Rain can’t dampen cri­terium

South Carolina na­tive wins men’s pro race in the rain at 14th an­nual event in West Ch­ester

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Neil Geoghe­gan ngeoghe­gan@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @NeilMGeoghe­gan on Twit­ter

For the first time since de­but­ing in 2005, the Bench­mark Twi­light Cy­cling Clas­sic was staged dur­ing per­sis­tent rain show­ers on Satur­day in down­town West Ch­ester. And while the con­di­tions cer­tainly af­fected at­ten­dance, three rain-soaked cham­pi­ons were crowned while many mar­veled at the amount of spec­ta­tors on hand for the mar­quee Iron Hill Pro Men’s Cri­terium. “It’s re­ally im­pres­sive that we’ve had this many peo­ple come out with the rain we’ve had,” said Mark Yoder, pres­i­dent of the Greater West Ch­ester Cham­ber of Com­merce.

“Last year we had a short rain de­lay and a cou­ple years ago we had swel­ter­ing heat and a wind storm that came through. But we’ve never had a drench­ing, con­stant rain like we had this year.”

The high­light of the 14th an­nual event – held on an eight-block, rec­tan­gu­lar cir­cuit – was a rare field sprint to con­clude a fran­tic, high-paced pro men’s race. Corey Davis, a na­tive of Greenville, S.C., crossed the line in first place ahead of runner-up Tom Gib­bons by just over a sec­ond.

“It never slowed down,” said Davis, age 25. “It was full-out from the start, on a su­per fun course with great at­mos­phere. The rain just added an­other ele­ment to it.

“This is one of the best venues we see all sea­son.”

The rain ac­tu­ally let up for the fi­nale, which was staged on wet pave­ment. The rid­ers in the Brum­baugh Pro Women’s Cri­terium and the Roth­man In­sti­tute Am­a­teur Cri­terium were not so lucky.

For the sec­ond time in three years, a Sch­nei­der won the pro women’s race. In 2016, it was Sky­lar Sch­nei­der, and this year her older sis­ter, Sam, pre­vailed. Ear­lier, Eas­ton na­tive Sean Guy­dish

made his first com­pe­ti­tion in West Ch­ester a mem­o­rable one with a wire-to-wire win in the am­a­teur race.

The ninth of the 10-city U.S.A. CRITS Cham­pi­onship Se­ries, West Ch­ester has be­come one of the more pop­u­lar stops ac­cord­ing to Gene Dixon, the di­rec­tor of USA Crits.

“This is one of the great events in our se­ries and it has been for years,” Dixon said. “Down­town West Ch­ester has changed a lot over the years and we’d like to take credit for that, but we know it’s not just us. This en­vi­ron­ment makes an ex­cel­lent set­ting for some great rac­ing.

“Our rid­ers love com­ing here. Cri­terium rac­ing across the na­tion is held in a lot of cities. We have a lot of ath­letes who look for­ward to this stop be­cause of the at­mos­phere. You can’t recre­ate it. It’s not like we can go to a park­ing lot and build this kind of at­mos­phere. It’s be­ing down­town that gives you that.”

Un­like the ear­lier races, there was no suc­cess­ful break­away dur­ing the en­tire

75 kilome­ter men’s pro race. In the fi­nal lap, Davis came from fourth place to out-sprint the rest of the field. His win­ning time was 40 min­utes, 7.5 sec­onds.

“We all thought there would be a break, so it’s hard to be­lieve it wound up a field sprint,” said Davis, who is a mem­ber of the Cy­clus Sports Team. “This is a huge win for my team. It’s a first-year team.”

A na­tive of sub­ur­ban Mil­wau­kee, Sam Sch­nei­der’s late push was enough to win the rain-soaked 40-kilome­ter pro women’s race. For a long time, how­ever, it looked like a run­away vic­tory for Texan Lau­ren Rath­bun, who led all of the way be­fore be­ing over­taken with just two laps to go.

Thanks to help from ISCorps Pro Cy­cling team­mate Josie Tal­bot, Sch­nei­der was able to bridge a 14-sec­ond gap be­hind Rath­bun with 20 laps re­main­ing. It was down to seven sec­onds with 12 to go, but once Rath­bun be­gan lap­ping a group of back mark­ers, Sch­nei­der and the chase group made a big move.

“If it wasn’t for Josie I would not have been able win this race,” said Sch­nei­der, who had a win­ning time of 54:48.5 said. “It took

quite a bit of ef­fort to bring back Laura.”

Af­ter­wards, Sch­nei­der com­mented on the size of the soggy crowd near the fin­ish line at the cor­ner of Gay and High streets.

“I couldn’t make it here last year but I def­i­nitely had this race on the sched­ule this year, and I’m glad I did,” she said.

“The West Ch­ester race is def­i­nitely on ev­ery­body’s radar. How awe­some are the crowds out here? It’s such a great com­mu­nity and we are thrilled to come here and race.”

In the 35 kilome­ter am­a­teur race, Guy­dish opened a five-sec­ond lead on a group of a dozen pur­suers mid­way through, and pro­ceeded to in­crease the mar­gin in nine sec­onds soon there­after. He be­gan lap­ping dropped rid­ers with four laps to go and wound up win­ning by eight sec­onds over Kevin Westover in a time of 43:38.3.

“It was a very tech­ni­cal race, which fa­vors me,” said Guy­dish, from team Young Medal­ists. “Get­ting clear of the main group helped me a lot be­cause the pave­ment was wet. I was able to stay up­right, es­pe­cially on the cor­ners.”

It was the sec­ond year of a five-year com­mit­ment as

ti­tle spon­sor for Bench­mark Fed­eral Credit Union. And even though weather was an is­sue, at­ten­dees made the best of the sit­u­a­tion, ac­cord­ing to Bench­mark’s Di­rec­tor of Mar­ket­ing Re­becca Wor­thing­ton.

“Weather is the one ele­ment none of us can con­trol,” she said, “There are not as many peo­ple here as in the past cou­ple years. There wasn’t as many in the kid’s races as nor­mal, and I also heard the Com­mu­nity Fest wasn’t as crowded, so the weather has played a part.

“But it cer­tainly hasn’t stopped those with VIP tick­ets. The VIP tent is packed.”

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