Merco Crit … the real show
True enough, i’ve had a few bucketloads of fun out on the Merco RR course over the years … but, it’s not the show, it’s not the high-stakes gamblefest and crowd pleasing hammerthrows offered by the downtown criterium.
This year’s edition of the Merco Downtown Grand Prix looks to have a more than middlin’ chance of precipitation dropping on the course throughout the day, which really only affects about 90% of the turns ~ so, everybody should be fine out there. Historically, this is a race that starts out at speeds burning holes in chamois in both the men and women’s events. On the one hand, riders like to push the throttle early to spread the field out and keep it safer through the early dives ‘tween the backside chicane. And on the other hand … there’s more than many riders jumping out to try and take the inevitable first lap prime for a few hundred bucks.
But this year, the weekend isn’t NRC … and the crit fields are p1/2 for the men, p1/2/3 for the women, instead of the usual p/1 and p1/2. So, with that spread of ability included in this 2010 version … the initial speeds are likely to be even higher as the pro teams look to shed off as many hangers-on as possible in the opening few minutes.
The men’s race looks to be early glimpses at some of the big battles likely to be played out between sprinter teams in the NRC this year. Major favorite will be the Bahati Foundation, as they have black lightning Rahsaan Bahati always rising to the occasion for a quick strike in front of big crowds.
But they also have underrated fastman and sneaky breakaway artist Hilton Clarke registered for the event … and this is a rider who has won some big gawdamn events in his career, so check him out. United Healthcare has perennial hardman Rory Sutherland out to kick more shit Aussie-style, but they also have new acquisition Eric Barlevav … who has had a few speedy wins in the past, himself. But, something tells me Barlevav might not have that top-end quite yet … as there’s always a lot of pressure to build endurance and ability to get over hills when joining on to a powerhouse pro squad. We’ll see.
The Bissell boyz look like they have their Gila Stage Race team signed up … with none of their sprinters reg’d yet ~ which to me seems a bit of a limpdick manuever considering all the press they put out about their newfound fast-fiendery. I mean, they go and sign up Wamsley, have Pipp in the holster, and cock the Holloway six-shooter at everything in sight … so, you’d think they’d at least send one of them to the Merco slugfest. But, Holloway may be prepping for Track Worlds … so, give him a pass, I guess. But still ~ I reckon at least one of the WamPipp boys should be there bumping shoulders in the early season joustings [instead of out in Singapore].
It will be interesting to see how the NorCal amateur stongmen fare against the tactics that might play out amongst the pros. With Bahati always a threat, and both Bissell and United having breakaway monsters at the ready … there could be a chance to see CalGiant and the Yahoo!ligans putting a rider, or two in a large break that scores time on the field. We’ll see … and most intriguing of all ~ NO RADIOS!!!
With the lack of radios in this criterium, we could see all kinds of mayhem out there. It’s really going to be quite fascinating to see if the speeds will remain so high, so long after the start … that only the fittest and smartest of riders may eeek their way off the front, with no pack alive at the end to give chase.
As it frickin’ should be.
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Women of Merco … bare the teeth
The women’s race will likely be the fastest 5 laps of most of the pack’s lives. With the PeanutButterChicks spreading a powerful squad on the course, HTC fielding a fab-5 including uber-stars Ina Tuetenberg, Emilia Fahlin & Kim Anderson, AND a select few strong’uns from the TIBCO shredding machine … the opening laps will be an immense burn-off of amateur women unable to withstand the speed, agility, and elements brought to bare.
That’s good training. And any woman who can still be pedaling and have an ounce of fight left in her after those first 5-laps will have won one helluva battle. Courage, you cat 3s and regional 2s in the field. Courage and luck to you all ~ believe in yourself, keep it upright, and keep that throttle on until there’s nothing remaining in the tank. Good on’ya.
Again, with the removal of radios … racing has become much more exciting and I can’t wait to see how this criterium will play out. With HTC having the powerhouse sprinting combination of Teutenberg and Fahlin, and a patented leadout phenom in the form of Anderson … I find it difficult to believe that any of the other teams will want the race to come down to a field sprint. However, it will also be incredibly difficult for that ‘perfect break’ to form where all squads are pleased and represented, wanting to work it to the line.
TIBCO has their superstar, Brooke Miller, on the starting list … and there are many, many of us fans of the sport who would love to see Brooke, Ina T, and Shelley Evans burning tread to the line in a no holds barred field sprint. That would be an epic final few hundred meters to see, indeed.
But, there are possibilities of breaks succeeding in this race … Katheryn Mattis of Webcor is registered and already evidencing strong endurance speed in this early 2010 season. She and Kelly Benjamin have been known to put a field through the gauntlet in the past … and I see no reason these women won’t be out there swinging big again. And VERY intriguing is the registration of the queen of the wind, Olivia Dillon, with the PeanutButterChicks. Seeing Coryn Rivera and Kat Carroll able to join with Dillon on the attacks … there could be a very, very interesting series of marked bridging attempts by the HTC and TIBCO squads – with many eyes on the newly evolved Shelley Evans and what she’ll choose to do.
The question is, who will be put on the defensive?
True enough, it will be a bluffing game in those middle minutes of the race. The opening speeds will be too high for anything to get away other than what is shat out the backside of the pack. But once reality sets in, and the tactics begin to bring out teeth … SOMEbody is going to be left fighting for scraps. This could be a day when TIBCO has to put one of their younger guns out in the warzone to fend for herself. With badass Starnes coming back from NewZealand in some hopeful form … we could see her be the one out in move after move, covering everything but the kitchen sink with her sweat and agony, to make sure TIBCO is represented. But the NewYork Brawler, MegGuarnier, may also be out there swinging haymakers … and either one of those women deserve a chance to come to the line in a small group finish for their squad.
But, this could also be the year we see Brooke Miller transform into the massive bridging machine that she has the potential to become. For years, we’ve seen Ina Teutenberg display the cagey patience of a sniper, letting breakaways form again and again before she times the perfectly diabolical attack from the field, shooting across the gap and latching on to the winning move. And this year, I think Brooke is going to be learning that she has that same instinct and ability, as well.
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