The Winston-Salem Cycling Classic, a two-day festival of cycling took place this past weekend in North Carolina, with the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling team taking two wins in the downtown criterium on Saturday with astute and tactical teamwork.
The short 1-km circuit was ideal for a breakaway to lap the field, and the UnitedHealthcare Team set out to do so in both the men’s and women’s race. The circuit featured a short but sharp climb on the backside of the course which shattered both races. The sweeping downhill finish was sure to produce exciting sprints, and the Blue Train lived up to the hype with two perfect lead out performances.
The 75-minute women’s race saw a 120-rider field toe the line. With a large field on a small circuit, Sports Director Rachel Heal instructed the team to start aggressively. The tactic paid off, as Alexis Ryan moved into a three rider break just a couple of minutes into the race. The escapees worked well together to build up a thirty second lead, and soon had sight of the tail end of the main field. After 60 minutes of racing, the three riders made contact.
With Ryan safely in the field, the rest of the UnitedHealthcare Women’s team patrolled the front of the field, ensuring no attacks could stay clear. The ferocious pace of the final laps whittled the group down to 13 riders as they saw one lap to go.
With a long, sweeping downhill finish, Coryn Rivera started her lead out early, giving Alexis Ryan the help she needed to cross the line in first place. Race winner Alexis Ryan commented, “Our team went into the race with good legs and aggressive tactics. We lapped the field with 22 laps remaining, then my teammates did an incredible job of neutralizing any attacks until the finish. Coryn kept me in great position during the final laps and dropped me off through the last turn. I took the sprint from the final corner and held it to the finish line. This was as much a team win as it was a personal one.”
Rather than an early move, it was a late race attack that secured victory for Brad White in the men’s professional field. After 60 minutes of racing, no moves had succeeded, but a solo effort by Gavin Mannion of Hincapie Racing provided the launch pad for White’s win. A small group bridged up to Mannion, and the breakaway proceeded to work together in the closing 15 laps to pull themselves onto the back of the main field.
Relying on the experience of the talented UnitedHealthcare Criterium Squad, the tactics were set. Employing Hilton Clark as master tactician, the team allowed a gap in the field to open up. The breathing room ensured Carlos Alzate could lead White to the line in style. White crossed the line in first, with Alzate celebrating behind him.
With Brad White’s family in attendance, the win had great significance for the sprinter. “It feels good. I have my brother, sister-in-law, and dad here. It’s not often you get to race in front of your family because we race all over the country, but to win in front of them was extra special,” said White.