• Smith and Leece Overcome Black Hail at Copperopolis

    by  • March 30, 2013 • norcal scene, race coverage

    Copperopolis Road Race
    30 March 2013

    Marley Smith (Folsom Bike/Cervelo) impressed others with her strength as she tore away from the Women’s 1/2 break at Copperopolis to take the win with a handsome 4-minute gap. Despite dropping a chain on the downhill of lap two, Beth Newell (NOW and Novartis for MS) still managed a second place finish.

    In the race for Men P/1/2, Stephen Leece (California Giant/Specialized) attacked with two and one-half to go, stayed away, and won the race ahead of Chuck Hutcheson (Marc Pro-Strava).

    The course had so many freshly repaired potholes on the road that many riders finished covered in small specks of asphaltic patch material. John Fairbanks (Folsom Bike/VW/Raley’s) described it as being pelted by hail whilst Andres Gil (Michael David Winery Cycling Team) said “it was like raining from the ground up but it was black instead of white.” It paid to be a lead rider on the day.

    Andres Gil (Michael David Winery Cycling Team) Wears Part of the Copperopolis Road Course

    Andres Gil (Michael David Winery Cycling Team) Wears Part of the Copperopolis Road Course

    Keith Hillier's Black-Spotted Legs

    Keith Hillier’s Black-Spotted Legs

    For Women 1/2, the first break of seven riders held for the early part of the first lap. Come the big downhill of lap one, the field was spreading apart with Beth Newell (NOW and Novartis for MS) heading up the front.

    The break whittled itself down to four riders: Newell, Marley Smith, and the Pinnacle p/b Argon 18 pair of Amy Thornquist and Felica Gomez. Newell again lead on the fast downhill but would later suffer a dropped chain; the mechanical effectively ruined her promising race.

    This left Smith to fend for herself against Gomez and Tornquist. “I got away from Felicia Gomez on the climb of lap three and away from Amy Thornquist a bit after that. I was by myself the second half of lap three,” said Smith.

    “My strategy going into the race was, as my coach Michael O’Rourke recommended, to be patient on the first climb. So I did let some of the other really strong climbers set the pace on the climb. I knew a break would go, it does every year. I just wanted to be in the front third to go with it.”

    Emotions Pour Out of Smith at the Finish Line

    Emotions Pour Out of Smith at the Finish Line

    About the recent road repairs, Smith said “It made it worse because it was all fresh. It was just kicking up in our faces the whole time. I’m covered in black.”

    A Grateful Smith Celebrates with her Coach Michael O'Rourke

    A Grateful Smith Celebrates with her Coach Michael O’Rourke

    Newell recovered from her dropped chain to come around in second place. “I tried to pop it back but then my crank seized up so I had to stop,” described Newell. “When Marley Smith and Amy Thornquist are up the road you’re never going to catch them.

    Newell Leads Down the Fast Downhill

    Newell Leads Down the Fast Downhill

    “I chased for the rest of the lap and tried to keep it steady. I caught up to Felicia Gomez and then caught up to Amy Thornquist. I got the field sprint right at the end. I was glad I fought back but a little bit bummed. I seem to have bad luck in this race.”

    “It was a good day of training,” continued Newell. “Marley Smith was so strong all day. She deserved that race.”

    “We made the first selection [early],” said Gomez. “There were two [Folsom Bikes] and two of us. We worked together but maybe that was a mistake and maybe we should have tried to split that. Marley Smith was riding super strong today and Beth Newell was a superstar for coming back after a mechanical.

    “Amy Thornquist and I just didn’t have it. The only thing we could have done differently was to try to split that initial break. Try to get us off with one or two others not quite as strong as these guys.” Despite a relatively small field of 18 riders, Gomez still felt her team could have made the selection over the climb but should have tried to make that early break smaller.

