Arlington, VA - The Air Force Cycling Classic weekend wouldn't have ended any better for the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team Presented by Maxxis. Really. The Team swept the podium of the Crystal City Cup today, as Jake Keough led the charge to the line just ahead of teammates Karl Menzies and Hilton Clarke. The win completed the sweep begun yesterday with Clarke's win of the Clarendon Cup.
Under conditions that were a bit warmer and more humid then yesterdays' steamy Clarendon Cup, the peloton gathered at the Air Force Memorial for the national anthem and a flyover by Air Force jets. The peloton did a neutral 2 km roll down the hill from the memorial onto the 2 km-long course before racing commenced. There were a number of attacks but nothing was going anywhere, perhaps in part because of the hot, mid-day conditions.
"It seemed pretty apparent that we were headed for a field sprint today," Keough noted. UnitedHealthcare Presented by Maxxis was prepared.
"We had our lead-out dialed in today," Keough said. "With five laps to go, we took over the front. The Team rode unbelievably. We were going so hard, no one could even come up next to us. We had all eight guys on the front. (Matt) Crane, Heg (Adrian Hegyvary) and Brad (White) kept the pace really high. Pinner (Andrew Pinfold), Jonny (Clarke), Karl, Hilton and me were all lined up behind them.
"With one to go, Pinner hit out with Jonny on his wheel. The last corner is about 400 meters to the line, which is a bit far for a sprint. So Jonny held onto the front long enough to drop off Karl, Hilton and me for the sprint."
And still no one could come up next to them.
"Karl went, and then Hilton jumped off his wheel. And then I jumped off Hilton's wheel and we all just took it to the line," Keough said. "All the top sprinters were at this race, so to have this kind of showing today was pretty exciting. After yesterday's win, this was more than just icing on the cake. It was another layer entirely."
In two days of racing with the Team, Hilton Clarke has now been part of two victories, delivering the first one yesterday. Keough noted that he isn't too surprised that Clarke is fitting in so seamlessly so quickly.
"We raced against Hilton a lot already this year," Keough said. "In a normal sprint situation, I used to fight Hilton for Karl's wheel. Today, I ended up on the Hilton's wheel, which is right where I wanted to be.
"We maybe got off to a slow start this season," he continued. "We have a lot of guys with a lot of experience, but it takes some race time to get it together so that we all know where to be. By the end of Speed Week you could see things coming together and Hilton was always in there mixing it up with us. But I think for the last month, we've proven that we can take over the front with 10 laps to go and take it to the line.
"This weekend gives us a tremendous amount of momentum and confidence going into Nature Valley this week," he added. "We're all really looking forward to starting that on Wednesday."
Photo: Jonathan Devich, Epic Images