Miami Nights take the win at a thrilling Denver NCL Cup

The Nights turn the tables on Denver at the mile-high circuit

Scenes from the NCL Cup's second race in Denver, Colo, on August 13, 2023
(Image credit: Snowy Mountain Photography)

After 44 fast laps around Denver's Dicks Sporting Goods Stadium, the Miami Nights took the win in the National Cycling League Cup's second race on Sunday, August 13. The other NCL-founded team and host of this second round, the Denver Disrupters, finished second. Goldman Sachs/Texas Roadhouse took third. 

The 1.4-mile course had eight corners and a long start-finish straight, made for very fast racing and exciting sprints every lap. The men in each co-ed team raced first and Miami's Alfredo Rodriguez took the final lap to earn a valuable 30 points for his team, giving the women a solid head start that they would build on. In the women's race, Miami's Paula Munoz did her part by also winning the final lap and solidifyingI the team's win.

Scenes from the NCL Cup's second race in Denver, Colo, on August 13, 2023

The qualifier round

(Image credit: Snowy Mountain Photography)

Qualifiers: Miami gets a lead

The race weekend got underway on Saturday, August 12, with a qualifier event at Woods Boss Brewing Company using KICKR indoor bikes. Not unlike Formula 1 racing, this qualifier determines the grid starting order for the actual race the following day. The goal is to get as high up in the grid as possible as starting at the front of the pack in this fast and furious race can be a significant advantage.

In the virtual race, the Miami Nights got their head start. The Miami team took the win and the eight-point bonus with Clever Martinez and Andrea Buttine representing the team. The combined power of Texas Roadhouse's Aaron Beebe and Goldman Sachs' Jenna Nestman took second, and the Kelly Benefits and Primeau Velo team, represented by Penelope Primeau and Maximus Anderson took home third, thereby securing the third spot on the grid. The Denver Disrupters, dominant winners of the opening round back in April, only managed a fifth place finish despite Riley Sheehan setting the fastest time of the day.

Scenes from the NCL Cup's second race in Denver, Colo, on August 13, 2023

(Image credit: Snowy Mountain Photography)

The men go first

The NCL appears to have taken some feedback to heart after the series debut event in April, as the Denver race featured and updated points system. A 30-point bonus was added for the winner of the last lap, and points now go eight deep for that final lap. This change made the finish in Denver much more critical as it was worth 10 times the points of a standard lap.

"We made a couple of adjustments to the points, and it made it much more competitive and a lot more exciting," NCL founder Paris Wallace agreed. 

In the men's race, we saw another battle between the two NCL-founded teams, the Miami Nights and the Denver Disrupters. The two teams were duking it out the whole race. After a successful qualifying event the night prior, the Miami Nights started the Sunday race with a points lead and first place on the grid. This paid dividends as the team immediately went 1-2 on the first lap. Aggressive racing was the name of the game, with breakaway attempts going from lap two onward. Making up for a disappointing qualifier, Noah Grannigan and Riley Sheehan of the Disrupters were active early, trying to secure points from a reduced group with Miami following. 

As we saw in the series opener,  the race pace was very high, which put some of the smaller teams in trouble with quite a few riders falling off the back early on. By minute 30, we saw the field reduced to less than 30 riders. Sheehan continued to push and would eventually get away solo while Miami Nights, Mikes's Bikes and Texas Roadhouse tried to bridge across. 

The chase managed to bridge and the breakaway cordially trade pulls for a few laps until Texas Roadhouse attacked solo, and the remaining breakaway riders were folded back into the leading pack. Texas Roadhouse utilized the rider pit to full effect, swapping Eli House and Tim Smith nearly every lap to keep a rider out front, scoring points as they solidified third place. 

"We didn't expect to be solo, but we planned on exchanging every other lap or every lap. Once we got settled into the break, we were swapping every lap. It was kinda like intervals you knew you could sub out so you could go all out," Eli House told Cycling Weekly.

This use of the pit was vital for success in this race, with teams utilizing it much more with many more substitutions than at the first race in Miami. Talking to the Kelly Benefits rider Liam Flanagon gave some insight into how vital the pits were and how they changed their strategies for the second race. 

