• Miller Victorious in the Heat as Touchstone Trio Triumph

    by  • June 16, 2012 • norcal scene, race coverage

    Pacific Services Credit Union Criterium powered by PG&E
    Presented by Tri Valley Velo
    Pleasanton, CA – 16 June 2012

    Final report.

    Steve Rosefield, Tri Valley Velo, and volunteers put on an excellent criterium today in sweltering Pleasanton. The heat played a role in the racing as temperatures reached above the century mark on the flat, roughly square course with only one straight leg.

    The Women 1-2-3 race started off with Marissa Axell (Touchstone Climbing) putting in a big effort right from the whistle. By the end of the first lap, it was Axell’s team mate Emily Thurston crossing the start/finish line first. It was a portent of the race to come. “We knew it was going to be hot so I thought let’s make it tough from the beginning.” said Axell, “That’s what I did I just went out and attacked on the first lap.”

    Anderson and Thurston out on an early break

    Anderson and Thurston out on an early break

    Elle Anderson (Touchstone Climbing) joined Thurston in a break whilst Heather Ross (Team TIBCO II) gave chase. Shortly thereafter, it was Axell and Adrienne Belliveau (Team TIBCO II) giving chase; only Axell bridged to make it a triumvirate of Touchstone racers. Working together well, they managed to increase their gap to the field, timed first at 25 seconds but shortly thereafter reaching 38 seconds.

    Behind the lead group of three, the pack were poorly organized as attacks only came in ones and twos. One attempt came from Jennifer Kalich (Los Gatos) followed by a chase from Emily Foxman (Cycles FANATIC Factory Racing) and Holly Roberts (SJBC). All efforts were to no avail as, after holding the gap at 37-38 seconds, Anderson, Thurston, and Axell jumped out to a 45-second lead with three-to-go.

    Touchstone Climbing dominate the race with three out front

    Touchstone Climbing dominate the race with three out front

    The Touchstone Climbing trio were having it all their own way. Even after Anderson showed some distress at holding on, the team supported each other to maintain their break. “It was tough at times,” said Anderson, “The heat today was definitely one of the biggest obstacles. I had some low moments where I felt I was opening some gaps and my legs were suffering in the heat. I think the key today was having all three of us and really keeping it steady. That’s what allowed me to come up from those low spots.”
    The three were enjoying the race so much, Thurston let out a quiet “woot” even with laps remaining. All this despite the heat. “With [our lead] it was clear we were going to make it to the finish,” commented Thurston, “So, in spite of the pain you’re pretty happy at that point.”
    Axell took the win commandingly followed by Thurston and then Anderson for the Touchstone Climbing sweep of the podium steps. Axell added “[There was] excellent teamwork out there today. Excellent communication. We all had low points but we all made it as a team.”
    Kimberley Sperling (Red Racing) finished in fourth place whilst Carol Irving (Touchstone Climbing) put the team’s stamp of authority on the race with a fifth place finish.

    Marissa Axell wins the race for Women 1-2-3

    Marissa Axell wins the race for Women 1-2-3

     

    With a little luck and shrewd racing, Rand Miller (California Giant/Specialized) crafted for himself a fine win in the race for Men Pro-1-2. Early on, several racers put in a stint up front. The first significant break was formed by Eric Easterling (Sierra Pacific Racing p/b Dayka & Hackett), Marcus Smith (Team Specialized Racing), John Wilk (Webcor/Alto Velo), and Mack Kelly (Ritte Elite U23 Development Team). Next up front was Alton Dunnigan (Fremont Bank Cycling Team) and Vincent Owens (Sierra Pacific Racing p/b Dayka & Hackett) but this quickly change to see Owens and Griffin Easter (Ritte Van Vlaanderen) on a break.

    Owens, seen here with Alton Dunnigan, spent much of the race up front

    Owens, seen here with Alton Dunnigan, spent much of the race up front

    Up to this point in the race, Miller was quietly biding time in the pack. “I decided that because it was so hot I was going to let everybody ease into it [and] let guys burn their legs out early.” said Miller, “You could tell that guys were going to be really tired. I spent the first half of the race sitting in watching stuff form.” Midway through the race, Miller put in a move off the front of the peloton to catch Owens and Easter, getting past a chase group in the same move. “I was sure this was when the race was going to happen,” continued Miller, “I went hard and didn’t look back.”
    The break now had four racers with Miller and Patrick Thomas joining Owens and Easter. At first, Easter was dropped only to rejoin as a chase group caught and increased the number of racers in the break. The eight in that lead group included Miller, Owens, Easter, Thomas, Wilk, Johnathan Lee (Red Peloton), Branton Curt (SJBC), and Michael Jacques (TEAM CLIF BAR Cycling). The break grew a 54-second gap on the rest of the field before Miller and Owens successfully attacked to form their own breakaway.

    Rand Miller on his way to winning Men Pro-1-2

    Rand Miller on his way to winning Men Pro-1-2

    This left a chase group behind Miller and Owens with another minute to the rest of the field. From here Owens and Miller consolidated their lead over the chase group and closed in on the main group. On the penultimate lap, Owens and Miller caught up to the peloton and rode with the field up to the finish. It was here that Miller ran into some luck; some confusion reigned as some of the field appeared to sprint for the finish line despite needing to race another lap. Somehow Owens ended up out of position leaving Miller to take the win. It was the only black mark on a fine race by both Owens and Miller.
    With Miller and Owens taking the top two places, Easter secured the third step of the podium. Wilk finished in the fourth spot ahead of Lee in fifth.
    Miller commented on his win saying, “I feel really good about it. Especially because the team’s heading to Nationals next week. It’s in Augusta, Georgia and presumably it’s going to be hotter than this and humid. It’s good to know that my legs are working well in the heat.”

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    "Quod nomen mihi est?" Cranking the glass to capture photographs at bicycle races.