TRAVERSE CITY —
The Old Town Criterium changed in one turn.
With four laps to go, race leader Daniel Lam was sideswiped by the Cherry-Roubaix pace car on the stretch turn.
Lam and Martin Vecchio had led virtually all of the race up to that point, going neck-and-neck with anywhere from a 10- to 12-second lead over the rest of the pack.
When the crash occurred, it knocked Lam out of the race and Vecchio had to slow down and slipped back into the pack and finished 25th.
In the resulting sprint, Ben Renkema emerged from the pack and went on the pro victory, looking back at the field just before the finish line and raising his arms in victory.
"It was really chaotic," said Renkema, a Holland native who now lives in Greenville, S.C. "Nobody had control of it. There was a really hard attack by Alexey Vermeulen, the Bissell guy, on the last lap. I had to cover it. As soon as I caught him, I sat up, so I was forced to attack so I could hit the last corner (as the) first wheel and I took it from there. Most of the guys in the race did not want it to come down to a field sprint, so I had to work hard to make it happen."
Renkema said he was confident that the pack would catch Lam and Vecchio before the end.
"We would have caught it," Renkema said. "Priority Health had a lot of guys in the race, and they were behind the break-away. It was a matter of time. They wouldn't have made it to the finish because they were basically biding their time."
Vecchio saw the crash that potentially altered the race's outcome.
"It was a good break-away," Vecchio said. "But one that had some problems. I had a flat about midway through, so I had to go to the wheel pit to change that. Dan had to pull an entire lap himself, so he was able to maintain that lead. I got back in and we were going good — and then he got hit.
"The car was going way too slow through the corner, slowed way down. I guess she thought she saw something that wasn't there on a closed course. I don't know what happened. We were going much faster than her and didn't know if she was going to go right or left. So he chose to go one direction and the car pulled right into him and he got knocked down. I was right behind that, and I almost went down myself. I also went right over him. I was cooked at that point. I had cramps. It's really disappointing, because I wanted to do well."
Renkema — who has won the Friday night sprints each of the first four years before not making the opening event this time around — won the criterium despite racing alone.
"It's hard, but I'm a good type of racer for this because I'm a road racer," Renkema said. "Usually when you have two bigger teams, it makes it easier for me, because they do all the work. So I kind of play off of them."
In the women's race, Mackenzie Woodring won by over 30 seconds in a race that was decided fairly early on. It was the Grand Rapids resident's first Cherry-Roubaix victory.
"We talked before the race about making it a hard day for everybody," Woodring said. "The way that our teams like to race is to attack, attack, attack until something sticks or we wear the other teams out. It just worked out well today. Johanna (Schmidt), Zoe (Reeves), myself, Marci (Bultemeier), we all took turns and then it finally stuck. We had a girl come across from a team from out of state and she stayed with me for a minute. She pulled through and then she started to gap and I just stayed on it. Once we got about a 30-second gap, I was able to settle in and it all worked out."
This win was a bit of redemption for Woodring, who crashed in the final turn last year while out in front of the pack with one other rider.
"This is exactly what we talked about — one going right after the other," said Schmidt, a Traverse City resident who has been in the race every year of its existence. "It was bound to happen that one of us would stay away. As soon as one of us got caught, another one would go. I think I stayed out about a lap, and Zoe about a lap and then Marci. It makes everybody work, and they're tired. Except for you, because you get to sit in while everybody else is working. Then you almost feel sorry for the girls a little bit, because they get so frustrated, especially when there's just a few laps to go, because they're trying to save it for the sprint."
The Cherry-Roubaix wraps up with today's road race, which starts at 9 a.m. at Bowers Harbor Park.
"Mackenzie was actually not supposed to work this hard (Saturday)," Schmidt said. "So we'll see how we feel. It's tough to go from a night race to a morning race The recovery is tough, and it's hard to sleep."
"I'm thinking about (Sunday), too," Woodring said. "We've got a 65-mile, hilly road race. That's the state championship. But I wanted to rock today."
Renkema, Woodring emerge with titles at Old Town Criterium
TRAVERSE CITY —
The Old Town Criterium changed in one turn.
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