By JAMES COOK email@example.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — A pair of first-timer finishers earned first place in the men's and women's Cherry-Roubaix criterium pro races Saturday.
Men's winner Kevin Depasse said he has never raced north of Chicago before, and edged out Rudyard Peterson in a sprint to the finish line, while women's champ Dori Leib was able to do the same, overtaking Amy Stauffer down the final stretch to earn the win. Both take home $500 in prize money — and win the state championship — for their victories.
"We had an awesome squad here to today, some awesome local guys," the 23-year-old Depasse said. "It's so much fun. It's exciting being with guys that you love to work for. I just happened to win today. Any one of these guys could have won. We all work for each other. Each scenario is different."
Bissell teammate Dan Lam led much of the race, claiming the early lead in the nearly hour-long race through Traverse City's Central Neighborhood streets.
"To win these races at this level, it takes a lot of teamwork — a lot of sacrificing for other people," Depasse said. "I'm going to sacrifice myself (today) because somebody else has a better chance of winning than I do. That's how it is. It's give and take with these guys. It's an awesome team.
"I was floating at the back for the first half of the race, letting my guys take care of things. I wanted to win with the break-away. Dave Williams is one of the strongest guys I know, and he brought everything back and made it a field sprint. My number was called and I just happened to be on some legs and it all worked out."
A Farmington Hills resident, Leib has actually raced here once before, but wasn't able to finish last year's race after her shifter broke on the first lap.
Peterson, a 19-year-old from Kalamazoo racing for Borah, has now finished second in consecutive years.
"Same finish, but this was a great race," said Peterson, who now has four years of Cherry-Roubaix races under his belt and won $350. "I was definitely a lot more aggressive this year. I knew I had the legs in me. I'm a lot stronger than I was last year. I just tried to follow wheels and be more aggressive in the race. Everyone's looking for the win but I'm happy to take second again."
"About halfway through the race, I realized no brakes were going to stick," Peterson said. "I knew it'd come down to a field sprint. At that point, I knew I needed to be top five in that last lap and about second or third through that last turn in order to really light up the sprint."
"He has a good sprint on him," Depasse said of Peterson. "And Alexey (Vermeulen), who rides for BMC, he was on our team last year and he got called up to BMC. He was sprinting with us, too. He's a strong kid. I attacked going into the last lap to make it safe, because it's really technical on the back stretch. I just let those guys pull through and hopped on their wheel in third and came around in the final stretch."
The women's race had eight entries, although only five finished on the lead lap after a crash on the final time around.
"I heard it behind me," Leib said. "I wasn't near it, but they're all OK. It's always unfortunate when those things happen in races. You don't want to see anyone go down."
Leib stayed at or near the lead much of the race.
"I wanted to come out of the last corner first or make sure I was second," Leib said. "I came in tight with the corner. I knew to start going and not look back."
Both Depasse and Peterson are also competing in today's road race, as is Leib. Peterson has raced three times in road race, finishing in the top 10 last year.
Leib was third int he pro women's event a year ago.
"The women from up in this area have a pretty significant advantage, riding the course frequently," Leib said.
"It's beautiful up here," said Depasse, a Terre Huate, Ind., residient. "It's one of the best venues I've seen."