With two major cycling events scheduled this weekend, would the Little Rock, Ark., rider head west to Oklahoma City or would he go east to compete in the Johnson City Omnium?
He chose Johnson City, and it paid off with his second-place finish in the Ballad Health Criterium on Sunday. It was enough to give him a 59-51 win over criterium winner Winston David for the overall Omnium title.
Ward, 25, won the Carter County Roan Groan road race on Saturday and finished 12th in the Tupelo Honey Time Trial for his overall score.
“It has been great. It was between here and Oklahoma City and I’m glad I came out here,” Ward said. “The event has been awesome, the courses have been great and I couldn’t be happier.”
Ward, who has raced in Europe recently, found the Johnson City event a little more laid-back than the races across the Atlantic.
“People are a little less aggressive here,” he said. “It was a little calmer, which was nice. The downtown course was technical, but it wasn’t dangerous. It was a great course.”
David, a 30-year-old from Greenville, S.C., was competing in the Johnson City Omnium for a sixth time. He had been on the podium nine different occasions, but had never won an event.
That changed Sunday after he was part of a three-bike breakaway with Ward and Bryan Mutell toward the criterium’s end. David won a sprint to the finish for that elusive victory.
“Our race was really hard. Bryan Mutell and I were going as hard as we could so the big group couldn’t catch us,” David said. “For the sprint, there was a headwind, but I knew the final sprint was all out, so I attacked before the last turn and held them both off for the win.”
Zach Nehr, a 22-year-old from Milwaukee who finished second at the Roan Groan, was third in the Omnium with 48 points, followed by Mutell with 47 points.
LOCAL AND INTERNATIONAL WINS
Stephanie Nave, a 25-year-old from Erwin and the wife of Milligan College cycling coach Zach Nave, won the Women’s Pro Criterium in a sprint where she edged Luisa Fernanda Montavita of Team Colombia at the finish line.
Late in the race, she had little doubt how the finish was going to play out.
“I knew one of the Colombian women was going to attack at the final, so I was anticipating it,” Nave said. “I had to position myself for the finish. It ended up working out well.”
Team Colombia dominated the overall JC Omnium standings.
Montavita, who had finishes of fourth, second and second, captured the Omnium title. Roan Groan winner Rocio Parrado was second overall, while Nave prevented a Team Colombia sweep just ahead of fourth-place Manuela Escobar.
But nothing came easy for Nave, who said she wasn’t able to pull away from the pack after taking the lead earlier in Sunday’s criterium.
“It was a race where you had nowhere to hide on a technical course with eight turns,” Nave said. “But I love the Johnson City course. It definitely suited me, and that made it fun.”