"It is a totally different sport; being able to have the pits is different. So we went into Miami thinking we were just going to use it just as a last resort where if you were getting dropped or too tired, we could sub you out, but we didn't really think of it strategically," he said. "So we came into it this time to keep one of our sprinters to switch in and out."

Scenes from the NCL Cup's second race in Denver, Colo, on August 13, 2023

(Image credit: Snowy Mountain Photography)

Denver and Miami were less active back in the field, seemingly in a stalemate as they were only a few points apart. As the race neared its end, the Texas Roadhouse rider was reeled in, and Miami and Denver began to take over as they set up for that final sprint and the valuable 30 points on offer. Denver was ahead by just one point as they entered the last lap. Halfway through the last lap, the pace strung out the field, and a group of seven was slightly off the front containing Miami, Denver and Texas Roadhouse. As they hit the final straight, Reinardt Janse van Rensberg of Denver led it out, but Alfredo Rodriguez would come around him at the line with a bike throw, and Clever Martinez of Miami would clean up third.

"The plan was to save the last five laps for the sprint because we know the last sprint gave a lot of points, and we were saving saving, but Disruptor was attacking a lot, so we needed to cover every attack, and we won. I take the pit with seven laps to go, and I rest for two laps, and it was a really good plan for us," said Alfredo Rodriguez. The Miami Nights team used the pit and rider exchange to the full extent to allow their sprinter the rest he needed to win those key 30 points on the final lap.

Scenes from the NCL Cup's second race in Denver, Colo, on August 13, 2023

(Image credit: Snowy Mountain Photography)

The women's race

In the women's race, we had a similarly fast start, causing riders to get dropped as early as two laps in. The pressure was on for the Miami Nights as the Denver Disruptors riders pushed to make up the deficit from the men's race. Miami started out strong, with their sprinters Munoz and Andrea Cyr taking points ahead of Denver. But as the race pushed on, Denver started to claw back points as Leah Kirchman and Argiro Milaki drove the pace on the front. Some other teams were also making their mark, including CCB, with U23 Road Race national champion Natalie Quinn getting some points and trying to get a breakaway going. And Chloe Patrick, the U23 criterium national champion riding for Goldman Sachs, winning several laps and gaining more points for her team, solidifying their bronze medal finish.

Unfortunately for Quinn, a breakaway never materialized for any period longer than a lap. And with five laps to go, Denver had brought the points down to just a 16-point deficit —well within striking range for the finish. With four laps to go, Quinn once again tried for a breakaway and earned some points, moving CCB up into fourth place. With a lap and a half left, Cyr of Miami puts in an attack but Kirchmann of Denver followed.

Coming into the final corner, Hachmann of Denver led it out with Kirchman third wheel, but the Canadian couldn't get it done as Munoz took the win with her teammate in second place — earning maximum points. 

"The race was super hard, but on the last lap, our director told me, Paula, it is your turn, and then we started the sprint, and I took the second part. But we are very happy because in Miami we finished second and this time in Denver was our revenge. And now we need to close the battle in the Atlanta Cup," said Munoz, delighted to take the win in Denver.

With Miami Nights taking the win in Denver, everything will come down to the series finale next week in Atlanta to decide the overall winner and the big prize money that comes with it. After losing at their home race, the fire will certainly be lit for Denver. Cycling Weekly was told that the Georgia course will be incredibly challenging course, promising fireworks and a thrilling finale.

More about the NCL

- After a 4-month wait, the NCL continues in Denver this weekend - here's what to expect

- Is the National Cycling League in trouble already?

- A cancelled race and new CEO - big changes at the National Cycling League after just one race

- The National Cycling League made its anticipated debut over the weekend, but were we entertained?

- Denver Disruptors dominate National Cycling League debut race

- Fan-first, gamified bike racing: the NCL readies for its debut as domestic teams get on board

- L39ION of LA and The Miami Blazers have no intention to partake in the National Cycling League

- The newly formed National Cycling League: a gimmick or the future of American bike racing?

- The National Cycling League announces its first teams, stacked with internationally known talent

- NBA All-Star Bradley Beal and NFL pros pump $7.5m into the new US cycling league

- The National Cycling League announces a $1 Million dollar prize purse

- Inaugural US National Cycling League could see fans virtually racing the pros in 2023

- Why American cycling needs a new Greg Lemond or - whisper it - Lance Armstrong

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