Ryan McGee was content to draft behind other riders near the rear of the peloton.
He was carefully plotting a breakaway attempt in the hope he would be at the front of the field as it sped past the SHINE offices in downtown Janesville.
McGee wanted to show off for his coworkers, who had lined the fence along Milwaukee Street to cheer him on.
Unfortunately, pretty much everyone else had the same idea at the same time. A $200 field prime had been announced, setting off a chain reaction as riders near the front of the peloton attempted to break free.
“The one time I wanted to get in front and get some publicity was the premium lap,” McGee said, shaking his head following the men’s Division 4/5 race—the first of nine criterium bike races Tuesday during the Town Square Gran Prix, the sixth stage in the Tour of America’s Dairyland.
“I had already made (my move), so I just said, ‘I’ll see how long I can hang on there.’ I knew there was going to be someone who would outsprint me.”
McGee, 32, said he moved to Janesville from Houston in late 2017. He broke his collarbone a few weeks ago while training and, after coming up short on his prime attack, just wanted to make sure he made it through the race upright.
“My main worry was staying rubber side down,” McGee said with laugh. “I didn’t want to push it and get aggressive and wind up on my backside.”
McGee made it through unscathed. He finished 24th in the 42-man field.
Bryan Fratianne, another Janesville resident, had also been part of the group that challenged for the early $200 prime. Six Janesvillians were entered in Tuesday’s races, with Fratianne leading the locals with a 19th-place finish. Kyle Pierson was right behind in 20th, while locals Noah Nelson and Ben Ryan finished off the lead lap.
Fratianne has posted four top-25 finishes during this year’s Tour of America’s Dairyland. Last year, during his first attempt at the 11-day Tour, Fratianne never finished higher than 27th.
“I feel so much better this year than I did last year,” Fratianne said. “Last year, I was struggling with the stress load of each race.
“This year, it’s bad. But it’s not that bad.”
Fratianne and McGee both were dangerously close to being involved in a wreck that took down the Division 4/5 points leader, Matthew Sokolowski, as the peloton turned right onto Court Street near the YMCA.
“I was really lucky to avoid it,” Fratianne said. “His back wheel was right next to my front wheel.”
Sokolowski completed the race, finishing 31st. Jacob Smith-Peters of Fayetteville, Arkansas, won the stage in 39 minutes, 24 seconds. He claimed 30 points in the overall title chase.
Smith-Peters and Emiel Pastijn broke away from the peloton about halfway through the race. The pair finished about 20 seconds ahead of the rest of the field, proving that a well-timed breakaway would be tough to catch on Janesville’s “dogbone” course.
Following last year’s Town Square Gran Prix, race organizers had to lay out a new course that would avoid the ongoing reconstruction of the Milwaukee Street Bridge.
They devised a course roughly shaped like a dogbone. The Court Street Bridge joined a pair of cornering sections—one on each side of the Rock River.
That led to a long, strung-out peloton. Fratianne said the bridge, divided down the center to allow two-way bike traffic, served to squeeze the field together and make it difficult for riders in the middle or rear to move up.
“The pace would either go super hard through there or would come way off and everybody would fill the road,” Fratianne said.
Buoyed by a race through the streets of his hometown, Fratianne is feeling good as the second half of the Tour of America’s Dairyland begins Wednesday in Muskego.
“It was the best I’ve felt so far this series,” he said.
Owen repeats as Janesville winner
Harriet Owen passed up the chance to win several massive primes late in the women’s pro race, but she emerged from the pack on the final lap to claim the stage win in a sprint to the finish.
Owen, sporting the yellow cowhide-patterned jersey as the division leader, repeated as Janesville champion and extended her lead in the overall standings.
“It was nice to go back-to-back,” the native of Oxford, England, said. “This course was actually way better than the one last year so I’m definitely coming back.”
It was Owen’s third win in six days on the Tour of America’s Dairyland. She holds a seven-point lead over Australian Nat Redmond, who finished second Tuesday.
“It definitely feels like Day 10,” Owen said, “but the chocolate milk is helping.”
Katie Compton, the 15-time United States cyclocross champion, did go for those big primes. She pocketed $3,500 between two primes before falling back into the peloton.
The native of Wilmington, Delaware, finished 27th.
Poulson claims men’s pro title
The peloton reeled in a 10-man breakaway with five laps to go, and Justin Paulson had the most momentum going into the final turn during the pro men’s race.
In front of the largest crowds of the day, the native of San Marcos, California, won a field sprint for his first Tour of America’s Dairyland stage victory.
“There were a few times mid-race where I felt like I was going to lose it, but not in the final corner,” Paulson said. “I knew what I could do to push the bike.”
Paulson became the sixth different men’s pro rider to win a stage during this Tour of America’s Dairyland.
Points leader Matthew Rice finished second to maintain his hold on the yellow jersey heading to Muskego.
Storms strike again
A thunderstorm rolled over Janesville at about 1:40 p.m., causing the Master’s 40-plus race to be neutralized for 30 minutes.
It must have felt like deja vu to anyone who had attended last year’s Town Square Gran Prix, which was halted for more than an hour by heavy rains.
Once racing resumed, Emile Abraham, the 2017 U.S. Masters national champion, took the stage victory.
Town Square Gran Prix
RACE WINNERS AND AREA FINISHERS
Men’s category 4/5—1. Jacob Smith-Peters, 39:24; 19. Bryan Fratianne (Janesville), 39:53; 20. Kyle Pierson (Janesville), 39:53; 24. Ryan McGee (Janesville), 39:54; Off lead lap: Noah Nelson (Janesville), Ben Ryan (Janesville).
Men’s category 3/4—1. Josh Rinderknecht, 50:56.
Men’s category 2/3—1. Will Hardin, 50:44.
Masters’s 40-plus—1. Emile Abraham, 46:22.
Women’s category 3/4/5—1. Brittany Cornelius, 30:06.
Master’s 50-plus—1. Randall Coxworth, 56:38.
Pro women—1. Harriet Owen, 53:09.
Pro men—1. Justin Paulson, 1:29.44; 76. Anderson Bortoletto (McFarland), 1:31.30.