It’s official, road season has begun. In Belgium, Megan Guarnier and Shelley Oldes placed 2nd and 5th in the first Spring Classic, Omloop Het Niuwsblad, over frigid cobblestones. Back in their homeland of NorCal, the 2013 Snelling Road Race set off through the swales of the eastern Central Valley. Riders of all levels filed down narrow farm roads and beneath the twisted boughs of almond orchards just beginning to set flower. The startlists for both the Women’s and Men’s P/1/2 races were a sight to behold on their own: depth, talent, and a collective palmares that boggled the minds of spectators and racers alike. National champions of various pedigree were not uncommon in either race.
The women’s P/1/2 race set off with a field of 40 riders, among which were notables and professionals like Ali Tetrick of Exergy 2016, Tayler Wiles of Specialized Lululemon, Beth Newell and Maura Kinsella of NOW and Novartis for MS, Marley Smith of Folsom Bike p/b Cervelo, and Molly Van Houweling of Metromint.
The first lap was relaxed, with a few attacks by various riders to test the field’s responsiveness. No breakaways gave way, and as the force of the wind increased over the course of the race, breakaways became less and less likely.
On the 2nd lap of the 5 lap race, the race became very hard when the peloton turned onto Keyes Rd. None of the attacks that ramped up the pace were successful in creating a break, but the field’s legs were relatively torched after the effort.
Rolling onto Los Cerritos Rd on the 3rd lap, tailwinds jacked up the speed and the peloton split in half, with the front half accruing as many as 30 seconds. During the initial publication of this report, it was thought that Metromint was completely unrepresented in the front half, so the decorated time trialer, Molly Van Houweling, rode the peloton back together single-handedly. This was untrue, it was actually Laurie Furman of Metromint who rode impressively to close the gap. Van Houweling and Preisler were in the front group of about 15 riders.
Racing remained hard, and the field complete, until the last lap when 6 riders escaped over the rough road on Figmond. The group consisted of Tayler Wiles, Beth Newell, Ali Tetrick, Tanja Meyer of Pinnacle p/b Argon 18, Robin Farina of NOW and Novartis for MS, and Felicia Gomez of Pinnacle p/b Argon 18. Tayler Wiles showed her class and attacked hard through the final turn, holding off the rest of the group all the way to the finishline.
After the race, Tayler Wiles described how the last lap unfolded:
“[The wind] was definitely nullifying a lot of attacks because it was a wall going into the wind. But, in the last lap, we got into a small break and that helped us echelon and get away from everybody else. The wind ended splitting it up. We worked together until the last kilometer then it was full gas into the finish. I attacked into the corner and just sprinted to the line.”
- Tayler Wiles – Specialized Lululemon
- Beth Newell – NOW and Novartis for MS
- Ali Tetrick – Exergy TWENTY16
- Tanja Meyer Tamguney – Pinnacle p/b Argon 18
- Robin Farina – NOW and Novartis for MS
- Felicia Gomez – Pinnacle p/b Argon 18
The enormous men’s P/1/2 field reached the cap of 130 riders. In general, most teams were very well represented with 5-6 riders each.
A crash on the first lap along the first narrow crosswind section sent riders off into the grass and pinned others behind the pileup. As many as 20 riders were unable to rejoin the main peloton. The speed was frenzied and the pace strung out the peloton into a single file line along Olsen Rd when it turned onto the tailwind section of road on Los Cerritos. Gaps began to form over the first roller, breaking the peloton apart. The havoc continued until Keyes Rd when the peloton was officially split into two pieces, with the front 1/3 of the field approximately 30 seconds ahead. Panicked riders tried to bridge across alone, and unsuccessfully, until a group of riders organized by Marc Pro-Strava and Sierra Nevada/Bicycles Plus echeloned across the road and gradually put the peloton back together.
At that moment, during the peloton’s main fracture, the day’s first decisive breakaway was established. Four Mike’s Bikes riders made it into the break: James LaBerge, Eric Riggs, Daniel Holloway, and Roman Kilun. Others that made it into the move were Fast Freddie Rodriguez, Chris “Staz” Stastny of Hagens Berman, Eric Wohlberg of Form Fitness, Logan Loader of Cashcall Cycling, as well as Chuck Hutcheson, Justin Rossi, and Nate Freed of Marc Pro-Strava. Chuck Hutcheson later explained that when a gap had been created, the work done by Roman Kilun, Justin Rossi, and Nate Freed was “key” in ensuring it remained established. Hutcheson had the foresight to know the race’s decisive moment was about to occur:
“On the first lap through the hills I knew [the race] was going to break up because it came apart and came back together. That really hurt a bunch of guys. Some guys must have been caught out. So I told my teammates on the next lap its going to split up. Sure enough, on the second lap through the hills we just rolled away…three Mike’s Bikes, three Marc Pro, and Freddie (Rodriguez).”
Everything appeared to be in Mike’s Bikes p/b Incase’s control, and that they would find a way to win with one of their four riders in the strong breakaway once Holloway had bridged up with Loader and Wohlberg. In a sudden riptide of misfortune for Mike’s Bikes, Eric Riggs flatted out of the break, Chris Stastny rolled off of the front, was joined by Chuck Hutcheson, and shortly after by Freddie Rodriguez and Eric Wohlberg. The four riders gutted themselves to sustain their gap and open it further, with Freddie Rodriguez purportedly doing long pulls at 30 miles per hour or faster into the escalating wind. The men in black for Mike’s Bikes were left behind.
Eric Wohlberg was eventually dropped, and the rest of the breakaway stayed away. The finish pitted three extremely formidable road racers and sprinters against one another, but after an exhausting day battling wind and rough roads, it was unclear who would have the edge in the final sprint. It appeared that Freddie Rodriguez was the strongest on the course on Saturday and he took second wheel behind Chris Stastny as the finish loomed, with Chuck Hutcheson lurking behind in third position. When the finish at the top of a knoll on Fields Rd was near, Freddie Rodriguez went up the right side of the road while Chris Stastny did his best to follow. Chuck Hutcheson emerged on the extreme right side of the road and sprinted with his characteristic grimace masquerading as a grin. In a breathtaking finish, Chuck Hutcheson beat Freddie Rodriguez by half a wheel to win the 2013 Snelling Road Race.
Chuck recounted the harrowing sprint once the race was over:
“At 1K, Staz got stuck on the front, then Freddie on him, then me. We all swung out wide with 300m to go. Then at 200m it was just Freddie and me. I kept thinking ‘don’t look at him, don’t look at him, just keep sprinting.’ Then it was ‘oh, my God, I just beat him!’”
- Chuck Hutcheson – Marc Pro – Strava
- Freddie Rodriguez – Team Fast Freddie
- Chris Stastny – Hagens Berman
- Eric Wohlberg – Form Fitness
- Jesse Reams – Trek-Red Truck Racing
- Roman Kilun Team Mike’s Bikes p/b Incase
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