    In the race for Men P/1/2, there was an an early break of eight riders going up the first hill. Marc Pro-Strava and Team Mike’s Bikes each had two in the group. Robin Eckmann (California Giant/Specialized) was in there as were Kirk Carlsen and Chuck Hutcheson. Carlsen has been racing well so far this season but he would eventually not factor in the race.

    Hutcheson would remain at the sharp end of the race all day long as the make-up of riders around him changed.

    Stephen Leece attacked from the lead group with two-to-go, protected his lead, and came home for the admirable solo win. “That moment was just a good moment to attack,” said Leece, “I knew if I put some pressure on I could potentially get away by myself and put pressure on the other teams in the break. Yeah, I had to dig and suck it. This is a race of attrition. As the race goes on everyone gets a little less responsive.”

    Among the attempts to bring back Leece, Christopher Harland-Dunaway (Marc Pro-Strava) reported he was able to reach within ten bike-lengths but his was a sacrificial effort for the team. “I did a little surge,” continued Leece, “got brought back at first and put in another one and got a gap pretty quick. There was a chase but I built up my gap.”

    With “black hail” coming up from the ground, Leece was happy to have the lead. “That was nice and when you’re off the front by yourself you can pick the best line through all the pot holes.

    “I’ve had a couple of crashes earlier this season and I’m really happy to turn my season around with the win today. I have to say thanks to the team. We raced a really good race today. We had guys in the moves when we needed to. We had three guys in the group right before I attacked. Just having those guys in the group is huge. We were where we needed to be and that gave me the opportunity to make a big move.”

    Leece Crosses for the Win

    Leece Crosses for the Win

    Leece rolled across the line for the win with comfort. Chuck Hutcheson reached the finish line about 40 seconds later but would later admit it was somewhat survival for his race.

    “I was hoping to finish today. That was my mentality,” said Hutcheson. “The reason we were so close was Roman Kilun (Team Mike’s Bikes), Tyler Brandt (Get Crackin’), and Adrien Costa (Slipstream-Craddock Junior Development) were rotating the whole time. I was sitting on. The last time up the climb Costa attacked and I just held his wheel. The honor all goes to Costa, Kilun, and Brandt. I was just hoping to make it to the end.”

    Hutcheson Makes it Work for his Race

    Hutcheson Makes it Work for his Race

    “[Leece] went with two climbs to go,” commented Hutcheson. “Right towards the top he just rolled away. I thought we would get him. We sacrificed [Harland-Dunaway] to get him.

    “If we would have caught Leece, guys would have started attacking on the climb. That’s the last thing I wanted. As long as he was up the road, everyone was going easy.”

    Despite his expectations beforehand, Hutcheson managed his race to earn valuable points for the Premier Series.

    Results Women 1/2/3
    1. Marley Smith (Folsom Bike/Cervelo)
    2. Elizabeth Newell (NOW and Novartis for MS)
    3. Felicia Gomez (Pinnacle p/b Argon 18)
    4. Amy Thornquist (Pinnacle p/b Argon 18)
    5. Molly Van Houweling (Metromint Cycling)
    6. Fiona Strouts (Folsom Bike/Cervelo)
    7. Sarah Conover (Los Gatos)
    8. Judith Wexler (UC Davis)
    9. Rikke Preisler (Metromint Cycling)
    10. Josie Morgan (Fremont Bank Cycling Team)
    11. Joanna Dahl (Metromint Cycling)

    Results Man P/1/2
    1. Stephen Leece (California Giant/Specialized)
    2. Charles Hutcheson (Marc Pro-Strava)
    3. Adrien Costa (Slipstream-Craddock Junior Development)
    4. Robin Eckmann (California Giant/Specialized)
    5. Roman Kilun (Team Mike’s Bikes p/b Incase)
    6. Tyler Brandt (Get Crackin’)
    7. Keith Hillier (Marc Pro-Strava)
    8. Joe Dickerson (Marc Pro-Strava)
    9. Joshua Carling (Team Bicycles Plus/Sierra Nevada)
    10. James Enright (SquadraSF)
    11. Philip Mooney (James-Hagens Berman)



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