Snelling, California – 25 February 2012
The 27th Annual Snelling Road Race, presented by Velo Promo and the Golden Chain Cyclists, had large fields for the Men P/1/2 and Women 1/2 races. Despite sunny skies, the western wind was blowing hard and played a significant role in constraining early breakaways. Racers were forced close into the gutters with dust and tumbleweed flying across the road amongst the almond orchards and vineyards.
The field of 188 in the Men’s P/1/2 race were already starting to stretch out early in the race and, as it wore on, merging amongst the categories made for some interesting challenges for the officials at the finish line. Early race leaders included last week’s Copper Town winner Charles Hutcheson (McGuire Cycling) and John Piasta (Mike’s Bikes Cycling Team). Without any lasting breakaways, the group whittled down through attrition. At the bell, Eric Riggs (Mike’s Bikes Cycling Team) led a group of about 20 racers into the final lap. However, it was Tyler Brandt from the Mike’s Bikes Cycling Team that came around the final corner along with Chris Stastny (California Giant/Specialized) and Christiaan Kriek (Simple Green).
Those first three around the corner sprinted hard for the win. With 10m to go, Stastny had less than half a bike length’s lead and stole a glance to his right. The South African Kriek powered past Stastny crossing the line half a wheel length ahead. “I didn’t think I was gonna take it, myself” said Kriek, “then the last 20m they [Brandt and Stastny] faded a bit and I managed to clip them on the line.” Kriek commented with exasperation that the wind was a major factor “On the top section, that false-flat area, they really put the hammer down. [You] had to watch your position in the bunch and hope the rider in front of you doesn’t leave a dead wheel. [Because of the wind] the racing was very negative in a way. There wern’t really many attacks.” Behind Stastny, Brandt took third to continue Mike’s Bikes early season challenge to Cal-Giants dominance. Hutcheson came home in fourth with Joel Robertson (Webcor/Alto Velo) in fifth place.
For the top category Women, 45 racers took to the windy course. As with the men, the field started to stretch out early. Stevens Bikes p/b Pactimo put plenty of racers up front in that beginning lap. By the second, the field was single file coming down Los Cerritos Road with Molly van Houweling (Metromint Cycling) leading the line. After passing a Master Men category late on, officials decided to neutralize the race to help separate the two fields. This compressed the remaining racers for the women and Ruth Winder (Vanderkitten-Focus) took the field across the finish line to begin the final lap.
“It was one of those days where it was pretty evident that something wasn’t going to stay away,” said Rhae Shaw (Exergy Twenty 12), “I sat in and conserved and did my best to really pay attention for the last lap. So, I made an attack with about three miles to go.” Shaw parlayed this solo jump into an advantage she would take to the finish line as the winner. “I just put my head down and stuck it and did some work for the finish. I looked back once or twice and made sure I had a big gap [at the last turn] and knew that I given a pretty good stick.” Shaw records a win in her first race as a professional and said she was pleased to represent the Exergy Twenty 12 team. Hailing from Southern Ontario, Canada, Shaw heads next to Mar del Plata, Argentina, to represent her country in the Pan Am Continental Cycling Championships.
Ruth Winder came home in second place ahead of Heather Van Sickle (Stevens Bikes p/b Pactimo) in third, Flavia Oliveira (Kovarus/Wells Fargo Racing Team) in fourth, and Amber Gaffney (SC VELO/Empower Coaching) in fifth. “I didn’t feel too great for the first three laps of the race,” said Winder, “With about two laps to go I started to feel a bit better. Coming into the last lap I tried attacking and kept attacking until I got a bit of a gap [but] I was caught in the really windy section by the feed zone.”
Full results from all races at Snelling are posted at USA Cycling.
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