Soladay Displays Raw Power to Take Big Win
At Historic Roswell Criterium
By Daniel Carruthers
Tom Soladay (Team Mtn. Khakis) took the biggest win of his career at the Historic Roswell Criterium, Sunday in the second race of the USA CRITS Speed Week series. Soladay won with such a tremendous display of raw power that he took the Gamblers prime on the penultimate lap and still managed, comfortably, to cross the finish line ahead of his more favored breakaway companions: Kyle Walmsley (Colavita/Sutter Home p/b Cooking Light), Zach Bell (Kelly Benefit Strategies), Frank Travieso (Champion Porsche P/b Herbalife/Racers Edge) and Bobby Lea (OUCH).
How it unfolded:
150 riders lined up on the one mile, tree-lined, Roswell course under sunny skies, Sunday. Besides the USA, there was quite an international flavor, with riders from New Zealand, Australia, Cuba, Ireland, Mexico, and Canada to name a few.
The race at Roswell was not as lightning fast as the Athens Twilight, but a high pace was still maintained throughout, with an average speed of 29 mph for the 80-minute contest. The hill on the back side of the course, combined with a slight cross-wind, served to stretch out the field each lap. But it usually came back together on the home straight where speeds were hitting 31 to 34 mph through the start-finish line. Riders would fan out going through the first turn and allow for some recovery before the hill.
Various attacks from different teams went up the road, but were quickly snuffed out by the spritely peloton. Nothing changed until a late race attack by Zach Bell of Canada started the winning breakaway. His move was quickly followed by Kyle Walmsley, Frank Travieso, Tom Soladay, and Bobby Lea. The five escapees quickly established a large gap that grew to 30 seconds through some slick work together. Teams that missed the break, such as Fly V Australia, Team Hotel San Jose and Team Type 1, were trying desperately to either bridge across, or bring it back to set up for a field sprint. Carlos Vargas (Team Hotel San Jose) was one of those riders doing his best to jump across but to no avail.
It was interesting to note that Jonny Sundt (Kelly Benefits) started from the back of the field at the beginning of the race and spent the majority of the time moving up slowly but surely on every lap. By the time he hit the front of the race, his teammate Bell was already in the breakaway group. Sundt then concentrated on protecting Bell’s advantage. He commented later that it was “difficult for the guys [Kelly Benefits] since we are recently back from stage racing in Asia, and are just getting back into the criterium style of racing.” Sundt was full of praise for Team Mountain Khakis. “They are racing extremely well and clearly have come to dominate; so my hats off to them.”
In a post-race interview, Soladay commented that the team had come to Roswell to win the race and were following the same plan as they did at the Athens Twilight Criterium a day earlier. Soladay’s win is even more remarkable when you consider that it wasn’t that long ago when he was hit by a car and suffered slight nerve damage. He seems to have made a speedy recovery, and the whole Team Mountain Khakis squad was right behind him Sunday. If the break was brought back, there were five other strong riders poised to do what it takes [to win].
Bell, who finished third, said that his teammates “dug in very deep today” and the Roswell Criterium was only his second crit this year (Athens Twilight being the first one); so he is still re-adjusting. Bell said that he thought Travieso “would go harder coming out of the final turn, but he eased up, and I ended up leading out.” Bell still held on to claim the final podium spot behind Kyle Walmsley.
Aldo Ilesic (Team Type 1) of Slovenia took out the bunch sprint by at least a bike length in front of John Murphy (OUCH) and Ben Kersten (Fly V Australia). Mark Hekman (Team Mountain Khakis) and Carlos Vargas (Team Hotel San Jose) rounded out the top ten.