Binghampton, NY - Hilton Clarke of the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team Presented by Maxxis took 3rd in the bunch sprint at the end of the Chris Thater Memorial despite hitting the deck hard with seven laps to go.
"It was a little bit my own doing," Clarke said. "I looked back to see where they guys were and someone in front of me swerved a bit and I went down."
Clarke sustained road rash on both arms and his hip. Team Captain Tim Johnson also went down in the crash. Johnson went to the medical tent to have his wounds, which included road rash on most of the left side of his body attended to. Clarke went to the pit for a free lap. When the bunch came around again, he jumped back in.
"It took me a few laps to get myself squared away and mentally ready for the sprint," he said. By the final lap of the race, UnitedHealthcare Presented by Maxxis had gotten organized and in control of the front of the pack.
"Hilton and I found (Karl) Menzies' wheel going into the last lap and we were looking good," said teammate Jake Keough. "Then things got a bit diced up again. Coming out of the chicane in the last half of the lap, I hit must have kicked a bit funny and my leg cramped. I swung wide and I thought Hilton was going around me on the other side but he was coming around me on the same side and I cut him off a bit."
That caused Clarke to lose his position near the front and both riders lost the wheel of their lead-out, Menzies, who was still on the front coming out of the second to last corner.
"It took a lot of energy for us to get back up to the front," Clarke said. By that time, Fly V Australia had three riders up front for the sprint, leading out of the last corner on the finishing straight.
"We actually had more firepower up front on the last lap but sometimes things don't go right in the sprint," Clarke said. "Given the crash and the late mishaps, I was actually happy to walk away with 3rd on the day." It was the Fly V Australia duo of Jonathan Cantwell and Bernie Sulzberger took the top two spots.
The bunch kick came at the end of an aggressive, attacking race that saw most of the Team's seven-rider squad active in breaks throughout, including several late moves by Menzies.
"The guys rode a great race," said Keough, who finished 9th in the sprint. "We represented well in all the moves. Everyone was active. Even with Hilton's crash, everything went really well up until the last half a lap. It's unfortunate that things went the way they did late. Hilton obviously was going well, and under the circumstances, he did well to make the podium."
Clarke will get one more chance this year to show that form, at the Texas Tough in mid-September. "I'm going to be pretty motivated to get a result there," he said.
Photo: Jonathan Devic, Epic Images