12:57 AM CDT on Friday, September 12, 2008
MATT BAKER / The Dallas Morning News firstname.lastname@example.org
Throughout Thursday night's TX Tough Grand Prix near Victory Park, the public address announcer called Heath Blackgrove an Australian.
By the end of the 75-minute plus five-lap criterium, Blackgrove made sure everyone knew he was from New Zealand.
Blackgrove led the final six laps and coasted to a two-and-a-half second win over Ricardo Escuela and Chad Cagle.
"That's why I got fired up – you called me an Aussie, and I'm a Kiwi," Blackgrove joked before stepping on the podium.
Blackgrove, 28, took the lead for his Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team at the 75-minute mark, leading with five laps left and winning a $1,000 prize. He expanded his lead in the next three laps to 15 seconds.
"I saw the opportunity to go for the prize," Blackgrove said. "I went for it, saw the gap, and that was it."
The field cut the lead to three seconds in the last two laps, but Blackgrove won comfortably, pumping his fist at the finish line.
Cagle finished as the top amateur rider behind Blackgrove and Escuela, a member of the Successful Living Pro Cycling team. The Tulsa, Okla. resident said he was thrilled with the result.
"There toward the end, the group surges," Cagle said. "I tried to play the surge right and find my way to the front.
"I work a 40-hour-a-week job. It was fun for me to race out here with the big boys."
More than 90 professional and elite amateur riders started the event, but as darkness fell on Victory Park, the field dwindled. Only 36 riders finished the race.
New Zealand's Heath Blackgrove won Thursday's TX Tough Grand Prix by two-and-a-half seconds.
Several hundred (there were close to a 1,000) fans lined the 1,500-meter course looping around Victory Park. As riders shot out of the fourth turn, those fans saw riders emerge from the darkness of Houston Street and burst into light from the big-screen TVs in front of the American Airlines Center.
Euless resident Nick Kiernan said he was excited to race through the streets of downtown.
"This is the greatest race I've done," Kiernan said. "Great crowd. Great course."
Victory Park will host another TX Tough event Sunday. More than 1,500 cyclists will race five different courses on a charity ride benefiting Children's Medical Center.