The 8th Annual Menlo Park Grand Prix took place on the wide streets of a business park with perfect weather. The L-shaped course consisted of two long straightaways – the longest being after making two left turns from the start line, and the shorter of the two being on the way back, where racers had to make a quick left-right to continue several hundred meters to the finish line. There climate was very favorable, with winds that picked up later in the day. After rescue funding by KitOrder.com, the race (counting as a NCNCA Women’s Series, Premiere Series, and Elite/Master’s State Championship Race) was under way.
For the men’s P/1/2 field, one could quickly spot and identify the local Mike’s Bikes p/b Incase as well as the Marc-Pro/Strava teams being the primary contenders. In addition, Phil Mooney and Nate English from continental teams Jamis Hagens Berman and 5-Hour Energy p/b Kenda, respectively, were present. Patrick Briggs (Primetime Cycling), who had won the 45+ 1/2/3 field the previous day at the San Rafael Twilight Criterium, was amongst the contenders as well.
In the initial laps, there were several attacks by individual racers that never stuck. With each lap, while there might have been someone off the front, the field would chase them down and within a matter of one lap (over a mile in distance), they would be caught. Often at the front or only a few wheels back through the entire race, English could be seen at the front.
It wouldn’t be until the last laps of the race that any promising moves would crop up, in which Tyler Brandt (Get Crackin’) and Rob Evans (Bear Development Team) would work together to form a two man break along the backside of the course. The two would continue to work together to keep a steady gap ahead of the pack, and it looked promising where the two would take the podium until the bell lap, when spectators could see the field with Evans on the front.
During the final seconds leading to the conclusion of the race, James Laberge (Mike’s Bikes p/b Incase) had a perfect leadout from teammate Dana Williams (who had placed third at the San Rafael Twilight Criterium the day before), as he surged out from the last turn into the straightaway to the finish line. He would manage to hold off the rest of the field, including Chuck Hutcheson (Marc-Pro/Strava), to a first place on the podium.
“I was never concerned that we wouldn’t catch them… I wasn’t super happy that we had missed it. Forced the team to be on the front a little earlier than we wanted to”, said Roman Kilun of Mike’s Bikes p/b Incase when asked about the Evans/Brandt break. “The wind was a big factor, but not as much as I thought… on the backside we were always in the gutter…made the leadout really easy”, he added. “They’re definitely dangerous riders that we need to watch out for, and Tyler’s also out there on Premiere series, he’s still a guy we need to watch out for…We set up our leadout with 5 to go and slowly brought them back…”, said James Laberge.
When asked about the increasing wind felt throughout the men’s pro race, Shawn Rosenthal explains: “Today there was quite a bit of wind on the course, there’s ample opportunities to make a breakaway go away. We got some good riders to be able to power a break… one of our plans was to get into the moves with the most horsepower. Our backup plan… we’ve got one of the fastest sprinters in the country…we always have to plan for setting up our leadout. We had a set order, and when it came down to taking over the front to execute it, it was clockwork”. “Back straight was constant wind…it just felt like it [was] everywhere. We would try to get off the front, everyone would try to get 10 second gaps and then just get brought back by another team. It really played a huge factor in the way everybody raced today”, added James.
Listen to the post race interview with Shawn Rosenthal and James Laberge below:
Listen to the post race interview with Roman Kilun below:
The women’s P/1/2/3 race saw the presence of Exergy TWENTY16 teammates Alison Tetrick and Kimberly Wells, who had raced previously the day before and won the San Rafael Twilight Criterium, where previous winner Tetrick presented the champion’s belt to Wells. They were joined by Metromint Cycling, Pinnacle p/b Argon 18, and Vanderkitten as well as several other local teams.
As Metromint covered the front in the opening laps with multi-TT championship winner Molly Van Houweling at the front, the team looked to control the race by sending off flyers to wear out the competition. As the laps went by, the composition changed to show Tetrick and Wells to be part of the front of the peloton with Starla Teddergreen (Vanderkitten) not far behind. If there was a break, one of the two Exergy TWENTY16 teammates would chase it down or be a part of it.
The two continued to be part of the action to the very end, with Tetrick attacking off the front as the bell rang for the final lap, with Metromint hot on her heels. The final seconds of the race saw Tetrick still charging hard for the finish line and Wells closely behind cheering her teammate on as they took the top spots for the podium.
Photos by Alex Chiu Photography. Like these photos? Support your local photographers! Consider buying your favorite race photo to support those that capture those perfect moments on the course.
For more coverage and photos, check out NCNCA Road.
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