Race Recap Walnut Valley Road Race
The Rogers Cycling Festival took place this past weekend with a new omnium format featuring and Eddy Merckx Time Trial, the Brick Street Criterium and the Walnut Valley Road Race. After winning the time trial and then picking up a few points in the crit, I had a small lead in the omnium standings heading into the road race on Sunday. The 6-mile race course starts at the Avoca Town Hall before descending down to and climbing back out of Walnut Valley. A two mile flat stretch to the finish line in Avoca completes the six mile loop. We would race eleven laps in the category 1/2 race.
We brought a strong team to the race with Eric Haynes, Kevin Solomon, Ben Gramling, Adam Barnes, and Will Frank all representing City Title. With three riders from Visit Bentonville Racing – Olivier Lavigueur, Cole Tininenko, and Jared Hall – within a few points of me on the overall standings, we faced the tough task of trying to win the road race and also secure the omnium lead.
A few breakaways were established in the early laps with Ben Gramling representing us in them, but were kept on a short leash with omnium points available at the end of laps two and four. I gave up a few points to the competition at the sprint points but knew that I just needed to finish ahead of them at the end of the race to clinch the omnium title. Eventually Will Stoffel (Marx-Bensdorf) and Josiah Morgan (Tulsa Wheelmen) got off the front in lap three and began to build a lead that would grow to nearly two minutes over the field. In the peloton, the City Title team was trying our hardest to break up the race, while also not letting the breakaway get too far up the road.
On lap 6, a breakaway of Eric, Jared, and Brian Lea (unattached) was formed. A lap later I bridged across to that group with Cole on my wheel as Jared fell back to the main back to try to bring Olivier back to us. So it was now a chase group of four with two riders still up the road. On lap eight the peloton started to close the gap to our group, so we increased the pace up the hill and Brian wasn’t able to hold on. Now only Eric and I were left to chase down the leaders with Cole sitting on the wheels. The three of us caught the leaders before the turn at the bottom of the valley and Eric immediately attacked with no response. I was hoping the other riders would work to keep him close enough that I could attack and bridge across but they were either unable or unwilling to work to bring Eric back. With the peloton closing in I had no choice but to attack the group and keep riding hard with anyone who followed me. I had to avoid letting Olivier catch me as he would likely out sprint me and claim the omnium win if we came to the line together. Only Cole was able to follow my attack so I rode hard up the hill and then attacked just before we made the sharp corner onto the flat rode back to the finish. I sprinted out of the corner and opened up the gap I needed.
I rode the last two laps with Eric, relying on him to do the majority of the work. We crossed the line together with him taking the race win and me clinching the omnium win. Cole came across the line solo in third, Josiah Morgan survived for fourth out of the early breakaway and Kevin won the field sprint for fifth when the peloton came home. The team worked well the whole day getting in breakaways, setting me up for attacks and sprinting to take away prime points from my opponents.
As always I would like to thank our great sponsors at City Title & Closing, Smithfield, Shoulder Center of Arkansas, CLIF Bar, Custom Electronics, and The Bike Route. A huge thank you also goes out to all the people who make the Rogers Cycling Festival happen, including my coworkers at Crafton Tull who were cheering me on as they volunteered along the course.