FAIRBANKS — Tony Brugliera wanted to at least be among the top 10 cyclists Saturday afternoon during the Downtown Criterium of the Tour of Fairbanks stage series.
The member of Anchorage’s Kaladi/Subway team ended up staying ahead of everyone in the men’s open/expert competition of the first bicycling criterium in downtown Fairbanks in 27 years.
From the start on Fifth Avenue, the .6-mile, mostly bumpy course worked its way to the intersection of Barnette Street and turned onto Fourth Avenue. It then headed up Fourth to a right turn on Lacey Street before turning onto Fifth.
On the final lap of the 40-minute plus event, Brugliera, fellow Anchorage cyclist Tim Berntson, Stephen Ball and Fairbanks racers Tyson Flaharty and John Lackey ferociously sprinted on Fifth Avenue to blaze across the intersection of Cushman Street and toward the finish line on Fifth next to the Fairbanks Community Museum.
Brugliera worked his pedals into hyperdrive to slightly separate from the pack. All of the top five clocked a time of 41 minutes, 13 seconds, but Brugliera’s front tire was first across the finish line to give the 42-year-old firefighter the division victory in the fourth stage of the five-stage series.
“It’s awesome,” Brugliera said. “The criterium is probably the funnest event, even though it’s the shortest.
“It was a great event that Fairbanks put on,” Brugliera added.
While the men’s open/expert entries cycled for 40 minutes, it was a 30-minute criterium for the women’s cyclists and the participants in the combined men’s sport and masters division.
Kinsey Loan, who also competes for Kaladi/Subway, won the women’s criterium in 32 minutes, 1.2 seconds, followed by Heather Best of Fairbanks’ Raven Racing team in 32:32.1. Alex DeAth outhustled Johnny Kay to win the men’s sport and masters event, as both were timed in 31:59.
Brugliera’s victory was a bonus, because his intention for the criterium was to work to help his teammates be successful particularly Daniel Folmar.
Folmar, last year’s men’s Tour champion, came into Saturday’s two stages — the third stage of a team time trial earlier Saturday and the criterium — with the overall lead of 1 hour, 45 minutes, 50 seconds following the first two stages. Flaharty, who races for Goldstream Sports, was just two seconds back following his runner-up finishes in Thursday’s 6-mile Parks Highway Prologue Time Trial and Friday’s 32-mile Cleary Summit Road Race.
“I had to watch who was doing some solo breakaways to make sure it didn’t affect our overall GC guy,” Brugliera said.
GC in bicycle racing stands for general classification, but it also refers to the overall leader in a stage series.
“I wanted to stay relatively in the top five to 10 guys, where it’s safer,” Brugliera said. “If you’re breaking into the corners, there’s less chance of people crashing around you. It’s a smoother all-around speed if you’re going with those top-10 guys.”
The race had one accident as Kaladi/Subway teammates Tom Peichel and Alex Loan, Kinsey Loan’s brother, crashed into the hay-bale barriers on the turn at Lacey and Fifth. Peichel had a bloodied left elbow but finished the race while Alex Loan withdrew from the race. His injuries weren’t reported to be serious but he did seek medical treatment.
On the men’s open/expert race’s final lap, Brugliera’s focus on being ahead rather than being a helper.
“I was 15-16 (cyclists) back and I was like ‘I’ve got to get up to that top five again because I don’t want to get sucked into the back,” he said. “I worked my way up to the front and I stayed behind the Kaladi train that was running.
“We had four other guys up front just hitting the pace as hard as they could so no one else could come around,” he said.
Brugliera tucked in behind the leaders up to the corner of Lacey and Fifth before he made his move on the final sprint.
Kinsey Loan ended her race alone, as the 19-year-old pre-med student and Nordic skier at Alaska Pacific University, broke off of the women’s lead pack with about 10 minutes left in their race.
Loan had traded the lead with Best, Colorado cyclist Alisabeth Thurston-Hicks and Loan’s mother, Sheryl, who entered Saturday’s stages with the women’s open/expert overall lead of 2:08:50.
“It’s always fun to go off to the front,” Kinsey Loan said.
“I was waiting to see if there was going to be a chaser or two, but mostly the other three sat together,” she continued. “When I had a space, I just kept going.”
The younger Loan built leads of 20-24 seconds on the way to her first stage victory following fourth-place results in the Parks Highway time trial and the Cleary Summit Road Race.
“Just maintaining a good cadence and not slowing down,” Loan cited as reasons for her win. “I just tried to keep the corners fast and accelerate in and out, and just cruise on the straights.”
Best outsprinted Thurston-Hicks for second place after Best, Thurston-Hicks and Sheryl Loan reached the intersection of Cushman and Fifth.
It was only the second criterium ever for the 36-year-old hydrologist.
“It was way more fun than I thought it was going to be,” Best said. “I was dreading it at first because I’m not that familiar with it.
“It’s pretty cool to come down here and see it all (streets) shut down for a bike race,” she added.
Thurston-Hicks and Sheryl Loan finished closed behind at 32:32.2 and 32:32.7, respectively.
Also in the criterium, Luke Buth won in 5:59 in a three-lap junior race and Amy Nordrum edged Chris Cioffi (17:43.0 to 17:43.8) to win a 10-lap citizens race.
Team time trial
The Kaladi/Subway No. 1 trio of Richard Tilton, Tom Peichel and Daniel Folmar compiled a total effort of 51 minutes, 47 seconds for the top overall result in the 40-kilometer (24.8 miles) Chatanika Team Time Trial along the Steese Highway.
The Speedway/Humpy’s No. 1 team of Jeff Ellis, Tim Berntson and John Lackey finished 1:06 and the Goldstream Sports team of Tyson Flaharty, Jim Button and Joel Buth placed third 1:37 behind the leaders.
The complete team trial results are listed on the Scoreboard on Page C2. The criterium results for the women’s race, men’s sport and masters, junior and citizens are listed along with the top five for the men’s open/expert. The complete men’s open/expert results weren’t available at deadline.