TIBCO’s Willock … diminutive dominatrix
The women of TIBCO have always posted solid results across the nation, mostly focused on big one-day events and national championships. But, with their new recruits Erinne Willock and Alison Powers … suddenly, the general classifications of all major stage races might have a bit more baby blue in them.
The Snelling Road Race was well-attended and held under surprisingly pleasant conditions. The 8am waves started with chilly temps, but sunlight was abundant and riders were giddy with the lack of snow, rain, or 45ft mud puddles to navigate. The noon events were given a bit more wind, but higher temps … heating up some very, very aggressive racing.
The women’s field would race 63 miles over the undulating, transmission grinding roads southeast of Modesto. Snelling is a course that can have you changing speed from 38 to 8mph faster than you can say ‘on your left.’ It’s not an incredibly challenging circuit … but, with the constant pedaling and ever present little kickers of elevation change, the course just wears down early season legs.
Lap 1 in the women’s field saw the first serious break attempt when Fremont Bank’s Susannah Breen bridged up to Chico Corsa’s Lindsey Myers. Myers was especially frisky as the two roared through the start/finish. As she whipped her bike through the sneakily leg-sapping first turn, you could hear her a hundred meters away encourage Breen to “punch it” up the hill. But with 8 TIBCO riders in the field and no one from Metromint in the break, it was clear there would be a reshuffling on the long dragfest of Keyes Road.
The second major break of the day would see TIBCO start to assert themselves. Willock and Powers were joined by Fremont Bank’s Beth Newell. Newell put in a fine dig to bridge across to the TIBCO duo and would later remark in awe of how much speed Willock was spilling on the roads of Snelling. A lap later, the field would finally catch the three off the front, mostly due to the inevitable chasing put in by Molly Van Houweling and the Metromint team.
MVH’s engine is incredible, as is her ability to suffer. The woman can pin her RPMs just below the redline … and keep it there like she’s got a vendetta against herself. It pained me to see her chasing, instead of driving the break.
The back side of lap 4 would see vicious attacks, beginning with Ruth Winder lighting her hair on fire with a scorcher through the start/finish area. But it would be Willock finally snapping the pack like a cracker by kicking hard over a short roller. Willock would continue the acceleration and gain a lead that wouldn’t be insurmountable, but it was formidable.
The slight rider continued for a solo final lap, powering against wind and fatigue to stand clear at the finish with a solid opening season win. The women’s field would, unfortunately, be neutralized twice by the men’s elite break and field catching them from behind at the worst moments. Would the women’s field have caught Willock without the neutralizations? My opinion is that she would not have been caught. Her lead was strong and she looked stronger still. However, that’s what racing Velopromo events is all about – we have to share courses with multiple fields, and accept the inevitable overlaps.
MERCO and beyond
The Merco Stage Race will be a hotly contested 4 days of climbing, time trialing, and sprinting for a quite decent sized prize purse and the equally important regional and national media attention garnered for team sponsors through big results. TIBCO’s Willock isn’t registered, likely preparing herself for what could be a hugely competitive Redlands Classic. With the fitness and power shown at Snelling … look for Willock to have a very strong chance in delivering TIBCO’s first major stage race victory down at Redlands.
But at MERCO, TIBCO will field at least 4 riders with Megan Guarnier as a likely candidate for the overall GC. But, they will have to compete against a full 9-roster showing from the Peanut Butter & Co team … not to mention the 800-pound gorilla in the room in the form of an HTC trio of Teutenberg, Miller and Stacher.
The HTC riders dominated at the Tour of New Zealand a week ago, and Teutenberg has garnered a reputation as being nearly unbeatable on the streets of Merced. The savagely sexy German loves racing early season in Norcal and will undoubtedly be unleashed to maul women left and right. But with strong teams from TIBCO, PB, Vanderkitten, and a slew of talented women from Metromint, Primal Wear/Mapmyride, RedRacing, and Fremont Bank … it’s going to be as much a tactical fight as pure brawl.
The interesting day will be Friday’s individual 12 mile time trial. It’s quite likely that a GC break will go on Thursday’s MID Road Race, and be established as much by team representation as overall fitness. However, Friday’s TT should be a good indication of how fast riders are in relationship to each other, and how they will likely advance through the rest of the spring classics. Should be fascinating to catch those results.
Men of Snelling … Strapping Young Brutes
The end of the first lap of the men’s elite race saw CalGiant’s Chris Stastny, Sierra Pacific’s Vince Owens, and Yahoo’s Joe Innarelli off the front with a small gap. Down Keye’s road, the pack would rip to shreds under a constant 35+mph gutterfest, with more than a few riders getting spat out the back like chewing tobacco at a rodeo.
