Back-to-back downtown criteriums. Take a moment to savor those words before we get into the nitty gritty of the weekend: back-to-back downtown criteriums.
Now to the racing itself. Saturday night we had the San Rafael Twilight. Great venue, deceptively hard race. On paper there is nothing special about the course, but in practice racers are left with nowhere to hide & no chance to recover. It is call your mommy and cry brutal.
While Hernando’s prognostications weren’t exactly spot on, there was still some damn fine racing to be seen. The big boys came down to a field sprint, with former CalBerry Ken Hanson of Team Type 1 taking the win in front of Rahsaan Bahati himself, with Steve Reaney wearing the stars & bars rounding out the podium. A break of four including Chris Jones of TT1 and Justin Fraga of Webcor/Alto Velo was away for a good chunk of the race, only getting pulled back with 4 to go. Now, I’m sure somebody who knows what they’re talking about can give a much better analysis than I can, so instead I’m going to take a minute to talk up Justin Fraga and the Webbies.
The guy has flown mostly under the radar this year, showing up at a couple crits to back up his boys in green but not showing that trademark fire and brimstone he can spew like nobody else. Frankly, I was wondering whether we’d see that side of him again, but after this weekend I feel confident saying that JFraga is back and itching to crush nuts. This is a great thing for Webcor and especially for their usual breakaway whore Rand Miller, since alone each of them rides like one person, but together they ride like six guys. Somebody explain that math. In any case, it was excellent to see Fraga pouring himself into that break Saturday night, and again on Sunday in Lodi. It’s guys like these who leave everything they’ve got out on the course who keep the races exciting. Now if only the greenies could find themselves a field sprinter…
The women’s race was all about Kat Carroll. She rode herself inside out, off the front solo for over half the race, ticking off lap after wicked lap as everybody wondered when the damn lap cards were going to come out. With only handful of laps to go, her gap came down from 20+ seconds to a measly eight, and it looked like all that work might have been in vain. With two to go and the gap still looking a bit shaky, PB & Co. teammate Hanan Alves-Hyde took a risk with the remaining seconds and went off the front, dangling like a carrot between Kat & the charging field. Only Mary Maroon from Touchstone Climbing followed, timing it perfectly to take second at the line. Hanan’s risk paid off for third place.
(Photo stolen from Bob Cullinan of www.CycleTo.com. More great photos at the site, go check it out.)
On Sunday we had Delta Velo’s Lodi CycleFest criterium. In its second year, this race has everything you could ask for: community support, huge prize purses, a super-cool downtown venue with a cobbled section, neutral support from Williams Wheels, great announcing, free food and beer for the racers, and a whole lot of heat. Unfortunately I missed a lot of the men’s race thanks to that free beer, but as mentioned above I saw JFraga in a break of 5 (including Ryan Parnes of Yahoo, JD Bergman of Clif Bar, and a Williams rider who I believe was dropped – apologies to those I couldn’t identify, put it in the comments & I will give you your credit). They were caught with not many to go, and another small break, including – you guessed it – Rand Miller, got away in the closing laps. A few guys made it back up to the final break before the end of the race, making a lead group of two TT1 riders and around eight singles. Team Type 1 doubled their luck for the weekend with another win.
Edit: Commenter Josh points out that I was remiss in not giving props to Rob “Hooptie” Evans for taking 2nd place on Sunday. He made the final break and manhandled the sprint while wearing borrowed, mismatched shoes and pedals. Why would he be riding that kind of frankenstein equipment, you ask? Apparently he lost shoe in Big Red, the Montano Velo/RH Villa/BPG/what are they now? party bus, while letting loose post-race on Saturday. Good on ya, Rob and apologies for the omission.
The women’s race was a battle of the titans, Maroon vs. Kachorek. After a flurry of attacks from Dolce Vita, Touchstone Climbing and Wells Fargo, Emily Kachorek of the Wells Fargo team re-entered the race after an early mishap that sent her from the back stretch to the neutral pit. She attacked shortly after getting back into the race, catching the field in a lull and taking one teammate with her. Mary Maroon was the only rider able to bridge the gap, showing that her early-season dominance and selection to the Nature Valley Pro Ride was no fluke: Mary Maroon is the real deal. I will not be the least bit shocked if the proseys start calling on her soon. She’s got the talent, drive and heart to really make it.
Maroon and Kachorek rotated through and built their gap, dropping the second Wells rider in the process. Kate Landau from Third Pillar, Team Vegan rider Emily Thurston, Los Gatos’ Mary-Ellen Ash and Kate Ligler from Dolce Vita tried to bridge again and again, but there was no getting past Touchstone and Wells Fargo riders keeping the race in check. Ultimately, Maroon bested Kachorek in the sprint with Ash taking the field sprint for third.
Next up: the Watsonville, Colavita and Berkeley Bike Club criteriums.
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