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Tony Cruz narrowly missed out on a second stars and stripes in the Crit Championships (foto by John Devich)
Tony Cruz narrowly missed out on a second stars and stripes in the Crit Championships (foto by John Devich)

Tony Cruz grabs 3rd place at Pro Men National Criterium Championship

18. August 2009

Downers Grove

Though Tony Cruz arrived at the National Criterium Chmapionship as the sole participating member of the BMC Racing Team, he had every intention to race for the win. 

The Sunday criterium which covered 100 kilometers turned into a hairy affair as the rain fell and many riders took extreme chances in the hope of winning the race and the bragging rights which go with the Stars and Stripes jersey.  Cruz's deep experience and affection for the race proved to be an asset as he was able to avoid all the major pile-ups in the slippery conditions.  Taking third place in the race and second place in the competition for the national title, Cruz celebrated the 10th anniversary of the year he first won the National Criterium Championships by proving that he can still hang with the young pups who have subsequently burst onto the racing scene. 

Going for the win

"Arranging to come to this race was pretty last minute, but it almost worked out perfectly," Tony Cruz said.  "I really wanted to try and win both Saturday and Sunday, but especially Sunday."  In the warm up event on Saturday, Cruz had the misfortune to fall victim to one of the many crashes, but on Sunday his experience kept him safe from the multitude of pile-ups.  "Sunday's racing was wet, nervous and seemed like there were non-stop crashes," Cruz said.  "I just had to be aware of who was around me and make sure I kept on the inside of the dangerous guys so they wouldn't take me down when they slid-out."  Cruz delayed his flight to join the team for the Tour of Ireland in order to make the trip to Downers Grove, however this meant that he had to fight for his result without the aid of his other teammates already on their way to Ireland.  "It meant that I had to chase a lot of things down on my own since most of the time the teams were letting big gaps form," Cruz said. 

Staying alert, taking the podium

"With one turn to go just before the final straightaway, Rashaan Bahati flew out in the corner," Cruz described.  "I knew he was going to go down and take seven or eight other guys with him, so I had to start planning on how I was going to pick my way through."  In the midst of the carnage, Cruz was able to find an opening which gave him a good line to the finish, being narrowly beaten by Ben Kersten (Fly V Australia) who took the race win, and John Murphy (OUCH p/b Maxxis) who as first American claimed the national title.  "I wanted to win the race and the jersey but in the end I missed out on the jersey by half a bike length," Cruz said.  Nevertheless, third place without the help of any teammates bodes well for Cruz's chances in the sprint-heavy Tour of Ireland which is set to start at the end of the week.  "The race in Ireland is definitely my style of racing with rolling, windy terrain," Cruz confirmed.  "I hope it doesn't rain the whole time, but I can definitely handle myself in rain, so whatever the weather throws at us, I'll be ready."  Though the race will be curtailed this year to just three days, Cruz sees a tough fight on their hands.  "I have always wanted to do this race, so I am very happy to be there," he said.  "The first stage should come down to a sprint, and then the sprinter's team that wins will have a job controlling for the overall; it should be good for our team and we're fired up and ready to go."