A challenging race on the women’s side saw Miami miss the break of the day and was not able to sprint for the win on the final lap, but their men’s team was able to make the points with two riders in a breakaway, constantly raking in points until finally, winning the last lap with Clever Martinez to secure the event.
Fount Cycling finished in second for the day, after a solid showing from their women’s team, and CCB/Foundation took third. Interestingly, both teams would only score points during the women’s races.
The women’s race gets its long-awaited breakaway
After a weak qualifier, the Denver Disruptors were trailing Miami from the start,, starting 16 points behind its fellow NCL-founded team. But Denver made the most of a crash early on lap three, and went on the attack with Leah Kirchman and Argiro Milaki stacking up some points.
The highly technical course contained multiple roundabouts and strung out the peloton for much of the race. Moving up took considerable effort. In an early move with CCB, Denver and Fount tried to get off the front, but Miami, not wanting to put too much daylight between themselves and Denver, quickly took on the chase. The rising pace at the front put several riders at risk of getting dropped. But q pit change hampered Denver as its rider needed help to make it back into the break their teammate established. Denver failed to return to the break as CCB and Fount powered on. Kate Seiler of the CCB team broke away from the Fount rider and would go on to solo for 22 laps, earning max points.
The peloton seemed content to vie for the lower points and let the Fount and CCB racer ride out ahead of them. Finally, with 17 laps remaining, a Fount rider reconnected with a CCB rider but in the pack, some significant attacks were closing down the gap. But the chase failed. Fount beat CCB at the line yet both team has a significant lead entering the men’s race.
The series leader, Miami and Denver had an underwhelming race but the tension remained high as riders form both teams were seen yelling at and shoving one another.
The Men’s Race – series victory on the line
A fast start to the men’s race opened up gaps on lap one. Early on, Denver pushed hard to try to make an early split after seeing the breakaway’s success in the women’s race beforehand. A group of seven would get a small gap as the field sat up. Denver was at a disadvantage, though, with only one rider, while Miami Nights and Texas Roadhouse had two riders in that select group. A Mike’s Bikes rider and Kelly Benefits rider made up the rest of the breakaway.
Fount, leading the race with 99 points after a fantastic showing in the women’s event, didn’t want to miss out and managed to bridge to the break. But the pace was too high for the Fount rider, who fell off the break and rejoined the peloton.
With points on offer every single lap, the Miami and Denver riders in the breakaway were slowly making up the deficits to the CCB/Foundation and Fount teams, both unable to make the break.
Denver, being at a disadvantage, tried hard to get a second rider in that breakaway to even the odds. With 12 laps to go, Denver then began to counter the breakaway and eventually, Reinardt Janse van Rensburg managed to do so successfully, going clear from the breakaway.
To take the evening’s win as well as the overall series victory, Denver needed to win nearly every lap in addition to the the final lap to overtake the Fount women’s team. Riley Sheehan subbed in for Van Rensburg and he was fully committed to solo to the finish. And it looked promising as behind him, the remains of the seven-man breakaway was shattered.
But with nine laps remaining, a group of three, including one Texas Roadhouse rider, one Miami Nights rider and one Mike’s Bikes rider, finally reconnected to the Denver rider off the front. Showing the effort it took, all four riders would pit that lap, creating an all-new breakaway with Texas Roadhouse and Mike’s Bikes immediately attacking as Denver and Miami stared at each other in a deadlock trying to make the other rider chase.
With four laps remaining, Van Rensburg (Denver) reconnect to the Roadhouse and Mike’s Bikes duo, but had dragged Martinez (Miami) with him in the effort. It was goign to be a four-man fight at the finish, which at 30 points is worth 10 times the points of a regular lap.
With three laps to go, the break threatened to lap the peloton but stayed within 20 seconds of the pack’s tail end. With two laps to go, the TexasRoadhouse rider attacked solo, and Denver was again forced to chase as Miami sat on his wheel.
Entering the final sprint, Denver was pushed to the front and had to jump first, but then Van Rensburg dropped his chain, thereby losing the sprint and the chance of winning the overall NCL Cup.
Martinez of Miami took the win instead, helping his Miami secure both the day and the series overall.
Atlanta concludes the NCL debut year with the NCL-founded teams finishing in first and second place.
By reinventing what American bike racing looks like, the NCL aims to reignite cycling fandom in the United States. Its first season consisted of just three races, dominated by its own teams. Will we see the NCL return for another season? And will more teams be interested in joining the new league after seeing the intense racing? We will have to wait and see.
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