Photo: Casey B. Gibson
HERNANDEZ SHINES AT US CRIT CHAMPIONSHIP
June 23rd, 2018
With storms clearing and the sun fading behind the glimmering lights of downtown Knoxville, the stage was set for the Aevolo team to take the start among 100 other professional cyclists, eager to race in front of the huge, cheering crowds.
From the gun, the race was on, and Aevolo animated the race from lap one. Lap after lap, the stage announcer highlighted different Aevolo riders: “That’s Lance Haidet on the front” or “Look, there’s Gage Hecht chasing down that dangerous move.” The aggressiveness designed to keep Michael Hernandez and Imeh Nsek racing with minimal stress.
As the 90-minute race rolled on, the intensity grew and the crowds got rowdier. With five laps to go, Hernandez was sitting in a solid position around 25th, with two teammates ahead and Tyler Stites off the front in a small move.
Stites was pulled back with three to go and it was time for Hernandez to make a swift move into the top 15. Lance Haidet slingshot Hernandez into perfect position right as UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling made a move up the hill with two to go.
“Coming into the last lap the team had done their job and it was time for me to finish it off,” Hernandez said. “I was sitting ninth behind the trains of Rally and Holowesko, waiting for the perfect opportunity to make my move.
“Fortunately, it was so fast that it was strung out and I didn’t have to worry about getting swarmed. Up the hill I saw my chance as Holowesko punched the pace up and I jumped around the swarm. Coming into the last corner was chaos, two Rally, two Holowesko and I was fighting an Elevate rider for the perfect line.”
Hernandez clutched the inside line and was about to move forward until another rider bumped him, causing a shift in his strategy.
“After checking up a second to protect my front wheel, I attempted to reaccelerate but couldn't quite get back on the gear,” he said. “I still slide inside of the entanglement that allowed me to finish off the boys’ hard work with a respectable fourth place."
Making his debut with Aevolo, southern California rider Imeh Nsek said he was excited to be racing with athletes he only sees on TV.
“The team is really strong and did a great job getting and keeping me at the front of the race,” Nsek said. “I’m looking forward to testing myself in the road race.”
Tomorrow’s main event, the 118.8-mile (191 km) road race starts at 1:15pm ET. The race will be live streamed via USA Cycling’s YouTube Channel and Facebook.
Photos: Casey B. Gibson