The crit put on by the cool folks at Bicycles Plus this weekend had that ole’ fashion grassroots’iness feel to it that makes bike racing a perfect way to spend a weekend with friends and family.
It helped that the weather was spot on perfect, asking all to work on tanlines while forcing us to try and remember how to wipe sweat out of the eyes again. The Folsom venue is just heaven for a bike race … ample parking, food and coffee within walking distance, TONS of shadey trees and toe-wiggling grass to lounge around and under as you watch racers take laps around the block. The only wanting aspect to the course is that you can only really see about 25% of the course from any spectating spot. But the comfort of the course and the coolness of the people more than make up for that. Besides, if you concentrate all the spectators at one spot … you know where all the attacks are going to be!
Beth and I rolled up to the course just after the Juniors finished … catching a glimpse of a couple super-cute, teenietots teetering on their tiny bikes, somehow defying gravity and wobbliness to stay upright and pedaling forward. It was a cute-meter overload, of course.
45+ geriatrics on speed
The first few laps of the 45+ criterium at Folsom were full of fast attacks and team negotiations. With Safeway having the largest team and strongest by far, it was only a matter of time before they got happy with a break and helped steer it clear of the pack.
Michael Orourke (Safeway), Greg Betonte (Safeway), Joel Roberston (Webcor), and Ken Hill (DavisBikeClub) went clear and started rotating cleanly with a tentative 10 second gap on the field. Joe Oliveri (Rocknasium) would put in a rocketing bridge attempt, actually making it across to the group for one lap, before getting cruely spat out the back of the break by a nasty surge from the four. Owch. As Joe would later comment, “it’s too early in the year for that sh*t.”
The four riders would cooperate and gradually extend their lead up to 30 seconds and would be free to play their cards for the win in the final couple laps. With Robertson and Hill looking to the sprint of Betonte, it was an excellent solo attack by Orourke that flew away from the break and earned another win for Safeway. Betonte was able to handily grab the sprint behind, with Robertson 3rd and a very strong effort by Hill rewarded with 4th.
Category 3s … an actual leadout
Tom Dillon of PenVelo has a superfun video of the final couple laps of the cat 3 criterium at Folsom. The video is posted in the ever-updated ncncaracing.com blog, one of the best sources for photos, videos and results for Norcal. Steven Woo is the die-hard force behind the site, and we continue to thank him for his tireless work.
In the video, somewhere late in the 2nd minute, you’ll see Dillon dashing off to follow a couple of attacking riders. It’s 30mph at 500 meters to go, looking like Dillon has chosen just the right spot to be in, when Jim Herzman of Great Basin Imaging comes thundering over the top of the three leaders with his sprinter Steve Thompsen tucked tight on the wheel.
Colavita’s Michael Boehme and Kinetic Cycling’s Nabil Samaan fought hard to stay on terms with Thompsen, while Clover’s Monte Boyle made a strong run on the inside, but it was GBI’s Steve Thompsen capitalizing perfectly on his teammates leadout that took a convincing field sprint win.
Women’s 1/2/3 & 4 … catfight
First off, HUGE shoutout to Chief Official Paula Mara, one of – if not THE best officials in Norcal, for not only giving stellar, clear instructions to all fields on Saturday, but also for having a solid discussion with the category 4 women riders before the combined fields women’s criterium at Folsom.
Due to timing constraints, the Folsom folks had to race all of the women’s fields together for the crit. Now, years back (and still in some less-fortunate locations in the US) ALL women’s racing used to be single field … pros lined up to 1st time racers. But thankfully, we have built up enough infrastructure in Norcal nowadays to have most events be p1/2, or at the least p1/2/3.
Chief Mara called up NCNCA Early Bird Mentor extraordinaire, Elis Bradshaw, who gave the category 4s a nice pep-talk about what to expect and tidbits of advice on how to ride for what was likely to be a hugely fast and attacking race. Mara even took time out of the day to send the field out on a neutral lap so that the cat 4s could feel the circuit in a group, and jettison any nerves built up from standing on the start line next to the leg rippling superfemmes of Norcal.
That’s good officiating.
From the gun it was the Touchstone Climbing team taking the initiative and launching coordinated attacks against the field. Bradshaw, Marley Smith, Heather Nielson, and Carol Irving were particularly active the entirety of the race, but again and again, the field would surge and chase down attacking moves.
