Team UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling sweeps the men’s podium at 2014 UBC Grand Prix

Seven riders breakaway early and sprint to the finish in Women’s Criterium

Vancouver, BC – BC Superweek wasn’t on the 2014 schedule of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling, but the men’s team of riders knew the prestige of the series and as such, paid their own way to come and race. And if Tuesday’s results at the UBC Grand Prix p/b Mahony & Sons are any indication, it was a good decision for the team to make. UnitedHealthcare finished 1-2-3 on the podium after a seven rider sprint to the finish.

Road Captain Hilton Clarke of Australia, a 13-year pro who finished second behind teammate Luke Keough, expressed how thrilled UnitedHealthcare is to be at BC Superweek.

“It’s great to be here at UBC, this is a great event and our team is really happy to be here this year. Our team is really strong, we work really hard at this and we know how special tomorrow night (in Gastown) is as well, so we’ve really put a big emphasis on that too,” mentioned Clarke. “We’re not really trying to come 1-2-3, but it’s a credit to our team, they just do such hard work for us every week and I’m really happy for them doing what they did and it’s great to be on the podium.”

Being on the podium is nothing new for Keough, as the Sandwich, Massachusetts product has been finished in the top three on nine different occasions in 2014, including a first place finish in Stage 2 of the Saint Francis Tulsa Tough Criterium last month. As for his win Tuesday at UBC, the 22-year-old gave all the credit to his teammates.

“These guys are so drilled, so strong, and it’s just great to have a group of guys who work so well together,” Keough said. “To be able to deliver us to the line like that, it’s something like nothing else.”

Team UnitedHealthcare is one of the strongest at BC Superweek, but not many would have predicted the clean sweep of the podium in their first race of the series. Keough adds that they’re always trying to win each race, but they don’t set out with a goal of finishing first, second, and third specifically.

“We set it up so we try and guarantee something on the podium. When we can run (the race) that late, we can obviously even sweep it,” he explained. “We’re always happy for any good result, the racing is super fast here (at BC Superweek) and we’re psyched for that.”

The race was marred by numerous crashes, most of which occurred at a hairpin turn not far from the start/finish line. Third place finisher Ken Hanson was a victim of a crash on the 20th lap, but was able to get back into the race and claim a spot on the podium.

“A rider crashed in front of me in the 180 (degree turn) and when that happens, there’s really no place to go, so I ended up on the ground too,” said Hanson. “Fortunately, I was okay and the bike just needed some adjustments, I got back in and then just wanted to make sure I could help the team finish strong in the sprint.”

As a result of the fall, Hanson was nursing some battle wounds afterwards. He sported a nasty gash on his left elbow and left knee and had a scrape on his rear end where his shorts ripped.

WOMEN’S RACE

Fans who watched the UBC Grand Prix p/b Mahony and Sons in 2013 when seven riders broke away early in the race and a bunch sprint finished it may have thought it was deja vu this year – except for one difference. 12 months ago, it happened during the men’s race and this year it happened during the women’s race.

Early on in the 40 lap, 32 kilometre race, seven riders staked their claim ahead of the peloton and it stayed that way until the very end, when New Zealand’s Joanne Kiesanowski of Team TIBCO To The Top sprinted past Winnipeg’s Leah Kirchmann of Team Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies to grab the victory in her first visit to BC Superweek.

“It was a strong break because there were a couple of other teams, so they were really content to drive it and I worked for a little bit, but then I saw I was the only one from my team and it wasn’t really my job to push it. I was actually happy that if it came back to a sprint, I would have backed myself for a big bunch sprint,” the 35-year-old explained. “I tried to attack them with five laps to go, I had a little dig there to see what I could do and then it came back together again so I just waited for the sprint and I jumped really early and managed to hold it all the way to the line.”

With the break occurring so early in the race, the riders had to think that maybe it was too early.

“I wasn’t sure if our break was going to be successful at first, but it was full of really strong riders and most of the big teams were represented and so that really worked to our advantage,” said Kirchmann.

For Kirchmann, it’s her third straight time on the podium at BC Superweek after wins in Sunday’s White Rock | Delta Road Race and Saturday’s Brenco Criterium. Both Kiesanowski and third place rider, Laura Van Gilder of Team Mellow Mushroom Racing, were well aware of their competition in the sprint to the finish.

“Leah’s been in really good form lately, she’s been riding super strong so I knew she was definitely one of the ones to beat today as well as some of the other ones in the break. So I’m really, really happy to win,” Kiesanowski said of Kirchmann, who won the Canadian National Championship Road Race, Individual Time Trial, and Criterium last month.

49-year-old Van Gilder, who is a 22-year pro, felt the pressure from the other high-powered riders.

“There were very fast women in there in Joanne Kiesanowski and three-time Canadian Champion (Leah Kirchmann) and their teammates, so I knew I had to be as cagey as I could and both Jo and Leah beat me to the final corner, and it was really about that corner today,” said Van Gilder. Despite racing professionally since 1992, it’s just the second time she’s raced the UBC Grand Prix.

“Jo had the advantage in that she was the only one from her team in the breakaway and so she didn’t have to do as much of the work when we were away and we didn’t necessarily expect her to,” Kirchmann continued. “Myself and my teammate, we probably did a little more work in the breakaway and I just wasn’t in the right position there at the end to get the win today.”

The UBC Grand Prix course is short (about 800 metres per lap) with a number of sharp corners, but that suits Kiesanowski just fine.

“I really love technical courses. I grew up riding track, so I love the hairpins, it’s like a standing start every time, just like on the track. I was happy when I saw the course whereas some people might be scared,” she smiled.

BC Superweek features $120,000 in prize money available during nine races over 10 days. BC Superweek runs from July 4-13, and is made up of the Tour de Delta (July 4, 5, 6), UBC Grand Prix p/b Mahony & Sons (July 8), Global Relay Gastown Grand Prix (July 9), Giro di Burnaby p/b Appia Developments (July 10) and the Tour de White Rock (July 11, 12, 13).

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