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Tony Cruz nabs 4th place at Criterium Nationals
Tony Cruz nabs 4th place at Criterium Nationals

Tony Cruz nabs 4th place at Criterium Nationals

17. August 2008

Downers Grove

After riding calmly but attentively in the Criterium Nationals warm-up event Saturday, BMC’s Tony Cruz had every intention of coming out of the blocks Sunday with guns blazing.  “I’ve finished 2nd through 6th at various times during my career at this race,” Cruz said before the race.  “I really want to try for the top spot now.” 

The cards were largely stacked against him for the ’08 edition of Downers Grove, since team resources were spread so thinly between injuries and the Tour of Utah, Tony could count on the help of three team mates only.  Nevertheless, he rode an intelligent race taking fourth on the day, adding to his impressive tally of top 10 placings at Nationals. 

A lot of bodies, not very many racers

After Saturday night’s warm up event was clogged up with racers not really able to contribute to the outcome, Sunday’s smaller field promised more exciting fireworks.  “The day was notable for the resistance to attack,” Directeur Sportif Ben Standish said.  “There were a few breaks – we initiated most of them – but there was nothing of substance there.”  The slow start and the generally negative racing practiced by many kept the day unpredictable and dangerous.  “The first half of the race no one seemed to want to do any work, so it felt like we were just doing laps and not racing,” Cruz explained.  “Guys like Jackson would try to break away, and then there would be someone either sitting on or a team chasing you down, but no one was willing to collaborate in the breaks.”  Starting with only four riders, BMC was definitely short-handed against teams fielding seven or eight guys.  They suffered a further handicap when David Galvin was caught behind one of the pile-ups.  “Galvin got caught up in a big crash,” Cruz said.  “I think he avoided going down, but had to bunny hop a curb to avoid the worst of it; that took him pretty much out of contention.”  The slow start to the first half of the race resulted in many more riders being able to hang on until the final circuits, adding to the level of danger.  “Without a full squad you don’t get the respect in the field, and you’ll find a lot of guys trying to push you out of position,” Cruz said.  “This year was a lot more dangerous than in years past since the field had usually thinned out much more by the final 10 or 15 laps.” 

The winner decided in those final corners

If Tony Cruz was only going to have one guy helping him out for the final positioning, he is very lucky that that one guy was Mike Sayers.  “Mike had an amazing race today, and acted as lead out for Tony,” Standish said.  “With only three guys there for much of the race, we put in a good effort and did a lot with a little.”  Coming into the final few laps, Cruz was tight-rope walking between wanting to make the winning move and needing to avoid the crashes that come with extra-aggressive crit racing.  “Watching Rahsaan in those final few corners, he was cornering so fast I was sure he was going to crash,” Cruz said.  “He was really head and shoulders above the rest and had the race won even before the last corner which he hit on the front of the field.”  In contrast to the day before where Rock Racing pummelled the field with an incredibly strong lead out train, Sunday’s victory came from agile cornering.  “Bahati used his cornering skills to his advantage,” Cruz said.  “Sayers did an awesome job getting me positioned, but it is too much work for just two guys to fight for position in a race like this.”

Next stop: road nationals

With the cancellation of the Colorado Stage Race, BMC will find itself racing next at the National Road Race at the end of the month.  With a string of high placings and outright victories behind them, the team is feeling very confident for its chances.  “Everyone is riding so strongly, and I think we are a lot more structured to excel at road racing rather than for criteriums,” Cruz explained.  “We’re going to be very ready for nationals.”  With recent wins in Rochester and Utah, as well as impressive results at Wallonie and Downers Grove, BMC can enjoy the glow of a very successful summer, while gaining confidence for their late-season objectives.