Land Park Criterium presented by the Sacramento Golden Wheelmen
William Land Park, Sacramento – 17 March 2012
The weather held off today for the Land Park Criterium. The kidney-shaped crit course, set amongst the links of a municipal golf course, has good flat paving and two, short “dog-ear” detours at its north end. The rain from the previous day’s forecast never really fell in earnest until after the end of the last race of the day. Instead, the overcast conditions remained cool and dry.
A 39-strong field contested the race for Men Pro 1-2 with Team Mike’s Bikes, Fremont Bank Cycling Team, Marc Pro-Strava, and California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized among the teams having riders in the race. Rand Miller (California Giant/Specialized) set the early pace in the first laps but it was a four-racer breakaway starting at lap four that described the majority of the race.
Peter Graf (Fremont Bank Cycling Team), Matt Chatlaong (Team City Sacramento), Evan Huffman (California Giant/Specialized), and Eric Losak (Team CLIF Bar Cycling) got away from the field and stayed away until 8 laps remaining. All the interim attempts by the field to catch the lead break were poorly organized. The field eventually caught the lead group coming up on seven to go but even this was haphazard. Graf and Huffman immediately got off on their own two-man breakaway.
The latter laps saw Rainier Schaefer (Team Mike’s Bikes) and Nathanael Christensen (Michael David Winery Cycling Team) form a chase group pursuing Graf and Huffman. The rest of the field appeared to settle for the upcoming outcome to the race; a sprint finish for both the two leading groups with the pack deciding no better than fifth place.
The race announcers of Linda and John Elgart were quick to point out that Huffman looked the freshest of the lead pair. As they came into view at the finish it was clear that Huffman did look stronger and he took the win with arms raised, pulling away from Graf. “[I] decided to come out at the last minute just because it looked like the weather was going to hold out,” said Huffman, “We wanted to race aggressively and make it a hard race. I was in a breakaway pretty much the whole race and just had the most power left in the sprint.” About the four-man breakaway staying out so long, Huffman said, “I wasn’t sure [it would last that long]. I thought that maybe some guys would bridge across. I was worried about Chuck Hutcheson (Marc Pro-Strava) but every time I’d see them coming I’d give a little more gas because I knew I had Rand [Miller] sitting on the field.”
Schaefer won the sprint for third place over Christensen. Alexander Freund (Davis Bike Club) put in a dig on the back stretch of the bell lap but fell back to a sixth place in a sprint with Peter Knudsen (Team Clover).
The race for Women 1-2-3 saw an early break by Maura Kinsella (Vanderkitten-Focus) and Mary Ellen Ash (Stevens Bikes p/b Pactimo). A second, solo breakaway from Heather Lipana (Stevens Bikes p/b Pactimo) was chased by Julie Bellerose (Metromint Cycling) later in the race. However, it was Rikke Preisler (Metromint Cycling) and Marley Smith (Stevens Bikes p/b Pactimo) that stuck a break midway through the race. Very quickly the pair were able to grow and consolidate their lead. The race came down to a sprint between the two that Preisler won with a long bike’s length over Smith.
“From the pre-reg we figured it was going to be Stevens Bikes versus Metromint and we have this “friendly” competition going,” said Preisler, “So, I think both teams have been really looking forward to this. Marley [Smith] and I got off which was an ideal situation [for us both].” Preisler went on to say the sprint was hard, “We really like racing with each other so we were gritting our teeth and trying to get each other in the end.”
Touchstone Clinmbing were well represented in the race and appeared to control the front of the pack that chased Preisler and Smith. However, Marissa Axell (Touchstone Climbing) admitted the pack was poorly organized in going after the breakaway. The pack settled third place with a field sprint. In the last few meters, Axell won third over a battling Ash. Jane Robertson (Metromint Cycling) secured fifth place.
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