August 15, 2010 (Glencoe, Illinois) – In a powerful, scene-stealing performance that has become increasingly common for Kelly Benefit Strategies Pro Cycling, David “Le Carcajou” Veilleux sprinted to victory at the USPRO Criterium Championship in Glencoe, Illinois. The Canadian, who sped across the line in his own country’s red Criterium Champion’s kit, became the first ever rider from Canada to win both the Canadian and American Criterium championships. Although he cannot add the stars and stripes jersey to his growing collection due to his nationality, he was the outright winner on the day and helped the team crown their second USPRO Criterium Champion (Martin Gilbert won the race in 2007) in its brief four year history.
The championship race, which ran through a twisty, narrow course in downtown Glencoe on Saturday, proved to be a wild and sometimes confusing ride. With American riders gunning for the champion’s kit, foreign riders like Veilleux are in a unique position, riding for their American teammates but also setting their sights on winning the race outright if the conditions arise.
Attacks were flying from the gun, and teammates Jesse Anthony and Guy East were part of a break that escaped in the first few laps. Anthony attacked from the break, jumping away clean and riding an impressive and lengthy flyer for 8 laps before being reabsorbed.
Following Anthony’s flyer, a break launched containing 12 riders. Veilleux, Alex Candelario, and Scott Zwizanski made the split that included a number of American sprint threats, including Jelly Belly’s Michael Friedman and Fly V Australia’s Jonathan Cantwell. When the break started to put a lot space between themselves and the peloton, Performance Director Jonas Carney knew the team was in a good spot.
“I was happy with where we were sitting in the break,” said Performance Director Jonas Carney after the race. “Our main goal for the race was to have Candelario and Veilleux near the front so they would have an opportunity to win the race. They are our top sprinters and have been riding great lately, so we knew we would have a great chance with them in the break. Adding in Zwizanski, that was a powerful group and we liked our chances.”
Zwizanski was saddled with a tough job for the day, riding on a support role for sprint threats Veilleux and Candelario. Zwizanski drilled the front of the break, keeping the gap wide and making things increasingly tough for the lagging peloton. His efforts on the front allowed Candelario and Veilleux to save their energy for the final laps, with a sprinters duel all but inevitable. The break continued to gain time heading into the final 15 laps, and it became a real possibility they would not be caught.
“It’s a long season and at Elk Grove it was obvious that a lot of riders are getting tired. After previewing the course and looking at the rosters we knew there was a high probability of a break sticking. That is what we wanted, so we started attacking from the beginning of the race to put pressure on the other teams.” added Carney. “Once we saw the composition of the break and the gap went to 20 seconds it was obviously not coming back. At that point we went all in with Zwiz to give David and Cando a shot at the win and the jersey.”
The tension ratcheted up a notch when Fly V Australia’s Bernie Sulzberger launched an attack from the break in an attempt to sneak away for good. Veilleux and Carney knew covering the move was a wise and necessary decision, as the American riders in the break would not be concerned with a foreigner’s attack. Veilleux quickly jumped on the Australian’s wheel, and the Canadian and Australian riders began to put the hurt on the break.
“It’s a bit of a bitter-sweet win because we were looking forward to the US jersey but at least we won the bike race,” said Veilleux. “I saw we had a gap so I rode hard to open it; my director Jonas Carney told me to go for the win.
“Before the race we wanted to win the jersey but if we were in the situation to win the bike race then we were allowed to go for it. When they saw we were two foreign riders I don’t think they were concerned and kind of let us go,” he explained.
With the peloton all but dropped heading into the final 10k, the race was was completely split in two, and fans would be treated to a double dose of action – a sprint finish for the outright winner between Veilleux and Sulzberger, followed by another mad dash from the Americans in the break to take the stars and stripes.
Le Carcajou looked strong, rounding the final bend in the lead before the massive Glencoe crowd. Even after spending 10 laps working to stay away from the chasers, he had the legs to power away from Sulzberger on the final straightaway to claim the victory.
“Even though I was on the front working hard for so many laps, I still had the legs to take control of the sprint,” added Veilleux. “This is a huge win for our team and is great momentum heading into Euorpe.”
A few seconds later, the remains of the break came powering through the corner, but with Zwizanski torched from his efforts on the front and Candelario’s lead-out already celebrating the outright victory, it was not an ideal situation for the veteran sprinter. He was still able to sprint for the bronze medal among the American riders, and could rest easy knowing Veilleux had claimed the overall.
“I thought it was a great course,” said Candelario, who raced in the USPRO Criterium for his tenth consecutive year. “It’s unfortunate we don’t have Downers Grove because it is nice to have some tradition in America; we don’t have very many races that continue year after year. But, when a community comes out to support an event like this you have to really show a lot of gratitude towards that.
“They put on a great race and I thought the course was worthy of a national championships, it was hard,” he continued. “I thought it was harder than Downers Grove. Downers Grove was so set in stone that everyone had their game plan year after year so you saw the same race play out year after year. It was pretty boring. Today, you could tell right away that it was a hard race and a break was going to go.”
The team will head directly to Europe following the victory, where it will spend 10 days in some of the toughest and most competitive races in the world. Read an in-depth preview of the race HERE or at kbsprocycling.com – results here.
– Given the fact that Veilleux became the first ever rider to claim both of North America’s Criterium titles in one year, Le Carcajou could technically be granted a new title – North American Criterium Champion.