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Cafe Hollander Otto Wenz Downer Classic: Bryan Gomez and Kimberly Stoveld take solo wins in Wisconsin

On the second stop of the American Crit Cup fortunes favored the brave as attackers came out on top.

Storms dominated the racing in more ways than one at the 45th Cafe Hollander Otto Wenz Downer Classic presented by ISCorp as Kimberly Stoveld soloed her way through heavy rain to take the women’s race and Bryan Gomez of Reign Storm racing beat out the competition — and a literal rain storm — to stick a last lap attack in the men’s event.

In the second race of the American Criterium Cup and the tenth race of the Kwik Trip Tour of America’s Dairyland, the men and women had 75-minute races along the historic triangular course around the neighborhood in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The day was defined by the summer storms that brought a huge amount of rain to the women’s race and caused the course to remain slick for the men’s event.

Read more: Check out the race preview for the Downer Avenue Classic

Stroveld, a noted time trialist and a tall powerful rider, was able to use the stretched-out nature of the race in the rain to go solo twice throughout the race including a surprise final move in the final six laps that looked immediately as if it would be an insurmountable gap. Gomez employed a similar stretched-out field along the Downer Avenue course to hit out from the front of the field with one lap to go to wrench out a gap over the other sprinters and take a commanding win in the men’s race.

“It’s incredible, I’ve been trying that move for the last nine days and it finally stuck! I couldn’t be happier,” Stoveld said after the finish. Stoveld had tried solo moves at every race in the Tour of America’s Dairyland thus far. It took two separate efforts tonight to finally make it stick to the line where she took a commanding victory on the biggest night of the whole series.

On the men’s side, however, it was all about the favorites as REIGN Storm put on another stellar showing to cover the right moves and come out on top for the third straight night in Wisconsin.

“We were just covering covering covering not wanting to be chasing any moves,” Gomez said after the finish as lightning overhead sent everyone scurrying for cover. “We were present in every move and I just so happened to cover the last one and it worked out perfectly.”

At the end of the day Skylar Schneider and Bryan Gomez will head to the next ACC stop in Boise, Idaho with the red leader’s jersey while Rylee McMullen and Danny Summerhill retain their green sprint jerseys.

The Elite Women romp in the rain

Photos courtesy of Mitchell Vincent and the Kwik Trip Tour of America’s Dairyland

The women began their race amid falling rain that would come and go almost on a lap-by-lap basis throughout their 75 minutes of racing.

With the rain to complicate things, the first half of the women’s race was calm in terms of attacks as the main favorites for the stage – namely Skylar Schnieder (Miami Blazers), Coryn Labecki (EF Education-Cannondale) and Rylee McMullen (DNA Pro Cycling) – marked each other throughout the first dozen or so laps as McMullen was the most active of the main favorites.

Stoveld’s first solo of the day came with 20 laps to go and she immediately looked strong as her tall frame tucked low and neatly over her bike as she powered ahead of the field with the power of a classic time trial specialist. Stoveld had enough of a gap to get through the ACC green jersey sprint points, but McMullen had her eyes set on that jersey and marshaled a chase with her DNA Pro Cycling team to set up a sprint to collect the second-place points for that season-long competition and bring back Stoveld a lap later.

Mariana Valdez from LA Sweat was the next rider to escape off the front, with a couple of cash primes making her short stint off the front worth it before she was back into the fold with just over 10 laps to go.

Everything looked set for a sprint until a prime bell with six laps to go spurred a second attack from Stoveld who was looking to salvage something from the race. Kaitlyn Agnew was the only rider who tried to follow Stoveld, however, she never could quite find Stoveld’s slipstream as she was in full flight and quickly pulled out a massive gap to the peloton. With 4 laps to go it seemed like the only thing left in suspense was if Agnew could bridge the final few seconds to the leader, yet it was a bridge too far.

Stoveld, in the most unlikely of ways, cruised to the win with a massive gap to Agnew who just managed to stay in front of the charging peloton for second. Skylar Schnieder finished third, winning the field sprint.

“I have very limited spots to try that move, you know you only get so many opportunities to make it work,” Stoveld said. “But I am pretty persistent and pretty stubborn so I had to keep trying until it worked.

“I got into this sport hoping to win and I don’t mind getting my teeth kicked in 99% of the time. That 1% of the time when I win gets me coming back for more.”

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A REIGN Storm victory to close the night

Photos courtesy of Mitchell Vincent and the Kwik Trip Tour of America’s Dairyland

The men’s race was fortunate to run under relatively dry weather conditions with the moisture from the previous rain less of a challenge than it had been earlier in the evening for the women. Nevertheless, with a massive 135-person start list, the race was attritional from the gun, with riders spit off the back nearly every lap.

Even if the proverbial backdoor was open, the front of the race saw a stalemate as riders kept attacking only to be followed moments later by the rest of the favorites. This continued through the first half of the race as small skirmishes for the multitude of primes spurred sprints and attacks that were flashes in the pan rather than explosive moves to set up a potential victory.

Danny Summerhill was one of the riders who was acting as the glue that kept the whole show stuck together, welding gaps for his REIGN Storm Racing teammates and taking care of business by getting full points in the green jersey sprint classification in his second straight ACC race. Summerhill has made the season-long fight for the green jersey a target.

After the mid-race sprint, things settled for a few laps before Michael Garrison played his big move with 13 laps to go. Garrison, a privateer rider who is racing the 2024 season without teammates, has been one of the strongest riders on the circuit and quickly managed to pull out a gap with Alfredo Rodriguez (REIGN Storm Racing) tagging along to mark one of the most dangerous riders in the race to the dominant REIGN Storm Racing team.

As the laps clicked down, Garrison and Rodriguez looked like the race win could be decided between the two of them as there wasn’t a big team left to chase. However, with 5 laps to go the bell for a big cash prime for the field was rung again and a flurry of attacks saw a 20-second gap quickly dissolve into a five-second gap as Noah Granigan (Miami Blazers) took the money and started to make his way across the gap. One lap later and suddenly everyone was back into the fold a sprint seemed imminent.

Nevertheless, on a night with many twists and turns, there was room for one more as Bryan Gomez exploded out of the stretched-out field with grimaces all around through the bell lap. His REIGN Storm team had been the only train in play thus far at the Tour of America’s Dairyland so when Gomez hit the gas, the rest of the sprinters were left holding the bag as he cruised to a solo win with plenty of room to celebrate as the storm that had been threatening the race crackled overhead.

“Having the strongest teams gives you more pressure,” Gomez said of the pressure that team dominance puts on the riders in criterium racing. “If any move goes without your team it’s all about you, you really need to race with your head up. You really can’t rely on anyone. But we have a bunch of guys who know how to handle that type of pressure.”

James Gardener (MITOQ-NZ Cycling Project) finished second while Jordan Parra made it two REIGN Storm riders on the podium with a third-place finish.

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