The Tour of Lawrence came to a close Sunday with the Kansas University Campus Circuit Race, but the final race of the three-day event was no easy ride.
Heat and grueling climbs put riders to the test as they made their way around a 4.2-mile loop through KU’s campus and downtown Lawrence.
In the Women’s professional 1/2 race of 22.1 miles, Syndey Brown of Midwest Trek SRAM from Lincoln, Neb. and Catherine Walberg of Team Kenda Racing from Topeka — the top two riders from Saturday night’s Tour of Lawrence Criterium — led the pack. This time, Brown, who finished a close second in the criterium, was able to break away for a first-place finish and a $250 prize.
“I felt I was the strongest going up the hill with the steep three-step climb,” Brown said. “So I figured as long as I didn’t let them get away from me, I could beat them on the hill. I really wanted to win it, and I’m glad it worked out that way. It always feels better to win.”
The tradeoff first-place finishes are a regular occurrence for Walberg and Brown, who say they have established a rivalry.
“(Sydney) is an excellent racer,” Walberg said. “I like racing against her. It makes it more challenging. I’d say criteriums are my specialty. But this course was different. I would say it was more Sydney’s course. It’s more short power climbs, and she’s a super-powerful rider. With the finish past the chancellor’s house, for a sprinter like me, having those two short power climbs right before, I was pretty much done before we even got to the sprint.”
Lise Olivier of Tulsa Tough/Tulsa Wheelmen was third.
On the men’s side, with a 53-mile ride, Team Hotel San Jose/Redbudsports out of Texas dominated, as Sean Sullivan captured first place and teammate Heath Blackgrove, the winner of Saturday night’s criterium, took third.
Sullivan, an Australia native with years of international racing experience, made his way into the leaders’ group early in the race and stayed at the front long enough to lead a break-away for the victory and the $1,250 prize. Dewey Dickey of Mercy/Specialized riding from Cokato, Minn., was next to Sullivan for most of the race, but he just couldn’t keep up with Sullivan’s speed toward the end and finished second.
“The groups got away,” Sullivan said. “There was about five or six of us. It was just a race of attrition … these conditions, with the heat and the hills. But when I got to the last five laps, I was able to slow down a lot, and it became more of a tactical kind of race. I made a move with a lap and a half to go. I thought it might have been too early, but I thought if I stayed out there for a while, it would force the other guys to chase. But as it was, Dewey caught me on the last lap, and I was a little bit faster on the finish.”
The victory had extra meaning for Sullivan, who sat out from racing last year because of a bad knee.
“I was a little bit nervous the last half of the race when we got in the break,” he said. “I had surgery in the offseason and came back. So it’s been a long time since I’ve been in the position to try to win a race. It’s all about your confidence. They say in a sport like this 70 percent is in your mind and 30 percent is in your conditioning, so I think it does a lot for my confidence to have a win.”
Sullivan will be sharing his confidence with teammate Blackgrove, who helped support Sullivan throughout the ride and somehow found the leg strength to pedal in for third.
“We have a strong team,” Blackgrove said. “We came to win. If it wasn’t me, it was going to be someone else, and Sean was the strongest today. I just covered everything behind and managed to get away on the climb at the end because I had a pretty free ride.”
In the juniors’ race, Robert Englert of SKC Racing from Shawnee rounded out a very successful weekend with another first-place finish. In the masters’ 40+ and 50+ race, Janne Hamalainen of Tulsa Tough/Tulsa Wheelmen won the $210 first prize, followed by David Hejduk of 360 Racing, the winner of Saturday’s masters’ 40+ and 50+ criterium, in second. Trey Harrison of Chamois Butt’r Racing Team from El Dorado took third place.
In the men’s category 5 race, Louis Viamonte from Omaha, Neb., won. Lawrence resident Spencer Martin repeated his second-place finish in Saturday’s criterium with a second-place prize Sunday. The third-place winner from Saturday, Bryan Witry of Spidermonkey Cycling from Chicago, pulled off another third-place finish.
In the women’s category 3/4 race, Melissa Marts of Tough Girl/ SCOTT from Denver took first place and $210. Beth McGilley from Wichita followed for second place, and Jacqueline Denny of VeloTek from Wichita was third.
In men’s category 4, the first place prize of $210 belonged to Jake Teitelbaum of Spidermonkey Cycling. Kent Woermann of Bicycle Shack Racing from Lee’s Summit, Mo., took second and Alex Roberts from Kansas City placed third.
In men’s category 3, Andrew Coe of SKC Racing placed first and claimed $250 in winnings. Matt Baugher of Epic Cycling Team from St. Joseph, Mo., was second, followed by Paul Webb of Midwest Cycling from Bellevue, Neb., in third.
After a weekend packed with racing and fierce competition, the riders just couldn’t say enough about the quality of the race.
“We really enjoyed it,” Blackgrove said “It was cool racing around the university. Lawrence has really put it on, and the organizers had a great race. It’s our first time here, but hopefully it continues and builds into a bigger race. Word is going to spread. Hopefully we’ll be back.”
“It was my first time in Kansas, and I thought Kansas was all cornfields and flat,” joked Sullivan. “I was a bit mistaken. But it was great. We’ve had a great time.”
If all goes according to plan, the Tour of Lawrence may be back for round two next summer.
“We had to give the riders a reason to come back,” said Bob Sanner, director of sports and conventions for the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau. “And we’ve done that by giving them downtown and campus. The comments I’ve heard from most riders were glowing and favorable. You know, the things you want to hear. It’s very encouraging.”