Photos courtesy Alex Chiu Photography.
When most racers think of a criterium, they think of a simple square or figure 8 course. Super fast, and super wide. But what happens when you add more than four turns?
The Town Center Criterium in El Dorado Hills was held for the second time after its inaugural debut in 2012. The course was changed to be even more technical than last year. Racers braved twelve tight turns, sweeping through two parking lots in a single lane at the El Dorado Hills Town Center. And not all the turns were in one direction.
There was a good representation from Folsom Bike/VW/Raley’s, as well as Folsom Bike/Cervelo, the two teams sponsored by Town Center Bike and Tri and its original sister shop, Folsom Bike. In the Men’s Pro/1/2 race, the field consisted mostly of local teams, with the Wente Criterium happening concurrently. It had already been an interesting day for Jared Kessler of Folsom Bike/VW/Raley:
“I suppose it started the day before in Whiskeytown lake for the Shasta Lemurian mountain bike classic. My season gets a bit tricky juggling my time between mountain and road racing. Long story short…24 mile mountain bike race with 5,200 feet of vertical gain over Shasta’s roughest terrain, no race for the weak. I felt good and managed to pull a close second place finish behind my Folsom Bike/Giant teammate Billy Damon. Coming into Sunday I felt tired and sore.”
With so many turns, the peloton quickly strung out. Within the first few laps it was Brandon Trafton of Full Circle Cycling Powered by Pure Gear who managed to get a gap off the front, with Chuck Hutcheson of Marc Pro/Strava and Kessler working hard to catch up. Trafton would continue to stay off the front for quite a while before finally being caught.
With various attacks and counter attacks left and right, it seemed that the three would be the contenders for the podium. With about six to go, Hutcheson put in an attack. Kessler’s teammate Chris Baker and the rest of the group worked hard to bridge up, only to see Chuck put in another attack, but to no avail. In the final laps, Kessler describes how he made his move to secure his place on the podium:
“Coming down the home straight with three laps to go, the pace was hot and heavy with Chuck and my teammate Jason Boynton sprinting it out for a prime at the top of the first hill, with me in tow, sitting patiently in third wheel. I came around the two at the top of the hill coming into the second, slightly steeper but shorter hill to the top of the course. I attacked there hard, knowing at this point in the race nobody was even remotely a fan of this hill anymore, and quickly I formed a sizeable gap. Quickly realizing that this quite possibly could be the race, it was full steam ahead to the engine room. Storming back up to the finish and seeing the two laps to go was oh so bitter sweet. Fortunately, hearing time splits from passionate fans lining the course gave plenty of motivation, as did some data on my computer telling me I wasn’t putting enough power to the pedals. Thank you to SRM for that kick in the butt!
One lap to go and I’m still out front. Chuck had had enough and parted ways with the breakaway group to chase me solo, but it was too late and I was too happy to be where I was to let it go. I stormed down the front straight one last time in front of hundreds of screaming fans. It was a bit intense as I felt some chills come over me, feeling overwhelmed with all the support from the community. Confidently laying the bike through the last few corners and rolling hard to the finish with one last check over the shoulder, I had the win with room to spare and for the first time in a P 1/2 race threw my hands in the air for a victory salute made even more special by having being the local boy in the race that my team and bike shop worked so hard to put on.”
In the 35+ 1/2/3 race, the field had a very strong showing of Folsom Bike/VW/Raley’s riders, including National Criterium Champion Jason Walker. The team was very active to control the race and be in every break, with attacks every lap until eventually Folsom Bike’s Chris Baker and Team Specialized Masters’ Mike Sayers would have a go. Walker describes how the rest of the race panned out:
“Nathan Parks would launch a solo attempt to bridge and I bridged up to Nathan. We caught Chris and Mike about a lap after joining forces. Once we caught the leaders we started attacking to see if we could shake Mike. He was responding very well and not going anywhere. I think we were all pretty gassed. One thing I’ve learned (and relearned a couple times) is to not wait for a sprint if there’s a way to win the race by yourself – 100% is better odds than 50%, etc. With a 1.5 laps to go Mike pushed it hard up the climb on the back of the course. We were all hurting, which made it the perfect time to attack, so I did. I got a gap pretty quickly and saw that Mike wasn’t ramping it up, so I tried to stay on the gas. From there it was a TT effort for 1.5 laps, making sure I didn’t over-cook a corner. In the end I was able to hold out and take the win. ”
Finally, in the Women’s 1/2 race, the hosting shops’ women’s team had similar success. Folsom Bike/Cervelo had the numbers, as the rest of the 1/2 field consisted of mostly single riders from other teams. In a combined field with the Women’s 3 race, it was difficult to differentiate the race within the race, but in the end it was Folsom Bike’s Danielle Haulman who would end up securing the top spot on the podium after soloing off on her own.
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