• A Great American Pastime

    by  • July 24, 2013 • race coverage, womyn on weels

    Berkeley Bicycle Club Criterium – Women’s Race
    21 July 2013
    Photos by Yao Saetern

    Criteriums are like American football. They’re spectator-friendly, they cause more concussions than most sporting events do, and Europeans think they’re weird and a waste of time. NorCal spends every July celebrating this quintessentially American pastime, even as the rest of the cycling world turns Francophile. In July, sprinters are in peak form for U.S. Pro Nationals, climbers are away with their own kind at the Cascade Classic in Oregon, and the local calendar is packed with flat, fast races (Davis 4th of July Crit, Colavita Grand Prix, San Rafael Twilight Crit, Menlo Park Grand Prix) and a few not-so-flat, fast races (Watsonville Crit, Foothill Circuit Race).

    The Berkeley Bicycle Club Criterium in Albany stands out among the July crits for its rare urban location (think the “park” without the “office”) and a deceptively difficult course: the 0.6-mile distance gives the sensation of constantly cornering; worn pavement makes racers fight for the smoothest lines; and a false flat foils any plans to rest in the pack.

    Around 20 women toed the start line at the race’s 29th edition last Sunday, with all eyes on Mary Maroon (Stevens Bicycle Racing). Maroon, having expertly clinched the Watsonville and Foothill races the week before, was visibly relaxed when the whistle blew. Only two teams had the numbers to upset the crit Jedi: Metromint Cycling (represented by Jane Robertson, Joanna Dahl, and Lisa Mueller) and Team Fremont Bank (represented by Marissa Axell, Heather Nielson, and Josie Morgan). Vanderkitten’s Starla Teddergreen was another strong contender, but raced solo.

    Maroon was visibly relaxed on the start line.

    Maroon was visibly relaxed on the start line.

    “I saw that there was a lot of Metromint on the start line, so the onus was on them to make the race aggressive,” said Maroon. “The Dots” did not disappoint, making no secret of their strategy to send Mueller and Dahl on attack after attack right from the gun. They appeared to be protecting teammate Robertson, but Robertson left the sprinter’s lounge several times to cover Maroon’s early breakaway attempts.

    Metromint's sprinter Robertson doesn't hesitate to help chase the break.

    Metromint’s sprinter Robertson didn’t hesitate to help chase Maroon’s early moves.

    Maroon finally made it off the front with Mueller, but the field would have none of it. “I really enjoyed being in a break with Lisa last weekend [at Watsonville, where Maroon and Mueller placed 1st and 2nd], so when I saw her go off that first time, I was hoping I could get out there and work with her. It almost worked, but the pack knew that would be a dangerous move if they let it go.”

    The field thwarted danger, but Mueller’s teammate Dahl counter-attacked. The indefatigable Maroon launched again and bridged, establishing another two-woman break that seemed bound to succeed. “The break with Joanna was pretty good. …I made an agreement with her that if there was a cash prime we would split it and if there was a merchandise prime she could split it with her team.”

    Still hurting from her earlier attacks, Dahl eventually lost Maroon’s wheel, but not before nabbing a bottle of wine and a Chez Panisse gift certificate. “I came back as soon as I got dropped, to send my teammates the signal to chase,” recounted Dahl.

    Maroon proves that she's a breakaway artist in addition to a field sprinter.

    Maroon proved that she’s a breakaway artist as well as a field sprinter.

    The pack’s fierce chasing would prove futile, as Maroon, clearly in top form for next week’s national criterium championship, extended her gap. “My strategy was to stay near the front and remain aggressive and make the race fast and fun,” she said. True to her word, Maroon crossed the finish line nearly 30 seconds ahead of the rest, and referees crowned her the day’s most aggressive rider. In the race for second, the weary Dots mustered up an effective lead-out to place seasoned sprinter Robertson safely at the front of the field sprint. Teddergreen rounded out the podium in third.

    Maroon stayed away, Robertson took the field sprint, and Teddergreen finished strong in third.

    Maroon stayed away, Robertson took the field sprint, and Teddergreen finished strong in third.

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    Final Draft (n): 1) The final moment of aerodynamic advantage before sprinting around a rider toward the finish line. 2) The final form of any writing.