11 riders would survive off the front of the mayhem, establishing a 90-second gap by lap 3 and never looking back. I couldn’t identify all in the break, but it looked like it consisted of Eric Wohlberg (Form Fitness), Andy Goessling (Clif Bar), John Bennett and Jesse Moore (CalGiant), David Albrecht (Chico Corsa), Joe Innarelli (Yahoo), Hendrick Pohl (Webcor), Sam Basseti (Firefighters), Kevin Metcalf (Specialized 50+’ers), Sinelnikau ALIAKSANDR (Third Pillar), Darren Divine (Divine Electric Norcal) and a Garmin/Cervelo rider (thanks for helping me identify).
The chase in the pack was strong, and Fremont Bank’s Michael Jasinski was often scene making pace, but with so many teams in front of the race – it was unlikely in the extreme that the pack would regain ground on the break.
The HDR/Lombardi (Sam Basseti?) rider put in a very strong finishing effort to try and take the win, but CalGiant’s John Bennett found strength and room on the right hand side of the road to power forward and claim the win.
It’s quite interesting to think on the strong mix of youth and veterans in the break at Snelling. The riders seem an equal mix of 40+ accomplished veterans and 20-something up-and-comers. It really was a battle of youth vs experience out there on the roads of Snelling this year. And, I’m very excited to see that it was the youth contingent that came out on top … through sheer desire and commitment to training.
35+ … how to sour a fun time
I know Fremont Bank’s Mark Deterline keeps calling me a sandbagger any time I enter 35+ races … but, i’m just getting back in to racing after a couple years idiocy and injury, and he can just screw off since i’m going to spank his ass in the MERCO TT, anyway.
The 35+ race was pretty sweet for us in the breakaway. Safeway’s Dan Martin, ThirstyBear’s Paul Drywal, Mercedes/FolsomBike’s Jason Boynton and Judd van Sickle, William’s Wheels Andres Gil, and I were the survivors of the 55mile break. Scott Fonseca had been with us, but he exploded his rear derailleur and had to pull out.
We had been rumbling through the course with good rotations and fun times. For my part, it was a real kick in the pants to be out throttling the engine off the front again in a road race. Unfortunately, our break didn’t have the moto with it for the last lap and we came up on another field in the final miles of the race.
It was pretty clear who the strong men were in the break. Jason Boynton had been taking monster pulls and has been knocking on the door to a big win for a long time. Dan Martin was talking shit the entire last couple laps, which is always indication that he is ready for the finish … but, his legs looked nice and snappy, too. And van Sickle had been smooth all race and looked like he was going to have good gas for the end.
Paul Drywal was very impressive in the break, never missing pulls – even though you could tell that he was beginning to suffer in stages. Andres Gil was strong … but sloooooowwwww. Jesus H Geronimo, watching that guy climb a roller in the 53×11 is just painful to be around. I swear the guy’s cadence never went above 22 the entire race.
In the final couple miles, I gave a half-hearted request we lay off the gas for just a minute to let the field in front of us get away a bit. But, we were all pretty blitzed with effort and savage with blood for the finish. Gil was the first to accelerate on the bumpy finishing stretch before the final turn to sprint the 300m for the line.
The counter came from van Sickle, and he motored away cleanly. By this point, we were closing in dangerously fast on the field in front of us. I took a hard pull at the front to try and get us close to Sickle. To be honest, I only did it because i hoped Boynton would counter if we caught van Sickle, and solo away for the win. I like Boynton and he deserved the win, in my opinion.
But van Sickle was very, very strong and kept the meters away from the break. But when he started to pass the giant-sized follow vehicle-van of the field in front of us, I lost will and pulled out of the group. It was a tense few moments as the break then passed the van and by the time they all hit the final right turn of the race, the break had regrouped and began to catch the field in front. It was a complete bummer. The most bitter about it probably had to be Dan Martin – as he and van Sickle were dodging riders left and right to find the finish line first. Sickle went left, skittering through riders, Martin went right … and was blocked. It was like watching two salmon thrash through a pack of minnows.
Ah well. It’s a shame that the finish couldn’t have been clean, and I’m a pretty disappointed that we chose to ride hard when we could have laid off the gas for 30 seconds and had a clear shot to the line … but that’s all 20-20 hindsight. In the heat of the moment, sometimes bad decisions are made. Luckily, no one crashed and no one got hurt.
Still, something to learn from and not repeat.
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