Photo by Luke Seemann
Murphy survives wet title chase
John Murphy (Team OUCH) is your new national criterium champion after a wet, storm-delayed race in Downers Grove that will go down as one of the most thrilling and heartbreaking in American cycling history.The race started an hour late after a serious thunderstorm whipped through shortly after the big-wheel race. The pavement stayed wet for the duration and caused no shortage of mayhem, particularly in the final laps. Fewer than 30 riders remained with two to go, dominated as usual by a large Kelly Benefit Strategies train, followed by a well-organized Team OUCH. Defending champion Rahsaan Bahati (Rock Racing) was completely isolated, as was favorite Tony Cruz (BMC), who rode the entire race without teammates. With one to go, the race was reduced to two small groups. Kelly had four and Team OUCH had two in the lead group of six. A mish-mosh of teams composed the 10-strong chasing group a few seconds back. After the second group regained contact, Tasmanian Karl Menzies (Team OUCH) was putting together a leadout for Murphy when he wiped out into Turn 5, with Murphy barely dodging the wreckage. Bahati then surged out of Turn 7 and led into fateful Turn 8 with victory in his grasp. At the apex of the turn, however, his wheels went out from under him and he slid into the hay in a devastating conclusion to a hard-fought race. Sitting on Bahati's wheel, Alex Candelario (Kelly Benefit Strategies) was forced to clip out. That opened the door for Ben Kersten (Fly V Australia) and Murphy to fly up the 150-meter homestretch, both raising their arms in victory: Kersten for the win, Murphy for the stars-and-stripes jersey. (Murphy may have been able to win, but he celebrated prematurely while Kersten threw for the line.) Cruz, a national champion here in 1999, finished 3rd, 2nd American, and was visibly disappointed as he took his latest Downers Grove podium. Jake Keough (Kelly Benefit Strategies) and Soldier Field star Adam Myerson (Mountain Khakis) rounded out the podium in 4th and 5th. Bahati lay motionless for several worrisome moments but eventually remounted his bike and, bloodied and in tears, crossed the line to large applause. He would place 22nd. Full men's USPRO results. Full wrap-up to come. More photos here, and Peloton-Pix has a good photo race summary.