28 April 2012
25th Annual Wente Vineyards Road Race
Despite a calm early morning breeze the Wente Road Race course lived up to its grizzly reputation and tore apart many of the racing fields on Saturday. Even though the windmills at Altamont Pass were humming early in the day, the stronger winds, which have played a significant part in past races, failed materialize. Many racer said the wind was not a factor in a race’s outcome whilst others claimed the benefits of the eastbay tailwind helped them on the uphill finish sprint. Wind or no wind, the race was marked by valiant breakaways and painful chases in almost every race.
The field of 19 racers went right into racing; Marley Smith (Steven’s Bikes p/b Pactimo) was an early leader. She was joined by team mate Heather Van Sickle as the second-lap breakaway pair gained a significant lead over the field. Reportedly, Van Sickle and Smith had more than a 2-minute advantage at one point in the race. The field did start to string out early in the race. However, behind Smith and Van Sickle, Beth Newell (NOW and Novartis for MS) mounted a solo attempt to bridge up to the break. Newell’s massive effort was evident in her racing demeanor.
Crossing the finish line for the bell lap, Smith and Van Sickle were still up front but Newell and the rest of the field continued their pursuit. “Stevens was riding really strong today, they got two off early,” said Devon Gorry (NOW and Novartis for MS), “We all thought it was too early [but] they opened up a big gap. We finally punched it hard over the last couple of hills [and] I think that was what closed the gap.” Gorry credited her team mate Newell and Alison Tetrick (Extergy Twenty12) with initially bridging up to the leaders.
At this point, Gorry was still back in the chase but that group was pulled by Molly Van Houweling (Metromint Cycling) to the lead group of three, “shortly before the last turn,” said Gorry. “[I] hit the hill hard. My legs weren’t feeling good but I thought I just gotta keep going,” continued Gorry, “I looked back and had a bit of a gap so I just kept going.”
Gorry won the race by a strong two-bike lengths over the person she feared would pass her on the uphill sprint: team mate Newell. Tetrick followed close behind in third place. Steven’s Bikes p/b Pactimo team mates Nicole Justice and Van Sickle finished respectively in fourth and fifth.
About her solo attempt to bridge, Newell said, “That was hard. I put a lot in there. I punched it on the hill the second time up and then dangled off for about a lap. [I] couldn’t quite close the gap. The pack caught me then I punched it again [with Alison Tetrick and we] bridged the gap to Smith and Van Sickle.”
Keith Hillier (Marc Pro-Strava) and JOHN PIASTA (Team Mike’s Bikes) jumped out to a very early break; near the first lap’s 5-mile mark, the pair had a good lead with two chase groups in between them and the pack. As the race progressed, PIASTA and Hillier built a 2-minute 20-second lead crossing the finish line to start the penultimate lap. Meanwhile, the rest of the field had strung out and appeared haphazard, particularly with team Mike’s Bikes racers always near the front. As the field crossed for the bell, a strong, organized chase seemed almost absent and even unexpected.
Nevertheless, by the time the racers returned to the finish line, it was Austin Carroll (Full Circle Cycling powered by Pure gear) taking the win ahead of Spencer Collum (Marc Pro-Strava). James Mattis (California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized) came home in third place with Eric Riggs (Team Mike’s Bikes) finishing in fourth. Fifth place went to Hillier: “It [was a] long day. I had no plans on even getting to the front [that early],” said Hillier, “[We] got caught coming through the start line. I almost thought we were going to be able to survive.” Second place Collum said “I was hoping [Hillier would stay away]. You get out in the break that early that’s a lot of work. I sure wasn’t going to take that away from him.”
“A lot of us were trying to get across,” said Carroll, “but nothing really went. On the last lap, I attacked on the backside and rolled away. A Strava guy bridged up to me, we bridged up to [the next group], and that group bridged up to the group of two [Hillier and PIASTA]. I watched everything, felt pretty good, and towards the finish line gave a little punch.” Carroll had almost a ten bike-length lead as he crossed the finish in first. “Once the Starva guy made his move I felt pretty comfortable,” continued Carroll, “I decided to push a little bit to see if he would follow. Then once I saw he wasn’t really on me I just punched it.”
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