• Enter the Wombat: Copperopolis P/1/2 Women by Bill Nicely

    by  • April 7, 2012 • race coverage, spring classic, womyn on weels

    Ed. Note: Nicely has been threatening to write for this rag for over a year now.  He’s laid down some nice reporting on the women’s race he was following as neutral support.  Tim Westmore will chime in later with some more race news. Tim was awfully buys getting photos, tweeting race action, and getting interviews at the end of the race.

    By Bill Nicely

    The third stop on the BikeReg.com Premier Series was the 32nd Annual Copperopolis Road Race which was raced today under sunny skies and cool temperatures.   About twenty-five women, including just about the entire NorCal Who’s Who list showed up to throw down in this Spring Classic.  Represented were Stevens Bikes p/b Pactimo (five riders), NOW/Novartis (three riders), Metromint (three riders) and VanderKitten (two riders) along with individual string riders including , Anna Barensfeld, Amber Gaffney, Rebecca Werner and Loren Rowney, recent stage winner at The Redlands Classic.

    The race started with a moderate pace through the gradual downhill and past the feedzone.  As soon as the peloton hit the bottom of the main climb Anna Barensfeld (Optum Pro Cycling) went immediately to the front, ramped up the pace quickly and immediately shattered the peloton.  By the top of the climb the field was strung out in small groups and individual riders.  Over  the top a group of eight formed which would prove to be the break of the day.  That break included Olivia Dillon, Beth Newell and Devon Gorry of Now/Novartis,  Heather Van Sickle, Marley Smith and Susannah Breen of Stevens Bikes p/b Pactimo, Rebecca Werner (SportVelo) and Amber Gaffney (SC Velo/Empower Coaching).  The group immediately organized and started rotating smoothly.  Behind were only shards of a race with groups of two or three that had little chance matching the horsepower in the break.

    By the time that the break of eight reached the small climb before the long descent there were no chasers in site.   Gaffney flatted, got a quick wheel change and chased back successfully over the next five miles. The break went through the start finish and feedzone hill at a more relaxed pace while everyone ate and drank.  At the base of the climb it was Rebecca Werner’s turn to attack the climb and Olivia Dillon went with her getting a handful of seconds that would only be reeled in by Heather Van Sickle near the top of the climb and at the expense of Breen being dropped mid-climb.  Over the top the break of now seven would reform and once again they began rotating.  A couple of miles later Beth Newell made a solid attack and lingered five seconds off the front.  Once again Van Sickle went to the front and with some help from Amber Gaffney brought back Newell just as Rebecca Werner and Olivia Dillon counter-attacked.  They quickly gained ten seconds as Van Sickle and Gaffney took extended pulls in an attempt to reel the duo in as the two NOW/Novartis rightfully got a free ride.  The gap went down to a few second and then would extend back out to fifteen.  As they approached the bottom of the small climb before the descent the gap had reached twenty seconds.  It appeared that Werner and Dillon were slowly pulling away now.

    At the top of the climb Dillon flatted, got a borrowed wheel and began chasing.  As an aside, as the neutral support following the larger break I followed Dillon down the descent at speeds and through turns that stood my neck hair on end and left me impressed with both Dillon’s engine and bike-handling skills.  I don’t know many men who could descend like that.  Olivia “Il Falco” Dillon.  Rejoining support of the break (follow vehicles are supposed to follow the money or prize positions of the race – I followed the first five and Rob Van Houweling followed behind tenth place, the last prize position) the five women (Newell, Gorry, Smith, Van Sickle, Gaffney) were in serious pursuit mode with a very tight, very professional looking rotating paceline, including the NOW/Novartis duo who were no longer protecting a rider up the road.  Through the town of Milton, down the gradual descent and up through the feeedzone they pressed the pace..  As they hit the main climb it was apparent that just a little of their energy had been spent in hard racing and chasing.  Marley Smith, having done her work for the day  slowly dropped off the back as the group rode tempo up and over the climb.

    Copperopolis Chasers by Alex Chiu

    At this point about ten miles from the finish Werner had a lead of one and a half minutes.  There was no noticeable drop off of the chase speed of the four women, it was just that impressive of a performance from Werner.  As the quartet neared the final climb before the descent  it was apparent that Werner was not coming back and the four finally slowed to a tempo pace.  At the base of the last climb Beth Newell made a hard attack and got an immediate gap and then held it over the climb.  Van Sickle and Gaffney tried to close the gap but it was not getting smaller as they neared the top.  This brilliant tactical move would pay huge dividends as Devon Gorry, Beth’s teammate, could now sit on the other two as they chased.  Van Sickle would catch Newell after chasing her down the entire descent and another half mile ont eh bottom.  Van Sickle went directly by Newell, who then latched onto the Stevens rider’s wheel.  Van Sickle drove the pace past the 1KM marker with Newell in tow and with both Gorry and Gaffney two seconds back.  It looked as if Newell would get a free ride to the line and come around Van Sickle but at about 250 meters to go Van Sickle ran out of gas which allowed the chasers to catch and immediately start the sprint right at the 200 meter to go marker.  Gorry Newell would outsprint the other two with Newell Gorry passing Gaffney for third while Van Sickle crossed the line with a well-earned fifth. (See correction below)

    While I was impressed with NOW/Novartis today their brilliance was overshadowed by Rebecca Werner in that she held off five and then four very talented and motivated chasers for one and one half laps.  It looks like the Rebecca has upped her game a couple of notches over the winter (or summer or whatever they have Down Under).

    CORRECTION: This is straight from Beth Newell

    “I got 3rd and Devon 2nd. Gaffney had closed the gap and caught Heather and I at about 250.  devon jumped about right when we got caught, and she held it to the line for 2nd, and i held off gaffney for third.”

    Beth Newell Quote Taken Out Of Context to Express Her Admiration of Wombat’s WIN

    “[Bec] Werner – it was a super, super impressive ride!  She was seriously flying out there!”

    Top Ten:

    1.      Rebecca Werner (SportVelo)

    2.     Devon Gorry (NOW/Novartis)

    3.     Beth Newell (NOW/Novartis)

    4.      Amber Gaffney (SC Velo/Empower Coaching)

    5.      Heather Van Sickle (Stevens Bikes p/b Pactimo)

    6.      Olivia Dillon (NOW/Novartis)

    7.      Molly Van Houweling (Metromint)

    8.      Anna Barensfeld (Optum Pro Cycling)

    9.      Marley Smith  (Stevens Bikes p/b Pactimo)

    10.     Susannah Breen (Stevens Bikes p/b Pactimo)

    With results from today, initial calculations have Stevens Bikes p/b Pactimo extending their Premier Series team competition lead to 23 points over Metromint (63 to 40), while Marley Smith of Stevens Bikes takes the lead in the individual competition and teammate Heather Van Sickle moves up to third place behind Rikke Preisler from Metromint.



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