Hilton Clarke Sprints to Criterium Victory at Intelligentsia Cup
Hilton Clarke wins Lake Bluff Criterium, with Carlos Alzate in third place.
The 90-minute Northwestern Medicine Lake Bluff Criterium formed the second-to-last stage of the Intelligentsia Cup in the Chicago, IL area. The National Criterium Calendar race was extra special for the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team, as many of the racers had friends of family from the area in attendance to support the team. Delivering a stylist sprint win, Hilton Clarke proved his form with a smooth and unchallenged victory. Carlos Alzate, fresh from a trip home to Colombia, working hard in the lead out, crossing the line in third place.
Being the only NCC race in the Intelligentsia Cup, the racing was fast from the start. Two long straights separated by tight corners on each end kept the field strung out and constantly hovering around 50kph. Carlos Alzate was active from the start, ensuring that no-one would be getting a free ride to the finish line.
The uphill finishing straight put a strain on the riders, and by the midway point of the race, gaps were forming throughout the pack as riders tired. First, Clarke, Alzate, and Brad White got away in a move that was too dangerous for the field to let slip. This was followed quickly by a counterattack with Adrian Hegyvary representing the UnitedHealthcare Blue Train. The move gave the rest of the team a chance to regroup, and with nine laps remaining on the circuit, the race was back together. The team moved the front, controlling the pace in the closing laps, and ensuring the perfect lead out for Clarke. The unrelenting pace left only 15 riders in the front group, and Alzate took a long turn on the front to ensure Clarke could take the win.
“With about 10 laps to go, the Blue Train hit the front to close down the last attack,” said Karl Menzies, who was instrumental in controlling the pace late in the race, “Hilton was able to capitalize on a great lead out and assert his lead in the NCC standings.”
“The Intelligentsia Cup always puts on a great show in Lake Bluff and getting the win there was a great honor for the team,” said Menzies
Clarke described the win from his point of view, “The Lake Bluff criterium was an aggressive race but seemed destined to come down to a field sprint. At seven laps to go, Team UnitedHealthcare took the front but the Astellas cycling team, who have been riding great this year, wrestled the front from us at five laps to go. Our team, with great experience, stayed calm and took back the front at three laps to go. From there the team delivered me to the line perfectly.” Commenting on the strength within the ranks of the UnitedHealthcare Blue Train, Clarke feels lucky to be the recipient of so much teamwork “It was basically all I could do to hold on to them once they started. And I was just the lucky one to be in the position to finish it off for them.”