Typically in criteriums, overall race leaders plan to stay behind their teammates to keep safe and finish in the main pack.
Plans go awry when serendipity intervenes.
In a bold display of power and guts, Serghei Tvetcov won the pro men’s Downtown Twilight Criterium in Bend Saturday night while wearing the yellow leader’s jersey in the 2014 Bend Memorial Clinic Cascade Cycling Classic.
The 25-year-old Jelly Belly team rider from Moldova ecstatically pumped both fists in the air as he crossed the finish line on Wall Street in front of thousands of cheering spectators.
The Stage 4 win gave Tvetcov a 10-second time bonus, and he now has a 21-second overall lead on Ruben Zepuntke of Bissell.
Ryan Anderson of Optum finished second in the criterium, and Ty Magner of Hincapie took third.
“Very rare, very rare,” Jelly Belly team director Danny Van Haute said of an overall leader winning a criterium.
“I think it surprised the whole field, surprised everybody. Let me go see Serghei.”
Van Haute then ran over to Tvetcov and gave him a bear hug as the sun set on the streets of downtown Bend and fans lingered.
Saturday’s criterium was a short circuit around Wall Street, Idaho Avenue, Bond Street and Oregon Avenue. The pro men raced for 75 minutes.
In the second-to-last corner on the final lap, Tvetcov found himself alone in the lead after his teammate Fred Rodriguez helped lead him past a train of Optum riders.
“I was surprised, too!” Tvetcov said of taking the lead. “OK, alright, nothing to lose now. I just go. That’s it.”
He said the long sprint from the corner of Bond and Oregon to the finish line on Wall and Franklin Avenue played to his strength.
“I was in first position coming into the third corner, which is actually good for me, a pretty long sprint,” Tvetcov said.
He added that he did not even think he could win the criterium until he crossed the finish line.
Van Haute said he has never seen Tvetcov win a criterium against some of the best sprinters in North America.
“That’s what the yellow jersey does for you, I guess,” Van Haute said. “To have Serghei win, that’s just a testament to our team right now. The first 20 minutes everybody was attacking, and we couldn’t even get it together it was so fast. We just stayed safe and then (Rodriguez) took him from eighth or ninth (position) ... and then Serghei wins.”
Tvetcov and his Jelly Belly teammates will look to defend the yellow jersey in today’s 82-mile Awbrey Butte Circuit Race. He will be going for his second straight overall win at the Cascade Classic.
In the pro women’s 50-minute criterium, staged just before the pro men Saturday night, Joanne Kiesanowski of Tibco made a move on the last corner to outsprint the field and take the stage win. Joell Numainville of Optum finished second, and Mia Loquai of FCS took third.
Kiesanowski was led to the front for the final sprint by her teammate, overall race leader Lauren Stephens.
“When it came to the last few laps, we were able to ramp it up even more,” Kiesanowksi said. “They did a textbook lead out. There was just one teammate (Stephens) in front of me to keep me going through the last two corners and that was enough to do the sprint from there. They made it really easy for me.”
As she made her cool-down lap, Kiesanowski was impressed with the crowd that lined the orange barriers along the race course.
“They were just so appreciative of our efforts,” she said. “They were cheering and we waved and it’s just so motivating to race in front of a crowd like this. It really drives me, that’s for sure.”
Stephens maintained a 1:14 lead on Amber Neben of FCS in the overall standings. Tibco should be able to seal Stephen’s overall title in today’s 49-mile Awbrey Butte Circuit Race, but it’s a tough stage.
“We definitely know that it’s not over until the last stage,” Kiesanowski said. “There can be some big time gaps, so we have to be complacent.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0318, email@example.com.