Iris Slappendel Takes Win on Final Day of Gateway Cup
Iris Slappendel finished the 2016 Gateway Cup in style over labor day weekend, with a win in the Benton Park Classic Criterium. The four day weekend of racing attracted the strongest teams in the country to compete for the large prize purse and the USA Cycling Pro Road Tour points on the line. In addition to Slappendel’s win, the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling team took second place in the men’s race, after a successful ride in the break by Carlos Alzate.
The Dutch rider Slappendel has been competing in the USA for the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling team all season, and has had a couple near misses in recent weekends before finally landing on top of the box in St. Louis. The Benton Park race had plenty of interest from the gun, with the UnitedHealthcare Team doing battle with the IS Corp team of the series leader Skylar Schneider.
An early attack by Cari Higgins, Slappendel, and two riders from the IS Corp team was given a short lead by the pack before being caught. At that point Coryn Rivera attacked but once again the lead gained was short lived. Coming into the final five laps, Slappendel hit out again and made a move stick with Skylar Schneider. This time the 30 second cushion was enough to survive to the end, and it came down to the tactics of Slappendel to pull off the win. With a slight downhill run into the finish, the UnitedHealthcare Team rider launched her move early, gaining momentum through the final corner and holding on to win at the line.
The men’s event followed a similar form to the women’s race that went down earlier in the evening. Many small groups of riders went off the front at the beginning, with little coordination. It wasn’t until a move of six riders worked well together that the move stuck. Carlos Alzate was present in that move for the Blue Train, and contributed to the pace setting duties as the race wore on.
The main bunch behind began a concerted chase effort with about 30 minutes of racing remaining, but the break did not come back. Instead, the high pace from the leaders caused the group to splinter, and riders got dropped. Alzate stuck it out until the end, dealing with being outnumbered by the Gateway Harley Davidson team. With little option but to chase, Alzate successfully brought back a dangerous move with 2 laps to go, but couldn’t quite overcome George Simpson of the Gateway Harley Davidson team who took the win.
Alzate’s second place ensured the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team left St Louis with a podium appearance on each of the four days of racing.
Up next for the UnitedHealthcare Team is the Reading 120 road race in Pennsylvania. The race was won in the pouring rain by Danny Summerhill last year. With Summerhill switching focus to cyclocross, the team will be bringing a motivated squad with the hope of finding a new winner.