Santa Cruz Classic Criterium
Beach Hill – 15 April 2012
The Santa Cruz Classic Criterium did not disappoint spectators today. The Velo Promo promoted event is a long running criterium and well deserving of the Classic moniker. It’s a terrific race course with a downhill hairpin turn; a long straight up and over an 18-meter climb, that is part of Beach Hill; and a narrow, rolling sweep past the San Lorenzo River. Both the race for Women 1-2-3 and Men P-1-2 had moments that excited the spectators, giving them cause to cheer and applaud for racers in the field.
For Men P-1-2, the well-represented Team Mike’s Bikes stamped their authority over the race and its outcome. McGuire Cycling Team, Team CLIF Bar Cycling, Marc Pro-Strava, Fremont Bank Cycling Team, and others had two-or-more racers in the field but they all had to face the seven-strong squad in the black, yellow, and white kit. Notably, last year’s winner in this race, James Mattis (California Giant Cycling), was without support from any team mates as they were training out-of-state or on NCC-racing duty.
From lap one, Team Mike’s Bikes had racers out front, first with team manager Steve Pelaez. It was a four-man break starting ten laps in that continued this theme; in the break were David Benkoski (Webcor/Alto Velo), Martin Acosta (McGuire Cycling Team), and the Team Mike’s Bikes pair of Andrew Goessling and James Wingert. This group dominated the middle laps of the race as the chasing field seemed unable to bring the gap under 10 seconds. Patrick Briggs (Sierra Pacific Racing p/b Dayka & Hackett) and Chuck Hutcheson (Marc Pro-Strava) were among the racers putting in attacks and attempting to bridge. However, it was Mattis making some bold attempts to lead the chase up to the breakaway group. Team Mike’s Bikes and the McGuire Cycling Team racers simply covered anything from the field leaving Mattis to yell at other racers to help pull. Most of those efforts were to no avail.
At four to go, Goessling attacked from the break and the other three racers from the lead group quickly fell back to the chasing pack. With Mattis continuing to lead the chase, this time to catch Goessling, the Team Mike’s Bikes racer thrilled the spectators by continuing to stay out front. However, at two-to-go it was clear that Goessling, although still crossing the finish line in front, was about to be caught. Again, Mattis lead the chasing field. They came around again to take the bell and set up for the field-sprint. Coming up over the hill for the final sprint, Team Mike’s Bikes again had racers up front. This time, James LaBerge took the field sprint for the win with room to spare. Hutcheson took the second step of the podium over Rainier Schaeffer (Team Mike’s Bikes). Joe Dickerson (McGuire Cycling Team) secured fourth place while Tyler Brandt made it three Team Mike’s Bikes racers in the top five.
“My team director, Steve Pelaez, told me to sit in and save it for the sprint.” said LaBerge, “Eventually [the break was] caught back with one lap to go. We lined it up with Tyler Dibble, Tyler Brandt, and Rainier Schaefer. I was fifth sixth wheel [at the bottom of the hill]. Tyler Dibble, who was supposed to be my lead out guy, actually slipped going around the turn. So I had to come around him into the wind going up the hill. So then I just slotted behind Rainier [Schaefer] and waited, waited, waited and finally went. It ended up working out overall.”
“It was all James Mattis,” said Hutcheson, “[Mattis] and Logan [Loader] pulled them back in pretty much by themselves. I was sitting on [Loader] on the last lap. He dropped his chain into a small chain ring and then I ran into the back of him. Then I was sprinting on pure adrenaline. The Mike’s Bikes guys had a pretty good lead out, I just couldn’t catch up to James [LaBerge].”
Pascale Schnider was on hand to defend her win from last year. Also in the field, Copperopolis winner Bec Werner (SportVelo Racing) along with good numbers of racers from Steven’s Bikes p/b Pactimo, Vanderkitten-Focus, and Touchstone Climbing. Werner was an early leader and prime winner. Soon afterwards, the sole Specialized-lululemon racer Loren Rowney, Kate Chilcott (Vanderkitten-Focus) and Schnider became a three-racer breakaway. This group grew in size every other lap or so starting with the addition of Emily Collins (Vanderkitten-Focus) and then the pair of Mary Elizabeth Maroon (FCS/ROUSE p/b Mr. Restore) and Heather Van Sickle (Steven’s Bikes p/b Pactimo).
Collins and Van Sickle put in a break of their own before the field was back together again at 10-to-go. With seven remaining, Rowney went off the front solo; Rowney’s lead started at 10 seconds before growing to and holding at 20 seconds for two laps. At two laps remaining, the lead was at 30 seconds with the finish-line crowd hoping that Rowney would make the break stick. This Rowney was able to do as she crossed the finish line with plenty of time to spare.
Second place came down to a field sprint that Werner put away fairly well, finding the time to glance over her shoulder at the forlorn sprinters behind her. Schnider took third place, Chilcott came in fourth, and Collins finished in fifth.
“[The race was] really hard; the wind picked up this afternoon. I got here earlier this morning [and] it was quite calm but good conditions for a hard course with that hill. It suited me really well.” said Rowney. “My plan was to go whenever a prime went. That’s always a good time to go because people are hurting after they sprint and its always a good place to make a move. I just settled into a rhythm [and kept] going consistently.”
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