Hanson wins Pro Crit, Cliff-Ryan takes NCC race in Grand Rapids


Team Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies drove the front of the race
Team Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies drove the front of the race

By Jeff Chaney

Grand Rapids, Mich. (Saturday, July 28) – Ken Hanson (Santa Barbara, Calif./Team Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) has now won national titles at every level of his cycling career.

The 30-year-old Santa Barbara, Calif. resident won his first professional national title on the streets of Grand Rapids Saturday when he sprinted to the finish line in front of the large field at the USA Cycling Pro Criterium National Championship at the Herman Miller Grand Cycling Classic.

“I won a collegiate title at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 2005, an amateur title in 2008, and now this,” Hanson said. “This is the top one for sure.”

Hanson needed a little help from his teammates on the Optum Racing Team to pull off the 66-lap race that took just under two hours to complete. In a race that featured team strategy in a field that was bunched for most of the race, a late leadout by one of Hanson's  teammates pushed him to the finish line.

“It was kind of a battle between teams to take the lead in the last 10 laps,” Hanson said. “We took the lead early, then lost it for a lap or two, but I think that gave me a chance to save some energy for the end. And then I have to give a lot of credit to my teammate Alex Candelario (Reno, Nev.), because he gave me the perfect lead out.”

Hanson outsprinted Brad Huff (Springfield, Mo./Jelly Belly Cycling) in the final straight, putting Huff in a close second. Brad White (Holland, Mich./UnitedHealthcare) took third, with defending champion Eric Young (Boulder, Colo./BISSELL Pro Cycling) placing fourth and Frank Pipp (Boulder, Colo./BISSELL Pro Cycling) rounding out the top five.

Hanson has six UCI wins this season, and now 14 overall wins on his racing resume.

Theresa Cliff-Ryan topped the women's podium of the Herman Miller Grand Cycling Classic NCC race
Theresa Cliff-Ryan topped the women's podium of the Herman Miller Grand Cycling Classic NCC race

Herman Miller Grand Cycling Classic Women's Race

Whereas Hanson was able to take advantage of strong teamwork to win his title, the same can't be said for Theresa Cliff-Ryan (Cedar Springs, Mich./Exergy TWENTY12).

The 34-year-old Philadelphia professional was riding without any of her Exergy TWENTY12 teammates during the women's category pro/1/2 National Criterium Calendar race, but that didn't matter as she won her second straight title in the race with a furious sprint to the end to edge out Jade Wilcoxson (Talent, Ore./Team Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) and Jennifer Purcell (Austin, Texas/TIBCO to The Top).

“A lot of the girls are getting ready to go overseas, and two are in London representing the USA in the Olympics,” said Cliff-Ryan, who is originally from Cedar Springs, Mich., 30 minutes north of Grand Rapids. “So during the first part of the race I had to play some poker. I couldn't chase every attack. But the one I did decide to chase, that ended up being the one that went out for good. So it played out perfectly.”

Cliff-Ryan, Wilcoxson and Purcell built close to a minute lead off the field midway through the race, and kept that distance until the final sprint. Wilcoxson knew there could be trouble at the end with no teammates, and one of the top sprinters in her sport right on her wheels.

“Prior to us getting away, TIBCO was attacking hard,” said Wilcoxson, who is from Talent, Ore. “It just happened to be that we just got away, and I was surprised how far we were able to pull away.

“I was happy to get away from the field,” she added. “But on the other hand, I knew I was going to have to sprint against a national champion to win it.”

Cliff-Ryan was just thrilled that should could win in front of a large contingent of family and friends. And she was happy to win one of Grand Rapids' famous trophies -- a brick trophy, which helps symbolize the bricks the riders race over on the course in Grand Rapids.

“I love to come home and race, and I love these trophies,” Cliff-Ryan said.

Amateur Races

Also winning titles Saturday were Daniel Lam (Kalamazoo, Mich./Bissell-ABG-NUVO/Indianapolis Cycling Club) in the men's category 1/2/3, Jim Balsadere in the masters 40+ category 4, Maxwell Ackermann (Whitefish Bay, Wisc./ISCorp Cycling Team/Nova Cycle Sports Foundation Inc.) in the senior men's category 3/4 and Skylar Schneider in the women category 3/4.

For Lam, who moved to Michigan three years ago from California and resides in Kalamazoo, an hour south of Grand Rapids, Saturday's win was special, because it was his first. And the BISSELL team member credits all his teammates for helping him to the top of the podium.

“This has been a long time coming,” Lam said. “I've had a lot of second and thirds to BISSELL when I raced on other teams.”

Race director Rob Laybourn says the day's racing was another big success. This year's races were held under clear sunny skies, unlike last year, when the men's pro race was delayed because of severe thunderstorms that went through the area.

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This Article Updated August 2, 2012 @ 02:25 PM For more information contact: