By Stephanie Neeley
This was not your grandma’s health and lifestyle festival. Instead, more than 700 amateur and professional bicycle racers took over downtown Atlantic Avenue for two days to support a handful of local charities and put on a show for spectators.
Spectators lined the street to watch professional cyclists race as fast as 35 mph in a criterium of tight turns and straight-aways in the second annual “Delray Beach Twilight Festival” on Friday and Saturday.
The event was the second stop of the USA Crits series and the third race in the National Criterium Calendar.
Hilton Clarke (UnitedHealthcare) and Jacquelyn Crowell (Exergy Twenty 16) were the event’s winners.
Unlike ‘stage races,’ such as the Tour de France, which occur over great distances, this was a sprint-style race, with a short, 1 kilometer course that was lapped over, and over and over again, while spectators lined the streets to watch for an hour and a half.
The course was a .7 kilometer loop with four-right hand corners with turn three dubbed “crash corner” because of its greater than 90 degree turn.
Clarke capped off a strong performance in the men’s race, with Shane Kline (SmartStop/Mountain Khakis) and Carlos Alzate (UnitedHealthcare) rounding out the podium.
With the course only illuminated by street and spot lights a field of 109 men were on the start line for 70 laps. With only a couple of laps completed a huge crashed forced the neutralization of the race.
Davide Frattini (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling) was among the injured riders. He suffered a shoulder laceration, which required 37 staples to close.
Alzate went in a three-man breakaway with Thomas Gibbons (EBP) and Euris Vidal (CRCA/Foundation) prior to the race neutralizing crash and were allowed their 11-second head start on the field once the race was restarted.
With his victory, Clarke not only took over the current overall lead in the USA Crits series but the NCC as well. Kline’s second place puts him as the current leader in the Under-25 competition.
In the women’s race, a solo break at about halfway in the race by Jacquelyn Crowell (Exergy TWENTY16) proved to be the winning move as she held off the peloton – but just barely.
The women were racing for 40 laps and the opening laps were fast with numerous primes keeping the peloton motivated.
With 23 laps remaining the first serious move of the race was made. Crowell (Exergy TWENTY16) took a one-hundred dollar prime and kept on rolling, separating herself from the field. Crowell had just returned from a European campaign and had the fitness to prove it.
Proceeds from the event benefitted Kids in Distress, Gumbo Limbo Nature Center and the YMCA Bike Program.