Words and Images: Jack Chevell

The final round of the 2014 Red Hook Criterium Championship Series was held on a fast and narrow road circuit in the suburbs of Milan, Italy. Rain in the morning meant isolated patches of damp, and slippery painted road markings lay in wait to punish anyone pushing too hard before a dry line had been given time to develop.

After some chaotic qualification rounds, and a number of crashes, the rain stayed away and the road was all but dry for the start of the women’s criterium. A group of five, including fastest qualifier Stefania Baldi, and series leader Ainara Elbusto Arteaga, went clear and worked together well to hold off the chasers. Fleure Faure finished on the podium in third, also taking a fastest lap prime. Elbusto Arteaga had been among those to fall during qualification and wasn’t able to repeat her dominant performance from Barcelona, finishing second.

After a thrilling tactical race, the break stayed clear and Ash Duban won from a group sprint to the line.

“We went from the gun and had a strong group of girls working together,” she told peloton. “The chase nearly caught us, but then we were able to stay away. I held back for the last couple of laps as I knew I had to be first coming into the chicane, and I made that work.”

Having qualified for the men’s race twice in the past, she was pleased to compete in the first Milano women’s race. In an interview on the podium, she invited more women to come and compete and raise the standard even further. A win in Barcelona and second place in Milano was enough for Ainara Elbusto Arteaga to win the women’s series overall.

In the men’s field, Julio Padilla needed only a single fast lap to take home peloton’s fastest qualifier prize. His speed in qualifying meant he was a marked man in the criterium. With such strength in the field, and the memory of being beaten by a late attack in Barcelona, the bunch weren’t prepared to let any moves go. There were repeated attempts to get off the front; each time they were pulled back, with the favorites doing all the work.

With moisture in the air, and the constant threat of crashes, RHC series leader Thibaud Lhenry and the other race favorites stayed towards the front and worked together throughout. As with the women’s race, being in the correct position to launch a sprint out of the bottleneck chicane on the last lap was critical. Eduard Grosu got this right and had the strength to hold on in a bunch sprint to the line, with Ivan Ravaioli second and Julio Padilla making the podium in third.

“This is my third time in Milano, it’s a beautiful race,” Grosu said after the podium celebrations. “I stayed good all race and I stayed in the front. At the end I was able to make a good sprint. I’m very happy.”

A win in Brooklyn, third in Barcelona, and sixteenth place in Milan were enough for Frenchman Lhenry to win the RHC Championship Series title. The Italian IRIDE team won the team competition.

Women’s Criterium

1. Ash Duban
2. Ainara Elbusto Arteaga
3. Fleur Faure
4. Stefania Baldi
5. Sandra Jorda Pasco
6. Vittoria Reati
7. Nathalie Simoens
8. Ayesha McGowan
9. Erin Gunn
10. Maria Jatkovics

Men’s Criterium

1. Eduard Grosu
2. Ivan Ravaioli
3. Julio Padilla
4. Augusto Reati
5. Evan Murphy
6. Mario Paz Duque
7. Pablo Rodriguez
8. Neil Bezdek
9. Umberto Marengo
10. Stefano Nicoletti

Women’s Championship Series

1. Ainara Elbusto Arteaga

Men’s Championship Series

1. Thibaud Lhenry

Team Championship Series

1. IRIDE