Locals shine under chilly, thundery skies
It seems there’s rarely an edition of Copper that doesn’t have a few majestic professionals taking part to prep themselves for later season grandeur by storming the training log with gear-wrenching climbs, windswept pursuits, and frame jarring descents. From li’Levi getting ready for L’Tour to big Jacques-Maynes stomping his way up the NRC rankings … there’s almost always a turbo showing up to blow exhaust over the regional riders in this Norcal classic. Oh, the bitterness of recollecting the only year I’d ever had a stone’s throw of a chance at winning the elite race … looking back and seeing world champ Felipe Meirhaeghe crushing up the climb to swallow my hailmary attack. He was popped for EPO two weeks later at Sea Otter … douchebag.
But not this year. This year was a battle of the Norcal regulars ~ the up and comers, the grizzled veterans to fight it out for a year’s worth of bragging rights for taking the first big crown of the season, the epic … the classic, Copperopolis.
Lap 1 ~ setup and sitdown
With 105 miles on order, those who take the first lap flyers are either insane, or just insanely fit. CalGiant’s Steve Reaney is, of course, both. But what he is mostly, is one helluva team rider. Reaney threw himself out in front of the race all day long, knifing away at the front end of the race to keep the pro1,2 peloton on the defensive from the get-go. Yahoo! Cycling was equally represented in courage and strategy by Philip Mooney.
Mooney and Reaney are fascinating contradictions in style. Mooney will crack a joke and giggle to himself like a 12-year old as he spins an elegant 1000 watts, while you rarely see Reaney smile unless he’s contentedly chewing on some poor cat 2’s thigh.
There was a solid group of 6 riders off the front starting the lap 2 climb in the men’s race: Reaney, Mooney, Echelon G-Fondo’s Nate English, Bahati Foundation’s Morgan Ryan, Erick Pierce of Los Gatos, and ThirstyBear’s Eric Kimbles. The chasing pack was riding with steady conviction, and thus, dwindling on every ascent. Leading the charge were riders from Morgan Stanley, ALA-Lombardi, and Above Category Racing. The next two laps would see groupings and regroupings at the front until finally it was down to an elite group of 5 left at the business end of the race.
United Healthcare’s Max Jenkins and CalGiant’s Jesse Moore would join the original breakaway hardmen of English, Reaney, and Mooney. This quintet would power away from the pack, with all other riders scrambling to finish, or finish ahead of others. But, the final 20 miles were to be fought out amongst these 5 quality riders, all homegrown talents from the Norcal. Satisfying indeed!
Beginning the final climb, it would be Reaney leading Moore and Mooney up the feedzone, powering up the choppy, rutted false flat. There were no smiles left from Mooney, but Jesse Moore had the look of a cat licking lips in front of a canary cage. Up the climb and across the plateau, Moore would soar away from the race and finish with a glide to the line. Mooney would hang on for a solid, brave 2nd ~ with Reaney overtaken by English and Jenkins to finish off the day’s work in 5th.
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Women … chips all in
The p1/2 women’s field was chock full of all the local bombadeers we’ve grown to love over these first few months of the season. The odds on favorite had to be Metromint’s flying ace, Molly Van Houweling. MVH had the form and momentum to vie for a Copperopolis title, hot off her GC win last weekend in the Topsport Stage Race, as well as nabbing the final road stage. But it was a strong contingent of Touchstone Climbing women who were on hand Saturday, led in spirit and strategy by the return of Kelly McDonald to the Norcal scene … showing that ‘retirement’ is a word not able to sit long in the vocabulary of most cyclists.
The first lap was very mild for the p1/2 women, with Metromint confident of the climbing abilities of MVH on the final 2 laps and perhaps Touchstone not willing to drill it after losing their big engine, Marley Smith, to what must have been a mechanical early in the race. Coming through the feedzone to begin lap 2, it would be the p1/2 field riding steady, cat-n-mouse pace ~ with the cat 3 field leaders but a scant few seconds behind, and Marley Smith pounding away in solo pursuit well over a minute behind that.
The women’s cat 3 field showed, once again, that Norcal is developing more and more talent for the near and long-term future of US cycling. Luna triathlon professional, Tyler Stewart would press the pace for the entire 63 mile event in the 3s, throttling her lithe frame up the steeps and forcing a relentless pace through the winds and across the flats of Copperopolis. Stewart will likely upgrade to the p1/2 field after this weekend, and she very much has a future in women’s professional cycling, if she desires it.
