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Clarke Takes NVGP Criterium
20 Jun, 2010
Hilton Clarke of the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team Presented by Maxxis won the bunch sprint of the Uptown Minneapolis Criterium Friday evening. It was his second consecutive stage win at the Nature Valley Grand Prix, which saw yesterday’s third stage canceled due to tornado warnings.

“This one we really had to work for,” said Team Director Mike Tamayo.

As they had in Wednesday evening’s race, UnitedHealthcare Presented by Maxxis sought to take over the front of the race from Kelly Benefits with 10 laps to go.

With nine to go, the Team had all eight riders on the front until Brad White was taken out in a crash. But he was able to get up, get back in and work his way up to the front to help out once again. Coming through the final lap, Clarke, wearing the jersey of the sprint competition leader, had his younger brother Jonny and Karl Menzies on the front doing final lead-out duties.

“A couple of the Fly V guys changed up their tactics a bit tonight and tried to get over top of us,” Clarke said. “Jonny and Karl got me to the last corner, and I only got past the two Fly V guys with meters to spare.”

A bike throw got Clarke the win ahead of Ken Hansen (Team Type 1) and Ben Kersten (Fly V Australia). Jake Keough of UnitedHealthcare Presented by Maxxis took 4th.

“It was definitely on tonight,” Clarke said. “I’m so proud of the team for their work tonight. The pressure was definitely on and they all just stayed calm and got the job done. Jonny and Karl rode incredibly and they did a great job getting me to the line. It was a very satisfying win.”

Every second counts

Adding pressure to the Team was the fact that they wanted to give 2nd overall Rory Sutherland a shot at picking up bonus seconds from the intermediate sprints and getting closer to race leader Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefits).

With 25 laps to go, a break was sitting 15-20 seconds up on the field. “Kelly was content to let the break stay out there to get the bonus seconds,” Tamayo said. “We chased for five laps to bring it back before the next intermediate sprint. But Kelly played it well. They sent their sprinters up and they took 1st and 2nd, so Rory got 3rd and took a one-second bonus.”

On the next one, Kelly Benefits put Zwizanski in a position to take 3rd in that intermediate sprint to earn back the second he lost earlier.

“Props to Kelly,” Tamayo said. “They defended really well today. They did a great job of racing.

Sutherland and the rest of UnitedHealthcare Presented by Maxxis will have another opportunity to take back those nine seconds tomorrow during the new Menomonie Road Race, a new, hilly, 95-mile course that takes the race into Wisconsin for the first time.

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