Watsonville Criterium – Men Pro/1/2
18 July 2013
James Enright (SquadraSF) contributes this report.
The race was a 58 lap, 38-mile technical course. Just about no rest on this course, always setting up for a turn, only one long straight which happened to have a strong headwind. Description per VeloPromo: “0.75 mile loop of smooth pavement, with many turns, dips at the corners and a small hill to the finish line.”
The Reminiscence of Rand Miller
Last year’s winner has since retired but stories of how that race was won were still floating around. Apparently Rand Miller’s bike handling skills and motor allowed him to not only get into a successful break but to leave his break companions, lap the field solo, and then proceed to catch his original break off the front to eventually take the win solo.
[Editor's note: in the previous year (2011), Miller and nemesis Steve Reaney (Cal Giant/Specialized) also lapped the field in a two-racer break. To avoid Reaney receiving help from team mates at the sprint finish, Miller attacked again...only to lap the field a second time with Reaney and put Miller back with the field.]
How it went down
About 20 riders showed up at the start line. Cal Giant had Tobin Ortenblad and Eamon Franck, Brandon Trafton was solo for Team Mike’s Bikes p/b Incase, and Zipz had three riders that were on their second race of the day. SquadraSF team mates – Sean Smith and Tim Larkin.
Early: I had heard how technical it was so kinda eased my way into the course to dial it in. Brandon, Tobin, and Jan Weissenberger (Zipz) and a few other riders were anxious to get things started off fast so the first few laps hurt and actually dropped a few other riders. After things settled down a bit I moved my way up and it was clear that Trafton was either going to be in a break or he would be the first to bring it back.
After many different combinations flailed gaining any ground, finally the pack let Jan, Tobin, Brandon Trafton, Chris Cain (Don Chapin Monterey Bay Racing Team), and myself get a gap. So with Cal Giant, Zipz, and SquadraSF represented, I was pretty confident we could stay away. Everyone worked hard to establish a gap but we never got into a really good rhythm; someone would attack, skip a pull due to the attack, or be upset about how much work others were doing, and so on.
Break: After dealing with the dysfunctional break for some time, Chris had fallen off and Tobin attacked. I jump hard out of the 130º corner to close it and Jan and Brandon look at each other to see who is going to close the gap. Jan had just won the Masters 35+ race a few hours earlier and I assume Brandon wanted to take Jan’s dangerous sprint out of the break and jump back across solo. Tobin and I work well together and our gap increases. With about 10 to go we catch the pack; Tobin had attacked me when the pack was in a bridgeable distance.
Eamon went to the front to try to make that junction a little tougher while Sean and Tim drop back for a bit of motivation to make sure I make contact and get out of that wind. Soon after I reintegrate with the field, Tobin and Eamon go off the front again. Tim and Sean rotate hitting the front to keep the Cal Giants in check and make sure Brandon and Jan don’t catch the field. Great teamwork by our respective teams.
How ’bout Dem Berries?
Finale: Eamon takes control with 3 laps to go, Tobin second wheel, me third. Tim and Sean on my wheel keeping others from swarming, making the finale of the race the least stressful part of the whole event. Jeannes Thibault (Hennebont Cyclisme) and David Mesa (Chica Sexy) attack the field with a few to go.
SquadraSF and Cal Giant are racing for the win so their team mates stay away. The field sprint opens up exiting the final corner, Eamon leading the charge. Unfortunately all I could do was sit in Tobin’s slipstream and cross 3rd or 4th in the field but good enough for 2nd place. Brandon had attacked Jan netting 3rd with Jan holding off the field for 4th.
This small but tough field made for one fun race on this interesting course. I can see why Rand Miller calls this low-key crit his favorite race in the entire NCNCA. In the end I was happy with second.
During the last 15 minutes my legs were very close to their limit and Tobin had successfully taken the pop out of them needed to rightfully contest the sprint. When I got off my bike after 90 minutes of racing, my back seized up so I think it is safe to say I left it all out there.
It was also great to see Tobin end his impressive road season with a win and continue a California Giant/Specialized winning streak in the last four runnings of the Watsonville Crit.
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