As a former iron-distance triathlete myself, I know the beauty of solitude that the sport offers … the challenge, the inner battles, the epic accomplishment. But cycling is a world unto itself, a universe apart … a set of challenges so diverse and intricate that once you are set on that path, it is near impossible to step off. Hopefully, Stewart will be able to convince Luna that women’s road cycling is another solid marketing step for the line of Clif products.
Joining Stewart, and equally as possessed in driving the pace of their lead group was Beth Newell (Bell Lap Sh*t-talkers), Marian Jamison (Touchstone Climbing), Francesca Barsamian (Wells Fargo), and Susan Lannoo (Bella Fiore). These women powered across a 5-minute gap to catch and pass many of the p1/2 women’s field. Strength and grit … and good signs for the future of Norcal cycling. Stewart would eventually take a solo victory, with Newell outsprinting Jamison for 2nd and Barsamian ahead of Lanoo rounding out the top-5.
But in the p1/2, the cat and mouse tactics came to an abrupt end on lap 2 of the race. Touchstone’s Mary Maroon shot off the front of the race and made a courageous solo effort for the win. Pounding through the feedzone, Maroon was the picture of agony … chewing on her bars, mashing gears ~ a model of willpower and suffering endured. It would be Metromint’s MollyVH next in solo pursuit, profiting from her teammate Amanda Seigle’s massive detonation of the field on the backside climb of the course.
“From wimp to pimp”
Maroon would have a 45 second gap on MVH starting the climb on the final lap. The two would connect and ride together over the flats to set up a big showdown on the backside hill and descent into the Copperopolis finish. It was an especially sweet moment for these two riders, as both recalled with painful clarity that it was but a few years ago that they were both off the back of this same race. But this year, these two women were off the front and dueling it out for the win.
MVH would put in a superb final climb and accelerate away from Maroon by 40 seconds over the crest of the hill. But it would be Maroon who would put in a colossal effort of strength and daring to throw herself down the descent, chasing like a demon, a banshee, a woman possessed. At the finish line, the crowds could easily pick out the two riders, the distinct polka dots of MVH ahead of the low, powering form of Maroon … impossibly rocketing across the gap.
Yelled from all sides, and often from the same sources ~ as all present would have been pleased to see either woman come across the line first. But it was MVH, in full grimace and with a heroic final hundred meters that fended off Maroon’s improbable chase.
What a race, what a race.
Behind would be Metromint’s Jane Robertson sprinting past a very, very strong effort by Third Pillar’s Jazzy Hurinko, with Nicole Dolney leading a trio of Touchstone climbers in Heather Pryor and Marley Smith.
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Masters wins came in the form of Dan Bryant over Chris Phipps for the men’s 35+, Michael Pugh just grabbing a tight 45+ sprint over Michael O’Rourke, and Mark Caldwell winning the 55+ over Peter Taylor. Linda Elgart would capture the women’s master race against a solid field of competitors.
In Juniors racing, incredible efforts were put forth by Andreas Freund of the Davis Bike Club in the 17-18 field, and Zeke Mostov of SJBC in the 13-14 division. Jack Maddux of Specialized would lead in a powerful chase to try and capture Mostov … but, what a solo effort by the young man from San Jose to stay away and earn the win. Great racing in the junior ranks.
Perennial rockstar, Katrina Howard took another win in the 13-14 for the women … and it’s amazing to believe how many years this young lady has been dicing it up on the cycling circuit. If she wants it and commits to it, this young woman will be the next Ina Teutenberg … count on it.
Tyler Williams (AIAGE/Grimway Farms) would speed away from talented Alexander Freund (Davis Bike Club) and year-round racer Isaiah Rapko (Above Category Racing) for the win in the men’s 15-16. Tieni Duro’s Page Robertson would easily win the women’s 15-16, while Elisabeth Scheder-Beschin would take victory in the 17-18 over Taylor Meilahn.
Bunch of my pictures of the race here.
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Next up ~Santa Rosa’s Apple Pie Crits and the HippStar Menlo Park Grand Prix … see you there!
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