If you’re a fan of high-stakes bike racing — this weekend was a gift from the cycling gods, with XCO World Cups and the return to UCI DH racing for the mountain crowd and USA Crits Tulsa Tough for the road crowd. We’re here to talk about the latter, more specifically #critbeef, and the utter dominance of L39ion of Los Angeles the entire weekend.
Who is L39ION?
With the help of their sponsors like Zwift, L39ION is doing things differently with a focus on “promoting diversity, building community, and developing a platform for the future of American racing, they’re at the forefront of positive change.” The video above from Zwift tells a little of the L39ION story, and it is definitely worth a watch.
#Critbeef — a brief history
For those unfamiliar, #critbeef started with the question, “who should rightfully wear the stars and stripes jersey this season? Justin Williams (L39ion of Los Angeles) or Travis McCabe (Best Buddies Racing).” The hashtag has sparked lots of debate, fantastic back and forth posting, and a hyped-up professional criterium season we’re all excited to watch unfold.
Both Williams and McCabe have a claim to the stars and stripes, Williams earning the jersey in Maryland at the 2018 Amateur Road National Championships and defending it in 2019 — COVID concerns canceled the National Road Championships for 2020.
McCabe claimed his jersey at the Pro National Championship in 2019, riding for Floyd’s Pro Cycling, just before flying to Europe to race with WorldTour team Israel Start-Up Nation. COVID cut racing short in the spring, and with a rocky end to 2020, McCabe decided to return home to race with the amateur team Best Buddies Racing in 2021.
When L39ion of Los Angeles applied for its UCI Continental license late last year, the team was upgraded to professional status, and with the pro road champ now on an amateur team, the question beckons, “who will wear the national champs jersey?”
On May 4th, #critbeef officially started when Criterium Nation posted a photo of former US champion Danny Estevez wearing a Best Buddies Racing jersey with a caption reading, “This🙌changes🙌everything🙌.” Williams replied, “It. changes. nothing.” — the rest is history.
Show Down at Tulsa Tough
All criterium fans were excited to watch the showdown between L39ion of Los Angeles and the 2021 USA Crits D1 teams at Tulsa Tough. They were treated to show of utter dominance by L39ion of Los Angeles in both the men’s and women’s categories. No one but L39ion of Los Angeles riders stood on the top step of the podium in Pro categories, and in some instances, the podium itself.
Over the three stages of racing; Blue Dome, River Parks, and Tulsa Arts – L39ion of Los Angeles dominated. Brothers Cory and Justin Williams took first and second Friday night at Blue Dome, with Daniel Estevez of Best Buddies Racing taking third. River Parks was similar finish, L39ion of Los Angeles Tyler Williams taking the win with teammate Cory Williams in second.
On the final day of racing in Tulsa at the Tulsa Arts center, L39ion of Los Angeles not only took the top step but took the top four spots in the men’s pro race. Cory Williams of L39ion of Los Angeles took the victory, securing first place in the Pro Men’s Omnium with second place for teammate Tyler Williams.
After the final race, Justin Williams took to Instagram to voice his opinion on race tactics and sportsmanship — wheel chopping and unnecessary aggression from other teams. Though we can’t speak to what exactly happened in the heat of the race, one thing is for sure — other teams know they have work to do before the second stop on the USA Crits Calendar in Boise, ID. You can relive all the action on USA Crits TV and check out all the USA Crits D1 Teams here.