Allar wins final sprint in women’s pro race
by Joe Medley
jmedley@annistonstar.com
Apr 22, 2012 | 1453 views |  0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Erica Allar and Laura Van Gilder came into Saturday’s Sunny King Criterium women’s pro race with undermanned teams.

Van Gilder was the only rider wearing local Mellow Mushroom colors.

But both are strong sprinters and worked together in a breakout pack that included three Optum Pro Cycling riders, and Allar was the strongest at the end.

The RideClean rider, who entered the day third in the USA Cycling National Criterium Calendar points standings, won the final sprint over Optum’s Jade Wilcoxson and Van Gilder, a 48-year-old stalwart who won this race in 2007.

“Especially when we’re outnumbered like that, Laura and I realistically become pseudo teammates,” Allar said. “We relied on each other to make sure that we cover the Optum girls when they attack and counter attack each other.

“I have a bit of a track background, and it reminded me a lot of a track race, and I was able to just ride really smart and come out on top.”

Optum entered the race with six riders, and RideClean had three. Van Gilder, one of the sport’s longest-running stars, is sponsored by friend Terry Phillis, an Anniston urologist who owns the local Mellow Mushroom franchise.

The race came down to a five-rider breakout about midway through. The group included Allar, Van Gilder and Wilcoxson plus two of her teammates, Annie Ewart and Lex Albrecht.

The five took turns at the front in the final half of the race while three other Optum riders held off the pack.

“It was a tough breakaway group,” Van Gilder said. “There were three Optums. Erica is having a great season, and Jade is an up-and-comer, so I knew they were going to be hard to beat.

“Erica and I knew we didn’t have to work against each other because they didn’t like either of us being in the breakaway as good sprinters, so we sort of negated each other, in a way, and everybody had to watch out for us.”

Van Gilder made a run at it and led with six laps to go and again with three to go. That’s about when pseudo teammates switched to every rider for herself.

“Pretty much the last two laps, it was going to be a sprint at that point,” Van Gilder said. “We needed every bullet we had left.”

Allar said she enjoyed working with Van Gilder.

“She’s a long-time rider, and she’s really respected in the field,” she said. “We were outnumbered three to one, and it’s phenomenal to go into this and come out winning and beating such a big, strong team.”

Van Gilder, who turned pro 20 years ago, is a former USA criterium champion (2000) and USA Cycling National Racing Calendar points champion (2002).

She is from Cresco, Pennsylvania, and stays with the Phillis family while in town for the annual races here.

“Every race means a lot, especially here in Anniston,” she said. “This is where I started my sponsorship with Mellow Mushroom, so I wanted to represent.

“I was really happy to make it onto the podium (as a top-three finisher).”

Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576. Follow on Twitter @jmedley_star.

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