Photo: Casey B. Gibson
HERNANDEZ WINS U23 CRITERIUM CHAMPIONSHIPS
June 24th, 2019
To say Michael Hernandez wanted this win would be an understatement.
The U23 criterium stars and stripes jersey had eluded the 22-year-old in the past, but this year, no one could deny the Florida native his glory.
“This feeling is so special,” Hernandez said. “To not only win for this team that has given me so much but in front of my parents and so many friends means the world to me.”
The Hagerstown, Maryland criterium course ran in the opposite direction to last year’s race, and from the jump, Aevolo set about applying pressure on the field.
After a succession of attacks in the opening laps, a breakaway containing Riley Sheehan and Hernandez, along with Kyle Swanson (Elevate), Spencer Petrov (CCB) and Eric Brunner (303 Project) gained some traction on the field.
Gage Hecht and Lance Haidet set off in a chase group of seven riders, with the peloton a further 15 seconds back. Then, at the 20-minute mark, Hecht broke clear of the chase group and made a jump to the breakaway, reinforcing the Aevolo presence to three out of the six riders.
“Tactically, I do not think we could have had a better race,” Hernandez said. “The break started with me, and another rider, not long after Riley bridged up with three others, then Gage bridged up solo.”
With everyone in the break rotating evenly and the chase reabsorbed by the field, Gateway Development threw their whole team on the front, with help from Wildlife Generation and Legion of LA, to bring back the break, but it wasn’t to be.
On the final lap, Sheehan rode himself inside out to draw out the contenders, and with Hecht’s lead-out, Hernandez timed his sprint effort flawlessly to bring home the second Aevolo stars and stripes jersey of the week.
“With Gage and Riley working so hard I knew I couldn’t lose this race for these guys,” Hernandez said. “Practicing my patience, I waited at the back of the group for someone to get drawn out. With two turns to go, Eric Brunner went, and I was right on him. I beat him to the last turn, and from there it was just head down to the finish. I can’t say enough how proud of this team I am. These guys have spent years trying to deliver me to this big win, and I’m so happy to pay them back with the result finally.”