results, visit www.livelynxresults.com. Follow the Alabama Cycling Classic on Facebook page (Alabama Cycling Classic) and Twitter (@SunnyKingCrit #AnnistonCycling).
About Alabama Cycling Classic
The Sunny King Criterium began in 2002 as Anniston’s signature cycling event for professional and amateur male and female cyclists from around the globe. The start/finish line for the race is located at 11th and Noble streets in downtown Anniston, with 21 categorized races for adults and juniors. Two categorized road races for professional men and women will be held the following day for the McClellan Road Race. This event features more than 7,000 feet of climbing. It is the second stop on the USA Cycling Professional Road Tour. Admission is free for spectators. All races are managed by Start Smart Cycling.