Being There: 2018 Thompson Criterium of Doylestown
All photos are courtesy of Mike Maney Photography. Be sure to check out his work; he is a fellow cyclist in the Bucks County cycling community with multiple KOMs to his name.
Matt McLoone of Battley Harley-Davidson/ Founding Farmers captured our hearts each lap around the final half of the Thompson Criterium of Doylestown this past Sunday. The final race of the day saw the heaviest precipitation, but a similar storyline as the pro women’s event. With some big teams in the race, one rider kept us wondering if he would accomplish the unthinkable.
It is doubtful the weather canceled any plans for pro riders to take part in the 2018 criterium. Despite Arts Festival being axed from the Sunday festivities, competitors and fans alike braved the increasing precipitation and dropping temperatures to support the final road race of the season. Riders were already in town for the pro events, they may as well go for the $10,000 purse.
Repeat participating teams such as Gateway Harley- Davidson Trek Development made it to the starting line from St. Louis, while the local bike shop, Doylestown Bike Works, fielded a team of seven riders for the first time in the event’s fifteen year history. There were preregistered riders from as far as Costa Rica and as close by as a couple of blocks from the start. The men’s race would cover 62 miles around Doylestown’s dependable circuit.
The first few laps were the most tense as riders picked lines through the crosswalk paint, downhill turns, and deceptive speed bumps. It was conversed that the race would go to one of two approaches if the race stayed together: The winner would have been extra cautious and outlasted the risk-takers, or the winner took risks where others were cautious and it paid off. While there were many early visits to the neutral pits, no word came down of a remarkable crash on course.
The early storyline began to unfold as three riders broke away from the pack. Jarret Oldham (First Internet Bank), and Joel Yates (Gateway Harley- Davidson Trek) found themselves working together with American criterium champion Ty Magner (Rally Cycling). With robotic precision these three walked away from the field and extended their lead to more than a minute. Being stationed at the bottom of Court Street, the same tactics used in the women’s pro race were being implemented in the Thompson Criterium. Once the lead group of riders managed to disguise their distance behind the first turn, the remaining riders came around to see a vacant finishing straight.
Several riders try to light the wick at multiple times throughout the race, specifically at the bottom of Court Street. Each time the spirited attack occurred, it would be pulled back by the next lap. Gateway Harley- Davidson Trek immediately neutralized anything that looked promising on account of having a rider in the break. One rider, Matt McLoone emerged from the peloton and managed to elude any attempt to bring him back.
Laps dwindled. Like clockwork Yates would pull off the front each time the trio approached the bottom of the Court Street ramp. Yet the anticipation was solely on McLoone’s presence, somewhere in between. Suddenly the sidelines pulled out stopwatch apps on their smartphones to chart the gap. It was coming down by handfuls of seconds each lap. With raised eyebrows, those who dismissed McLoone’s attack as lunacy began to pay attention. Then they turned to cheering him on. Each lap he passed by, mouth agape in sheer determination, bringing the gap down to the thirty-second mark. Our crack team of analysts did the maths and concluded he would catch them with just a few laps to spare.
The gap began to be filled with intermittent gamblers. With laps winding down and no chance for the leaders to get caught, teammates began riding off the front. Kyle Murphy (Rally Pro Cycling) as well as Sean Gardner (Gateway Harley-Davidson Trek) detached from the group to add to their team’s prize money. Then all at once the race’s storyline unraveled.
Still at the bottom of Court Street we watched as the leaders went through for the finale. Yates was cleaved from the top two almost directly, leaving the race between Magner and Oldham. Magner, the criterium champion, would win over Oldham in a sprint for the final one hundred meters.
After all the pain and suffering McLoone endured, he was very nearly overtaken by the hard charging Murphy and Gardner who would get fifth and sixth, respectively. McLoone, who had gotten within thirty seconds of the leader, but would fall to ninety seconds back from the winning time. McLoone, Murphy, and Gardner would cross the line thirty seconds before the rest of the race would end the day.
Despite the cold rain, McLoone peeled himself off his bike and lay down on the inhospitable road and tried to regain his breath. His monstrous effort took its toll, but he laid it all on the line to try to get in with the leaders. He pulled off a ride many of us imagine doing, and he tapped every bit of energy in the process. We were all willing him a few extra watts to make the sprint finale a four-way contest. If it’s any consolation, we cheered him on immensely.
With the hurdles of less than ideal weather precipitating the cancellation of Doylestown Arts Festival, the turnout for the Thompson Bucks County Classic was impressive. Each race delivered in challenging conditions and nearly every race was accident free. The Bucks Classic signals the end of the criterium season for 2018. Cross is coming. It seems quite the ‘cross season is eager to get underway. So much so, their weather overlapped our race. And one rider, with a cyclocross effort very nearly took the biggest effort to the podium.