Memorial Day marked the sixth edition of what’s fast becoming an American Cycling tradition, the Winston-Salem Cycling Classic. The two day event features a downtown criterium on Saturday followed by the main event on Monday, the UCI 1.1 ranked Winston Salem Cycling Classic Road Race; 177.8km of racing over a 13.7km circuit amassing over 2100m of climbing in 13 laps around the city. Absent from the 2017 edition of the race, Elevate-KHS Pro Cycling made it a point to make an impression on the host city.
Elevate-KHS Pro Cycling came into the Winston-Salem Cycling Classic weekend fresh off a string of sprint victories in the Redlands Cycling Classic Criterium and the Dana Point Grand Prix, so the team was looking for a fast finish in Saturday’s USA Crits Criterium from sprinters Alfredo Rodriguez and Sam Bassetti. The criterium featured a figure 8 1.4km course with six turns and 24m of elevation per lap, most of which coming on the 4.3% “Hill of Doom.”
The criterium would ultimately come down to a fast sprint like predicted with Colin Joyce (Rally Cycling) taking the win, edging out Pier-Andre Cote (Silber) and Alfredo. The team worked great all night and gave Alfredo the opportunity to take another trip to the podium this season finishing the night in 3rd place, and giving the team motivation for Sunday’s finale.
With a difficult course and inclement weather on tap, the team turned their focus towards their biggest test of the season, 177km UCI 1.1 ranked Winston-Salem Cycling Classic Road Race. With rain compounding the already difficult day, the team knew making the break would be key to taking a victory home from North Carolina.
“We had a super good team effort overall,” said Sam Bassetti. “We had guys committed 2 hours into the race to riding themselves out of the race to set up the team for a mid race break.” Mid way through the event Kevin Girkins, Eder Frayre, and Bassetti found themselves up the road in a group that looked capable of staying away until the end.
On the final lap the group whittled its way down to 9 riders heading into the final climb with less than a minute on a chase group. It was clear no one wanted to come to the line for a sprint with Saturday’s criterium sprint winner, Joyce (Rally Cycling), in the group, so attacks came one right after the other.
At the base of the climb, the group fractured into 4 riders each attacking each other, with Sam finding the energy to follow and counter until he could finally break free. “I was in the front group all day,” Sam added, “in the end it came down to four of us at the top of the climb, and I was the one with the most jump left.”
The attacks first came from Rally, then counted by Holowesko, and Bassetti remained calm as he followed each attack. After a final surge from Hollowesko with a kilometer remaining, Sam dug deep, separating himself from the remaining three chasers. He put his head down and rode the final three turns solo. He gained enough distance on the chase for a long celebration across the finish line.
“I just had the legs at the end,” the race winner said grinning.
This victory caps a great block of racing for Bassetti, who won the Green Sprinters Jersey at the UCI Joe Martin Stage Race. He soon followed that victory up with a with a win at the Redlands Bicycle Classic Criterium, backed up with an impressive 3rd place on the Sunset Road Race the following day.
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