Ruth Winder (HDR Lombardi), Mary Maroon (Webcor/SportsVelo), Ruste Jenkins (Velocity), Kim Fong (Michael David Winery), and Beth Newell (Fremont Bank Cycling) were the individual racers working off the front with what looked like a changing rotation of break attempts every lap. I don’t know if it was the instructions from Mara/Bradshaw … or just that the cat 4 women were running on some seriously surging adrenaline, but those women kept the pressure ON. The MadCat Racing team seemed to be on the front a ton, as was the Early Bird Women’s Development team, Davis Bike Club, and Dolce Vita’s Paige Darcy.
It was good, smashmouth racing.
With one lap to go, Maroon and Winder attacked hard out of the field on the finishing straight. Touchstone had been at the front keeping the pace high, with Ann Stuart doing an especially brave amount of work to keep it lined out safe and fast. Maroon and Winder’s attack established a tricky few second’s gap off the front, with Touchstone doing their best to reel the duo back in to the pack.
With about 800meters to go, Velocity’s Ruste Jenkins threw in a massive acceleration that closed the gap significantly to Maroon and Winder. Fremont Bank’s Newell would counter over the top, closing down the gap to the lead two before the final turns, and immediately hit them again to try and get separation. In a powerful display of fitness and determination, both Maroon and Winder would stick with Newell, while the pack charged hard to regain contact from behind just before the finishing turn, an agonizingly long 150 meters, or so, to the line.
Newell would jump hard out of the turn and take her 5th win of 2011, holding off Maroon for 2nd, Winder 3rd, Bradshaw 4th, Fong 5th, and Jenkins 6th.
35+ old guys who were faster than the sissy p1/2s (especially Webcor)
Oh man … the 35+ race was faaaaaast. It was the kind of fast that makes you really hate your parents for birthing you to the world of slow-twitch.
It was a rare moment when the speed dropped much below 30mph out there on Saturday. The masters race was dominated by strong teams playing strongarm tactics on each other. Safeway had 400 guys out there launching attack after attack, Folsom Bikes were ballistic as usual, Rocknasium was always on the offensive, and I’ll give a shoutout to my Great Basin Imaging Boyz for throwing down some heat during the race, as well.
Two guys who made the racing quite hard were David Albrecht of Chico Velo and Jason Grefrath of Taleo Racing. Both have HUGE engines and seem to be able to hold mach 5 speeds like they were build by defense contractors. It was incredibly difficult staying with these guys when they turned on their thrusters. And CalGiant’s Jesse Moore was key in trying to make splits in the pack happen, but nowadays if he twitches, four riders jump out of the saddle to get on his wheel.
The racing was the kind I love, non-stop attacking where teamwork was essential and speeds were so high that no bullshit was necessary. There are still a few riders out there who haven’t learned to just keep their yaps shut and race hard, but for the vast majority of racing … it’s down to business and classy fun.
Safeway’s Dan Martin is all business, and torched a phenomenal leadout in the final 500meters. His teammate and superPhd Jeff Angermann cleanly took the field sprint and grabbed another win for the bagboys. So fun.
Wanna be a pro? … race harder
The 1/2 field was slower than the masters race … likely aided by the fact that maybe a quarter of the racers were either masters or women p1/2 riders doing their 2nd or 3rd race.
Actually, what made the race slower was that the Webcor and Cal Giant teams were acting all gorillas in the mist and couldn’t stop buggering each other to find out who was going to be on top.
Once the break established itself, it was a nice mild ride around the Folsom course for the rest of us losers in the pack. Webcor had 3 riders in the break, Cal Giant a couple riders, and a slew of singles from Safeway, United Healthcare, Pistachio’s Colin Samaan, big bad Chris Baumann, and some other guy.
Somehow, Webcor wasn’t able to split the break and let it come down to a small group gallop to the line. Colin Samaan crushed the other kids to take the win. I didn’t catch any other results other than watching San Jose Bicycle Club junior Ryan Gadow win the field sprint for 10th or 11th.
Of note was the smooth and stellar riding put in by Mary Maroon, Ruth Winder, and Elis bRADshaw in the 1/2 field. They were solid wheels getting in the training needed to advance to the next level. Nice riding, gals.
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