Fifteen strong riders arrived at the chilly start line for the 2013 Women’s Pro,1,2 Pescadero Costal Classic. The field included four singletons who would feature prominently at the front of the race all day: Flavia Oliviera (DNA p/b Plan 7), Olivia Dillon (Now and Novartis for MS), Sara Clafferty (Pinnacle p/b Argon 18), and Fiona Strouts (Folsom Bike/Cervelo). There were also four rider contingents from Metromint Cycling and Leopard-Sapporo Team.
Kim Fong (CyclesFanaticRacing.com) got the day started by shooting off the front to comfortably capture the first prime sprint on Stage Road. Julie Bellerose (Metromint) launched her first attack of the day in the lead-in to the feed zone, bringing along a Leopard-Sapporo rider. The duo was swallowed up by a surging Oliviera who flexed her climbing legs on the first ascent of Haskins Hill. No one was able to keep pace with Oliviera’s efforts, which shattered the peloton behind.
A 9 rider bunch regrouped on the descent, however, and after some intervening confusion caused by a passing Men’s P,1,2 field on Stage Road and a second Bellerose excursion (this time solo), the women approached the feed zone as a group. Shortly after exiting the feed zone, Molly Van Houweling (Metromint) and Laurel Larson (Leoppard-Sapporo) attacked. This duo of Berkeley faculty doubling as bike racers amassed a 15 second gap by the base of Haskins. The peloton soon caught Larson on the slopes of the climb. Van Houweling continued solo and stretched her lead to 40 seconds at the top, only to be reeled-in as the race descended to the coast.
As the field made the final push up 84, aggression by Van Houweling, Dillon, and Strouts was quickly shut down by the field. Near the top of 84, however, Bellerose made one more effort and escaped from the group. Soon Clafferty jumped away to pair with the Metromint rider, and then pull away solo before the feed zone. Could Clafferty hold the 40 second gap she had amassed over the peloton by the base of Haskins? Would her gutsy late-race aggression net her another victory over the super-climbers of the field as it had a few weeks ago at Berkeley Hills? …it turned out not…but she did manage to hold on for the final podium spot.
“I bridged up to Julie and she said she was totally cooked so I said, ok just help because we have to go for it, only about 2 miles until the climb. She agreed and we worked together for about 1 mile,” wrote Clafferty to NCCN after the race. “We were neutralized during that time but luckily the motoref agreed to my request to honor our break. We started 20 secs ahead of the neutralized field about 1/2 mile to the feed zone. In the feed zone, Julie dropped off and I just drilled it as hard as I could. Tried to get as aero as possible on the downhill leading into the climb. I never saw a soul behind me so I really thought I had a chance!”
Oliviera, perhaps not wanting to repeat the dithering that cost her a chance of victory at Berkeley Hills, launched a blistering attack from the bottom of Haskins. She immediately distanced the field, with only Katie Hall (Metromint) managing to even keep her in sight up the twisting climb. The two would pass Clafferty by the mid-point of the Haskins and claim the first and second podium spots.
Hall, who has been quickly moving up the categories, has mostly been racing collegiate this spring for UC Berkeley, but has re-joined her summer team, Metromint, for her USAC race calendar. ”After the first time up Haskins, it seemed like Flavia was going to be the hardest to beat,” wrote Hall to NCCN after the race. “I sat in while my teammates Molly and Julie attacked and counterattacked in attempt to tire out Flavia and the other women. In the end, she still had the legs.”
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