USPRO Criterium Championships
– Reported by Ray Cipollini for Team Navigators –
The 2002 USPRO Criterium National Championship was held Sunday in the Chicago suburb of Downers Grove. As in most of its previous editions, all of America’s best criterium riders lined up on the 100Km, figure-8 course to do battle for the coveted Stars-and-Stripes Jersey of National Champion. About 90 riders took the start at 4:00PM under a bright, sunny
sky in front of thousands of excited cycling fans.
With a lot of horsepower and speed, most of the squads were looking to get the right combination of their riders up the road with limited representation from the other squads. With no team able to dominate, it
was a series of short-lived breakaways that ruled the day. Just after the half-way point of the race, a group of 10 escaped the grip of the speeding peloton and gained up to 25-seconds on the chasers. With all of the major squads represented, with the exception of Prime Alliance, it looked to be the move of the day. Navigators’ Chris Baldwin and Mark Walters were going
away and charting the course for the men in blue. With 10-laps remaining, the combined efforts of 7-Up and Prime Alliance brought the gap down and the escapees were reabsorbed by the peloton. As the lap cards were winding down, it looked to be another massive field sprint as the sprinters and their lead-out trains started forming in anticipation of a bunch gallop. Unfortunately, with 4.5 laps remaining, a huge crash in one of the
fastest corners took down about 30 riders, and those that were caught behind had to come to a full stop. This left about 21 riders at the head of the field and still in the race. Each of the teams was hard-hit with
the loss of riders, and Navigators’ pre-race favorites Marty Nothstein and Chris Baldwin were among the victims. The Navigators’ men in blue had the
numbers in the field with 5 total, but a puncture with just 3 laps remaining took out key lead-out man Ciaran Power. Most of the teams still had good sprinters in the final group, all looking to take the USPRO Title,
the race win, or both. The last 2 laps were a veritable free-for-all as the riders battled for the proper sprint position. At the end, it was Mercury’s Henk Vogels exiting the last corner first, to hold off Kevin Monahan (7-Up) and Robbie Ventura (U.S. Postal). Navigators’ Vassili Davidenko was the highest placed on the day in 5th, sandwiched between Roberto Gaggioli (Schroeder Iron) and Ivan Dominguez (Saturn). With the Australian Vogels taking the win, it was Monahan as the first American and the recipient of the Stars-and-Stripes Jersey of National Champion.
Luckily, all of the riders caught in the late race crash were up and moving around with no serious injuries.