Under overcast skies and unseasonably low temperatures the top professional cyclists across the U.S. battled for crowns in the 16th annual Sunny King Criterium. Winners took the early leads in the 20-event calendar for USA Cycling’s Professional Road Tour.
Lily Williams (Asheville, N.C./Hagens Berman-Supermint) grabbed the crown for the Pro Women in a head-to-head charge to the line against Lauretta Hanson (Milligan College, Tenn./UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling).Bryan Gomez (New York, N.Y./Holowesko-Citadel p/b Arapahoe Resources) lapped the field with teammateBrendan Rhim (Greenville, S.C./Holowesko-Citadel p/b Arapahoe Resources) to take the top two spots for the Pro Men.
The Alabama Cycling Classic combines the well-established Sunny King Criterium with the Piedmont Road Race for two full days of road racing. The Sunny King Criterium is the first stop on the 20-event calendar for USA Cycling’s Professional Road Tour. Saturday offered 21 categorized races for a variety of age groups and skill levels, capped under the lights with the signature PRT races for Cat 1/2 Pro Women and Cat 1 Pro Men.
The Pro Women’s criterium featured 54 riders all bunched together for the first 28 minutes on the four-turn, one-kilometer course. The field contained five previous Sunny King Crit champions - Lauren Hall of UnitedHealthcare (2017), Samantha Schneider of ISCorp Pro Cycling (2016), Erica Allar of Rally Cycling (2012), Laura Van Gilder of Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers (2007), and Tina Pic of Colavita-Bialetti Racing (2006 and 2008). It would be two 24-year-old riders taking the spotlight under the street lights in 2018.
The men’s 60-lap criterium took 1 hour, 34 minutes and 33 seconds to complete, for the Holowesko-Citadel teammates. The 65-rider field battled wind, rain and cold all night. Early in the race, after the first 10 laps, it was Gomez who attacked the field.
“I think the wet road made it easier to be in the breakaway. It was pretty cold. The weather made it hard,” said Gomez, a 23-year-old Colombian who moved up to the UCI Pro Continental team this year. “I’m pretty happy with how my team worked today. We came with a plan of winning the race. I just went, you know, I didn’t know I was going to make it to the end, but sometimes you find your legs. I just kept going, and going.
“Here in the States, this is actually one of my first big wins,” added Gomez, who finished sixth in Anniston last year. “I’m happy with this. I’m looking forward to getting more.”
It is a fourth consecutive year that a Hincapie Racing team has captured the top spot in the men’s race in Anniston. Rhim said the strategy was similar to last year, when John Murphy (Horse Shoe, N.C.) won the criterium and he finished fourth.
|2004||Dave McCook||Michelle Scott|
|2005||Juan Jose Haedo||Jenn Green|
|2006||Juan Jose Haedo||Tina Pic|
|2007||Frank Travieso||Laura Van Gilder|
|2008||Hilton Clarke||Tina Pic|
|2009||Karl Menzies||Brooke Miller|
|2010||Ben Kersten||Nicky Wangsgard|
|2011||Jonathan Cantwell||Janel Holcomb|
|2012||Issac Howe||Erica Allar|
|2013||Carlos Alzate||Coryn Rivera|
|2014||Carlos Alzate||Coryn Rivera|
|2015||Tyler Magner||Hannah Barnes|
|2016||Travis McCabe||Samantha Schneider|