Cycling: South Africa’s Richard Baxter wins Beverly Hills Cycling Classic
By Tim O’Brien For Sun-Times Media July 6, 2012 11:28PM
Cyclists compete during the Beverly Hills Cycling Classic on Friday. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
TOP 10 FINISHERS
1. Richard Baxter, Tasol
2. Jairo Perez, Colombian National Team
3. Tom Burke, Lathrop Industries
4. James Perry, Tasol
5. Brandon Fehery, Astella Oncology
6. Liam Donoghue
7. Christopher Uberti
8. Peter Merv, NWV Groningen
9. Bryan McVey, Astella Oncology
10. Jostein Alvestad
Updated: August 9, 2012 9:38AM
In a field of 32 riders during Friday night’s Beverly Hills Cycling Classic, no rider was able to escape the extreme heat and humidity.
But for South Africa’s Richard Baxter, the weather conditions were just one more thing he wasn’t going to let affect his performance.
Baxter arrived in Chicago on Thursday night after having been on a plane for 24 straight hours.
On Friday night, nothing was stopping him. Outsprinting the Colombian National Team’s Jairo Perez, Baxter won the Beverly Hills Cycling Classic, kicking off the International Cycling Classic Superweek Pro Tour.
“It’s been a lot of preparation up to this,” Baxter said. “I’m really happy it paid off. We knew it would be tough, but I tried to stay calm.”
The Superweek Pro Tour features 17 days of race around Chicago and into Wisconsin. The Beverly race opened the circuit for the 10th straight year.
Baxter was part of a 16-man breakaway halfway through the 62-mile race. Nine members of the early breakaway then lapped the remainder of the field, with Baxter and Perez pulling away from the group over the final 10 laps.
The two riders stayed neck and neck down the stretch, but on the final straightaway Baxter was able to pull ahead enough to squeak out the win.
“I enjoyed the course, but with two laps to go I started cramping,” Baxter said. “I’m really not the fastest sprinter at all so I was trying to save my legs (for late). It was a big surprise (to win), but I put in a lot of hard work for it.”
Of the 32-man field, fewer than 20 riders finished, three coming from the home team of sorts, Beverly Bike/Vee-Pak Racing. The finishers included Beverly natives Brian Boyle and Anthony Rienks and Mount Greenwood’s Mike Seguin. Rienks and Seguin are both Chicago firefighters.
In three previous tries at the Beverly race, Boyle failed to finish the grueling race. His previous best was finishing 15 laps in the 2011 race before dropping out with severe cramps.
“It’s just one of those weird things because I’ve wanted to do well at this race for so long,” Boyle said. “Things just kept going wrong, but this year I just tried to control everything I could. I prepped for the heat and did everything very, very conservatively.”
Keeping up with the riders in the international field, Boyle’s mind-set Friday was simply survival: stay with the pack and stay alive.
“I needed to make it when the breakaway went,” Boyle said. “Those guys were killing it up front trying to split from the group. I was feeling good enough to keep up with the splits and backed off.”
For the 44-year-old Seguin, just finishing the race proved a victory in itself. He started cycling just four years ago.
“My goal was to finish half the race ,so once I got through 31 laps everything was icing from there,” Seguin said. “I went for a sprint, and that cashed me. When I started cycling, this was a goal to be in this race. It’s stupid because I’m racing against these 20-year-olds.”
The International Cycling Classic was to continue Saturday at Wood Dale, Sunday at Geneva and returns south for Monday’s Richton Park Criterium.