American John Murphy is the team’s leading candidate to take the stars and stripes jersey of the U.S. National Criterium Championship on Sunday. Murphy has been a consistent presence on the podium this season and is developing into one of the top sprinters in North America.
Tasmanian Karl Menzies comes into Downer’s with good form after his 3rd place at the Presbyterian Hospital Invitational in Charlotte last weekend. And while Menzies took his podium spot out of a break in Charlotte, he expects a sprint finish on Sunday.
“I’ve done the race four times and each time it’s been a bunch sprint,” he said. “We’ll still be hunting for a break, but I’d expect a sprint finish. The first half of the race is usually a bit slower, with guys conserving for the end. It’ll be the same guys contending as have been at the last few crits, but it doesn’t seem like any one guy has been dominating these races lately. I think it’s pretty up in the air.”
OUCH Presented by Maxxis directeur sportif agreed with that assessment, not only about the contenders, but the race in general. “Downers is always such a gamble of a bike race,” he said. “We have a quick team, but sometimes at Downer’s luck has to be on your side.”
Canadian strongman Andrew Pinfold adds a lot of that quickness to the squad. He’s been a consistent presence at the front of most of the races he’s contested, posting a number of big wins, but also providing strong lead-outs for Menzies and Murphy.
“All of us are going well right now,” said Pinfold, who will be having his first crack at Downer’s Grove after racing with Canadian teams in the past. “We’ve done a lot of work together and I think we can do something good in the end.”
Beijing Olympian Bobby Lea could also find himself in the mix, especially if he can get himself into a successful break. With his strong track sprint, Lea is a good candidate to win out of a move.
Roman Kilun will also provide lead-out duties, cover moves or work into breaks, as well.
“Sunday’s race is a long one for a crit at 100 km,” Tamayo added. “Breaks have had a hard time sticking and the race often comes down to a bunch sprint. Like a lot of criteriums, the last corner is key. If you’re not in good position coming out of the final turn, you’re either out of contention or, worse, into the hay bales on the outside.
“Karl, Murph, Bobby and Pinner have spent a lot of time working together in crits this season,” Tamayo continued. “And Roman has a ton of experience, as well as success in crits both nationally and in the Bay area where he lives. If it comes down to a sprint, we have a lot of confidence in these guys. Our main goal is the win. And if we can get the jersey along the way, then it will be a great weekend.”
The racing kicks off in Downer’s Grove Saturday evening with the 50 km Men’s Pro-Am Challenge