24 June 2013
Justin Morgan contributed this report.
Mary Maroon (SBRacing) won a photo finish over Elle Anderson (Vanderkitten) at the Burlingame Criterium on Sunday. The pair were very active early and eventually succeeded in escaping from the main field around the halfway point.
Danielle Haulman (Folsom Bike) finished third on the day after setting out solo to chase the winning break.
The day began under an overcast sky that intermittently turned to rain clouds dropping a few scattered showers around the course. The air was warm and slightly breezy so no water accumulated on the pavement.
The course for this year was completely new, due to construction in downtown Burlingame, and no rider would have the advantage of knowing the corners from memory.
The technical features of the course included a hairpin, a fast right-left chicane, and a sharp penultimate corner on narrow streets. Everything suggested a breakaway should succeed. A final wide and sweeping turn was a perfect setting for exciting sprint battles.
The race whistle blew and Anderson seemed to hear this as a factory worker hears the morning shift whistle, immediately going to work to set a blistering pace into the first technical section through the hairpin and chicane.
Maroon was quick to recover from a start line bobble and regained a little ground with some late braking into the hairpin before tucking in in a few wheels back. The peloton soon found itself single file and all business.
As the first lap went off at top speeds and came through the finish area the announcer seemed to chuckle with delight as he rang a loud bell and called out “PREME LAP! PREME LAP!” The pace stayed high and Anderson took the reins at just the right moment to take the early prize.
Maroon saw the opportunity and immediately attacked out of turn one and into the technical section. Anderson covered in a flash and, as a few other riders quickly responded, gaps opened all through the main bunch.
For several laps this was the status quo. Anderson attacks, Maroon covers. Maroon attacks, Anderson covers.
Another preme lap was announced and this time Maroon fired off in an effort to take the prize. Anderson was quick to respond and found herself in a position to challenge and overcome arguably one of the best sprinters in California. The close battle indicated Anderson, a fantastic breakaway rider, was capable of upsetting the established order and beating Maroon in a high speed gallop.
As Maroon slowed to recover from the preme attempt, there were perfect team tactics as Vanderlitten’s Lisa Rachetto attacked into the hairpin, drew out a small advantage, and coerced a short lived breakaway.
The peloton was not ready to roll over and after a lap of chasing it was all back together. This was followed by a solo move from Heather Nielsen (Fremont Bank) but still the bunch wasn’t allowing anything to get too far on this very technical and breakaway friendly course.
Nielsen was reeled in a lap later and her teammate Marissa Axel put in a well-timed counter attack. The pace of the main group was too high and Axel was brought back as well.
Anderson then saw her chance and put it all on the line with a very strong move into the hairpin. Kate Liger (Red Racing) was able to go with the move. Maroon was quick to respond, jumped hard into the chicane, and managed to bridge up to the lead duo as they made their way around the backside and onto the finishing straight.
The next few laps saw this break stretch its legs and its advantage with Anderson and Maroon appearing to do the bulk of the work. The chasing peloton began to rip to shreds behind them as the break ran off hot lap after hot lap. With gaps everywhere, it was a mad scramble and plenty of riders tried to cast off the shackles of the bunch and get across to what was obviously the move of the day.
Rikke Preisler (Metromint) was very close to getting onto terms with the leaders but Rachetto latched onto her wheel and was the anchor that drug her backwards and into the folds of the depleted main bunch. Another great display of tactics by the Vanderkitten women confirmed that they were indeed the strongest team in the race.
After Anderson pressed and the leaders dropped Liger they had around 10 minutes remaining. The next time through the two were riding together and swapping pulls to consolidate their gap. The race began to mirror the 2012 Giro di San Francisco where these two rode an exciting break to the finish.
As the top two spots looked to be settled, the peloton resigning itself to riding for third place, a scrappy Danielle Haulman attacked and got away solo to do what she came to do: race her bike. This was surely one of the most daring rides of the day and a good sign of the aggression and determination that still burns within women’s road racing in Northern California.
With the lap cards counting down to only three to go there was a touch of wheels back in the main group. A crash left one rider on the ground and unable to pick herself up. Confusion ensued as course marshals, EMTs, and Officials looked to resolve the situation in the safest way possible. The race was temporarily stopped to allow emergency medical staff to reach the scene.
A restart was organized and three groups were put back onto the course with three laps left to race and 15 or 20 seconds between them. Maroon and Anderson seemed to take it in stride and were back to the matter at hand when the Chief Referee gave them the order.
It was Maroon who took control in the penultimate lap and she kept to the front as the duo crossed the line to hear “ONE TO GO!” Marron ramped up the pace through the first corners, hit it hard into and out of the hairpin, and managed a one bike length gap on Anderson as they headed into the long back stretch.
Anderson dug deep and clawed back into the draft just as they entered the long sweeping last corner where Maroon opened the sprint.
It was neck and neck as the two charged through the finish straight and Anderson was just able to pull even with Maroon coming to the line. Both began their bike throws. Maroon, with her track racing background and experience, had the timing dialed perfectly and edged out Anderson by less than the width of a bicycle frame.
Haulman was awarded third place based on time splits at the time the race was stopped. Judith Wexler (UCDavis) took out the bunch sprint for fourth place followed closely by Axel in fifth.
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