MARQUETTE - Men's Pro 1, 2 Category rider Graham Howard spent the majority of Superior Bike Fest looking behind him.
In Friday's Criterium, Howard finished nearly 30 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor, and Saturday, the 24-year-old from Grand Rapids took the 100-mile Michigan State Championship road race.
Sunday at Presque Isle for the Circuit Races, Howard found himself in a different situation. Second place.
Graham Howard glances behind him while competing in the Superior Bike Fest Circuit race at Presque Isle Park in Marquette Sunday. He placed second in the circuit competition. (Journal photo by Curt Kemp)
The silver lining of second place for Howard was that teammate Derek Graham was the winner. Graham finished in 28 minutes, 15.5 seconds, with Howard crossing the finish line in 28:18.3.
"We kind of went hard from the start, which wasn't real pleasant, but we didn't have a whole lot of time to make it hard so we had to start early," Howard said.
Howard led much of the race, leaving an opportunity for Graham to make his way up to the front.
"The other guy that was second yesterday (David Williams) took off chasing (Howard)," Graham said. "So I kind of got a free ride up to Graham (Howard) and then I dropped down the hill and just caught him at the top, and that was it."
With at least two Bissell riders in the top five for each event, Superior Bike Fest's top men's division was dominated by the team from Grand Rapids.
"That was the plan, to win each day," Graham said, "and to win the overall."
Howard took care of the overall title for the team, outdistancing Williams by 14 points, 101-87.
Riders earn 35 points for each race victory, 31 for second, 28 for third, 25 for fourth, 22 for fifth, 20 for sixth and 19 to one point descending until 25th place.
Just as Howard was unable to attain the three-peat, Geoff Kuyper of the Leadout Racing/Chicago Drive Cycling Team fell short of the feat as well, finishing third in the Men's Category 3 race Sunday, behind Andrew Florian and winner Chris Padfield. Padfield's time was 19:18.5, followed by Florian (19:20.2) and Kuyper (19:24.6).
"I had the legs today, I just didn't play it right," Kuyper said. "A group of two got away early in the third lap and we (Kuyper and his teammates) kind of let them go. I planned to jump across to them and just waited too long to try.
"Coming down the hill, I couldn't catch them and couldn't get caught," he added, "so I sat up and just rolled across (the finish line)."
Kuyper did win the overall, with 98 omnium points to defeat Okemos, Mich.'s Adam York, who finished with 72. Finishing atop the omnium points list wasn't necessarily something Kuyper envisioned coming in to the weekend.
"I wanted to vie for it," he said, "but I didn't think it'd go this well."
In the Open Women's Division, it was Criterium-winner Sarah Maguire taking the Circuit race, in 21:40.6, defeating Saturday's road race winner Susan Vigland (21:41.3) by less than a second.
With Sunday's win, Maguire took the overall title as well, with 101 points to Vigland's 88.
All the riders involved said they enjoyed being in Marquette for the weekend, and that the races were well organized and safe. The only qualm for Team Bissell was the drive.
"I think the drive for everybody is what keeps this from being one of the premier races in the area," Howard said. "Because it has everything that everybody likes about racing, but it's a real time commitment to get here."