Jim Stemper didn’t feel any added pressure to perform in front of two-dozen friends and relatives clamoring at the finish line in the Schlitz Park Criterium Tuesday night.
“The pressure comes when you have seven guys who can win the race behind you and you’re on a two-man break with four laps to go,” the Wauwatosa native explained.
With one to go, Stemper tightened his lips, dug in and plotted the move that would take him past Cole House and to victory.
With a surge up Brewer’s Hill, Stemper made the Kenda 5-Hour Energy Team six for six in the Tour of America’s Dairyland and edged him closer to teammate John Murphy for the overall title in the 11-race series. The 2010 TOAD champion 2010 trails Murphy, who will ride in the yellow cow-print jersey for at least one more day.
Stemper and Murphy surged their way into a 12-man group that built a one-minute lead on the field of 80 in the tour’s sixth race. With four laps to go on the twisting 1-mile loop, Stemper attacked and broke free of everyone but House, riding for Competitive Cyclist.
They played cat-and-mouse for three laps, and House held the edge as the bell rang at the start-finish line. Then Stemper beat House up the 165-foot Brewer’s Hill and secured the winning position on the descent and through the s-curve, 400 meters from the finish.
“I just wanted to show what I do,” Stemper said. “It was great to show my parents, who have invested so much, that we’re doing good.”
Good is an understatement. Kenda racers hold the top four spots in the overall, with Chad Hartley following John Murphy.
In the women’s race, a lunch-hour treat for the suit-and-tie troops, Erica Allar ended Laura Van Gilder’s run of victories at four.
Riding for RideClean/Patentit, Allar outsprinted one of the best sprinters in the country for her first taste of victory, and chocolate milk.
The TOAD riders head north on Wednesday for the Attitude Sports Fond du Lac Road race, intent on securing their positions before the heavy hitters in U.S. pro cycling arrive for the four races included in the National Criterium Calendar series. The heat, speed and intensity will be on the rise leading into the historic Downer Ave. Classic on Saturday and the Madison Criterium finale on Sunday.