Borrajo, Benjamin take Austin leg of USA CRITS Series Atlanta, Ga. (June 22, 2008) –With temperatures edging toward triple digits Argentina’s Alejandro Borrajo (Colavita Sutter Home) raced to victory, Saturday, at the AT&T Downtown Austin Criterium, the
Atlanta, Ga. (June 22, 2008) –With temperatures edging toward triple digits Argentina’s Alejandro Borrajo (Colavita Sutter Home) raced to victory, Saturday, at the AT&T Downtown Austin Criterium, the fourth installment of the 2008 USA CRITS Series. With the help of Anibal Borrajo, his brother and teammate, Alejandro Borrajo fought off a well-stocked field of top-shelf criterium racers that included the strong Toyota-United team who clearly came armed to win.
The race was held on a traditional four-corner, 1-kilometer circuit that ran counter-clockwise down Guadalupe Street and around to Colorado Street. The men’s field was vying for a $20,000 in prize money as well as crucial points for the overall Series competition.
"It's a world-class event,” event organizer Barry Lee said of the race, which is also part of the 2008 National Racing Calendar. “It’s one of the largest crits in the U.S., purse-wise, with the largest number of super high-end racers," he added.
Earlier in the day, severe lightning plagued the race course, but the weather improved significantly by the time the evening’s main events began. Prior to the race getting underway, Series leader Australia’s Jeff Hopkins (Team Inferno) held only a 91-point lead over Rock Racing’s Rahsaan Bahati, so Hopkins knew that the competition to stay on top would be tough. “I feel pretty lucky to still be leading,” he said. “But with the next couple of races, Iron Hill and Gastown, coming up, this is where the hard work starts.”
To maintain his lead, Hopkins would have no choice but to mark Bahati throughout the race, and make sure the 2008 Athens Twilight Criterium winner didn’t make an advantageous move that would cost Hopkins the overall Series lead. But, much like last week’s Skyscraper Harlem Cycling Classic, no significant move was allowed to get away from the main field and, as the 75 minutes of racing wound down, it was clear that the riders would be looking at a bunch gallop for a finish.
With seven laps to go, Toyota-United began to orchestrate a lead-out train for their man, Australia’s Hilton Clarke. The men in red, white, and blue lifted the pace just enough to control the remainder of the race, but as they approached the final few hundred meters, it was Borrajo and not Toyota-United who proved to be the strongest on the day.
Borrajo’s win and Toyota’s inclusion of three riders in the top ten meant that Hopkins had, indeed, slipped out of the top slot for the overall Series. Bahati at 713 points now holds that position, but only by a narrow 14-point margin over Cuban rider Yosvany Falcon (TOSHIBA-Santo). Hopkins is now holding down third place, 70 points back.
In the women’s race, an equally choice assembly of pro female cyclists met to contest a $10,000 purse. Top-notch squads such as Tibco, Aaron’s Professional Women's Cycling Team, and Colavita-Sutter Home were all represented. As they have at virtually every contest they’ve entered in recent memory, the strong Cheerwine squad, led by Laura Van Gilder and USA CRITS Series leader Kelly Benjamin, knew their chief competition lay with the current reigning US National Criterium Champion Tina Pic.
Unlike the men’s event, the women’s race was not only marred by several crashes, but it also saw a well-represented escape group get off the front of the field for several laps. That effort was neutralized, however, and a sprint finish was clearly in the offing.
Pic, who arrived in Austin after adding another win to her 2008 racing calendar at this year’s Cannon Falls Road Race, arrived in Austin nursing significant wrist pain from a fall she took in Philly.
That aside, Pic made a last-minute effort to fight her way to the finish first, but was met with a fierce rebuttal from her rivals, as Benjamin beat Pic outright at the line. Local favorite and 2007 Austin winner Jen McCrae finished behind Benjamin and Pic in third. With the win Benjamin has also put a good distance between herself and Jennifer Wilson (Vanderkitten), who still sits behind Benjamin for the Series overall.
The next event in the USA CRITS Series is the Iron Hill Twilight Criterium which, for the second year in a row, will be held on the same day as the initial stage of Tour De France. Racers will assemble in West Chester, Pennsylvania on July 5th for what is now one of the fastest growing criteriums in the USA.
Iron Hill Twilight Criterium
West Chester, PA
BC Cancer Foundation's Tour de Gastown
Wells Fargo Twilight Criterium
Chris Thater Memorial
USA CRITS Final
Las Vegas, NV
About USA CRITS
USA CRITS National Criterium Series has been developed to feature a brand of cycling unique to the United States, the criterium. Criteriums are historically run on short laps through city streets. They offer spectators the opportunity to watch Olympians, world and national champions up-close as they ride at top speed. This has made the criterium format the most spectator-friendly form of cycling entertainment. Events on the USA CRITS series have the ideals that have made criterium racing an American legacy: Challenging courses that showcase arts and entertainment districts; a large and energized base of spectators; broad community support; and strong marketing opportunities for sponsors. For more information, visit www.usacrits.com.