NCL Cup Denver sees Miami dominate Disruptors

By Justinian Hatfield
NCL Denver Cup
In this screenshot from GCN+ coverage of the NCL Denver Cup, Miami Nights’ Paola Munoz and Jeydy Praderas celebrate winning the final sprint.

A major rule change and a photo-finish sprint controversy were the headlines of the NCL Cup Denver 400, which saw the Miami Nights get their revenge over the Denver Disruptors in a 151-96 victory.

In the Men’s portion of the race, which took place at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Aug. 13, Alfredo Rodriguez won a photo-finish sprint to take the maximum points. Denver thought they won the sprint until the officials announced the results.

In the Women’s portion of the race, there was no need to review the sprint as Paula Munoz sprinted for the win with her teammate Jeydy Praderas coming in second.

In a departure from the last NCL race in Miami, the points on the last lap of the NCL Cup Denver were upped to 30 for first place, eight for second, six for third, and down to one point for eighth place. In the las NCL Cup race in Miami, first place received nine points, second six, and third received 3 points.

Miami won both qualifying races in Denver and gained eight points and the starting slot coming into both races.

Both Men’s and Women’s races consisted of 21 laps of a 1 1/2 mile circuit around the Colorado Rapids soccer stadium.

The first five points in the Men’s race went to Clever Martinez and Alberto Rodriguez with first and third place.

After three laps, Miami only had Gomez at the front with the rest of the team back in the bunch, but with 15 laps to go, Miami led the pack with 19 points, and Denver was in second with 16 points.

The next lap, Denver came in first on the Sprint and tied for first place.

With 13 laps to go, Martinez chased Denver’s Riley Sheehan for second place.

Before the race, Martinez said that the entire team has been training at altitude for the last several weeks.

“There’s no excuse about altitude or lack of oxygen,” Martinez said. “We are ready fitness-wise and we learned from our mistakes from Miami and we’ll try to fix it.”

Denver’s lead started to grow with 11 laps to go and in the next lap, Mike’s Bikes and Texas Roadhouse riders made a break and took the most points on the lap. Miami’s Martinez joined the chase for Texas Roadhouse’s Tim Smith, who took another 3 points with nine laps to go.

By the 16th lap, Texas Roadhouse was still leading the race scoring max points on each lap. The team racked up 26 points, but still trailed Denver, which lead Miami 36-35.

With five laps to go, substitutions were no longer allowed and about half the peloton had been pulled to prevent them from being lapped. Texas Roadhouse’s Tim Smith took another three points and started to gain on Miami and Denver with 29 points. But then, Miami and Denver took control of the race with four laps to go.

Going into the last lap, which had 30 points on offer for the first-place finish, Denver was up 46 to Miami’s 42. Both teams had three riders up front in a seven-man break. It appeared that Denver’s Reinhart Van Rensberg, who was subbed in to race the final laps, took the sprint with a bike throw over Miami’s Alfredo Rodriguez with Clever Martinez finishing third.

“It was me against Alfredo in the end,” Van Rensberg, who still thought he had won, said in a TV interview. “I guess it was pretty close, like photo finish at the end. I didn’t know who won, but apparently the photo said I won. I was practicing my bike throws this morning, so really that paid off, I guess.”

Shortly after the interview with Van Rensberg, the NCL Cup Denver officials announced that Rodriguez actually won the sprint and awarded the 30 points to Miami.

At the conclusion of the Men’s race, Miami finished with 78 points, Denver scored 60 and Texas Roadhouse rounded out the podium with 29 points.

There were a couple crashes early on in the Women’s race, but the nerves soon settled and Miami and Denver battled it out and maintained a 20-point gap for most of the race.

Chloe Mauvais with Monarch Racing attacked on the second lap to take the sprint, but was caught on the next lap by Denver and Miami chasers.

With 16 laps to go Miami crossed the line first and increased their lead to 90-68 over Denver. For the next few laps, the two teams swapped first place finishes. Nineteen-year-old Chloe Patrick with Goldman Sachs then took the sprint with 13 laps left.

Halfway through the race, Miami’s lead was steady with 97 points over Denver’s 78. Goldman Sachs added five points to their Texas Roadhouse men’s team for 34 total points.

With seven laps left, Denver took first and third and added four points to their total. The next lap, Miami moved past the triple-digit mark with 101 points to Denver’s 85.

Miami’s Andrea Buttine, with five laps to go, led a three-woman breakaway with Denver and Skyline, which Denver capitalized on for the maximum points. Miami led Denver 105 to 89.

On the next lap, Buttine attacked and crossed the line first for another three points. A four-woman breakaway formed on the next lap, but was caught. On the penultimate lap, the bunch was back together and Buttine took the max points on the sprint.

Going into the last lap, Miami led Denver 111 to 91, with Goldman Sachs at 43. With about 15 riders left in the race, Miami was up front controlling the pace. Into the final turn, Denver attacked, but with 150 meters to go Miami’s Paola Munoz and Jeydy Praderas let loose and Munoz won the sprint for the win and the extra 30 points. Praderas came in second. The Miami women scored 73 points to Denver’s 36.

In the last race in Miami Beach, Denver won with a combined 138 points to Miami’s 93.

“I’m so happy because our team is amazing,” Munoz said. “In the lap last we knew this race was our revenge.”

The final scores in the NCL Cup Denver were: Miami with 151; Denver with 96; Goldman Sachs/Texas Roadhouse with 53; Primeau Velo/Kelly Benefits with 19; and CCB/Foundation with 16.

The last race in the NCL Cup series takes place next weekend in Atlanta, GA. The race will be streamed on GCN+.