The first race in the 2014 Kansas road season is in the books. The Spring Fling Criterium Series was held about a week earlier than usual and somehow managed to miss the snow storms, polar vortex, and other various winter weather that has plagued the region over the past couple of months. An uncharacteristic spring-like day greeted riders with temperatures reaching nearly 60 degrees.
The warm weather and lack of races this time of year brought in riders from all over the region. Many riders doubled up adding over 230 race entries on the day.
The organizers, who had eliminated the 1/2 field for the past few years (last year there was a 2/3 field), opened the race back up with a 1/2/3 category this season. Riders from several states descended on Lawrence to test their early season fitness and get a jump on the race season.
The 1/2/3 race was fast from the gun. With a large group of 40 riders, a strong field, and so many teams represented, there would be hard efforts to form a successful breakaway.
Attacks came fast and what looked like a solid early break about 3 laps into the race was chased down one lap later. After the first group was brought back into the fold, another group quickly got off the front again. Steve Tilford jumped with Joe Fox quickly joining him. Two other riders, Garrick Valverde and Michael Smith also made the connection with Steve and Joe. The group of four riders worked together to distance themselves from the chasing pack while other riders were being shelled off the back of the chase group due to the high speeds and multiple attempts at forming a small chase group.
The race was jumpy; there were very few laps in the hour-long criterium that didn’t see riders trying to jump of the front of the chase group. This made for many leg-breaking efforts to close gaps and hold wheels.
The leader group kept a steady pace while the main chase group dealt with the constant surges. With four riders off the front and only four places to contest in the intermediate sprints, the leaders were left to challenge each other for the intermediate points. With about 10 minutes left to go in the race the four leaders had lapped almost all of the riders in the field and sat in with the main group to wait for the finish. Tilford took the win with Garrick, Michael, and Joe taking the next three spots respectively.
There are 4 more races in the early season criterium series. The races are held at Clinton Lake State Park in Lawrence, KS.
Photos: Roger Harrison