• Lights, Camera, RACE! Cyclists take over San Rafael

    by  • July 30, 2013 • Crit, norcal scene, race coverage

    In the unassuming quiet city of San Rafael, every year Project Sport holds one of the most hyped about criteriums in the Northern California area. It may be the world class announcers Dave Towle and Brad Sohner. It could be that it takes place later in the day, which means racers can sleep in instead of waking up super early to drive to the event. It could be the beer garden. Or the podium girls. Or the flood lights that they have to put up for the later races as the men’s P/1/2 field quite literally races in the dark. While the course itself may not be technical or particularly unique, Project Sport has created what may be considered as “the whole package” for an awesome event for spectators and athletes alike.

    World class announcers Dave Towle and Brad Sohner keep the excitement up with their expertise on all things bike racing.

    World class announcers Dave Towle and Brad Sohner keep the excitement up with their expertise on all things bike racing.

    In the women’s P/1/2/3 field, it was all smiles during callups, as the champions were brought to the line ahead of the pelotons. Among those called included Elle Anderson (Vanderkitten, winner of this year’s Nevada City Classic), Martina Patella (winner of the Lodi Cycle Fest), Olivia Dillon (NOW/Novartis, who had placed third with teammate Robin Farina placing first at the Davis Fourth of July Criterium), and last but not least, the reigning champion of the Twilight Criterium itself, Alison Tetrick (Exergy TWENTY16).

    Alison Tetrick (Exergy TWENTY16) shows off her Champion's belt as the winner of last year's San Rafael Twilight Criterium. LIttle did she know she would be passing it to her teammate in the end.

    Alison Tetrick (Exergy TWENTY16) shows off her Champion’s belt as the winner of last year’s San Rafael Twilight Criterium. LIttle did she know she would be passing it to her teammate in the end.

    The early laps could be seen with Tetrick near the front with initial attacks from Flavia Oliveira (DNA/Plan7) and team Vanderkitten, which had been working to string things out by driving the pace hard at the front of the pack. The pattern seemed that racers would attack hard utilizing the acceleration from the downhill of the last turn into the straightaway, only to be caught as the opposing uphill on the other side of the course would slow them down.

    Flavia Oliveria (DNA/Plan7) keeps the pace high as she launches one of several attacks off the front during the women's P/1/2/3 race.

    Flavia Oliveria (DNA/Plan7) keeps the pace high as she launches one of several attacks off the front during the women’s P/1/2/3 race.

    As the race neared its conclusion, the laps continued with Vanderkitten continuing to be very active in the race. If there was a break, one of the teammates would be in it or chasing it down, all the while with the rest of the team behind at the front of the main pack. Of the other teams in the peloton, Metromint Cycling was also active with Katie Hall at the front and Joanna Dahl taking part of any breaks that formed.

    Vanderkitten gathers towards the front in the final laps in anticipation for the finish of the women's P/1/2/3 race.

    Vanderkitten gathers towards the front in the final laps in anticipation for the finish of the women’s P/1/2/3 race.

    With all three Vanderkittens assembled at the front with Tetrick and Olivera on the bell lap, there was plenty of strong contenders. It was anybody’s guess as to who would win. However, in the final sprint to the finish line saw a very close finish with Tetrick’s teammate Kimberly Wells claiming first with Vanderkitten’s Ruth Winder and Dillon rounding out the rest of the podium.

    Kimberly Wells (Exergy TWENTY16) shows a fierce cheer as she places first in the women's P/1/2/3 race.

    Kimberly Wells (Exergy TWENTY16) shows a fierce cheer as she places first in the women’s P/1/2/3 race.

    By the time that the women’s P/1/2/3 race had finished, interviews done, and the champagne-spray filled podium presentation gone, the generators were out along the course powering the floodlights that would light the way for the men’s P/1/2 race. The buildings of San Rafael had cast their shadows across the entire width of the straightaway through the finish line, and the photographers had whipped out their flashes to combat the low light situation that had presented itself.

    The callups for the men went about the same as the women… except for the showgirls. Dressed in short black dresses and armed with hot pink and white umbrellas, the women lined up and escorted the men as they were called up. Among those that got to be walked to the line by the women were powerhouses Eric Riggs (Mike’s Bikes p/b Incase) as well as teammate Roman Kilun, Chuck Hutcheson (Marc-Pro/Strava), Logan Loader (CashCall Mortgage), and Eamon Franck (California Giant/Specialized).

    Women, dressed in short black dresses and bearing large magenta and white umbrellas, stand at the ready to escort the male athletes during callups of the men's P/1/2 race.

    Women, dressed in short black dresses and bearing large magenta and white umbrellas, stand at the ready to escort the male athletes during callups of the men’s P/1/2 race.

    With the race under way, spectators at the first turn would see Franck and teammate Cody Kaiser covering the front with Team Clif Bar close behind. The race quickly reshuffled though as the black kits of Mike’s Bikes p/b Incase gathered towards the front and took over as Brandon Trafton launched an attack off the front. He would manage to hold his lead for several laps as seen around the short uphill climb between the first and second turns on the course.

    Brandon Trafton (Mike's Bikes p/b Incase) launches one of many attacks that he would initiate throughout the men's P/1/2 race.

    Brandon Trafton (Mike’s Bikes p/b Incase) launches one of many attacks that he would initiate throughout the men’s P/1/2 race.

    After Trafton was caught several laps later, the breaks continued to grow and fade, but Mike’s Bikes stayed active in the race with Adam Switters taking over for Trafton by taking part in several of the breaks. Shawn Rosenthal could also be seen chasing – specifically Logan Loader as he tried to be off the front for several laps. Another ride of note was Metromint Cycling’s Ariel Herrmann, who towards the middle of the race was always near the front and in several breaks.

    Ariell Herrmann (Metromint Cycling) leads the field during one of the final laps of the men's P/1/2 race.

    Ariell Herrmann (Metromint Cycling) leads the field during one of the final laps of the men’s P/1/2 race.

    As the lap cards came out indicating the nearing of the finale, defending champion Eric Riggs launched an attack that held a sizeable gap for several laps. Well into the single digits for laps remaining, the tactics were coming into play with the Mike’s Bikes leadout train coming together at the front of the pack. Although it looked like they would be dominating the podium as they did last year as they began the bell lap, a crash within the lap took out the defending Riggs. The finish line saw the bright red kit of Eamon Franck of Cal Giant/Specialized at the front first, with Justin Williams (MRI-Endurance Elite U23) and Dana Williams (Mike’s Bikes p/b Incase) taking second and third, respectively.

    Eamon Lucas (Cal Giant/Specialized) crosses the line in a victory salute as he secures first place in the men's P/1/2 race.

    Eamon Lucas (Cal Giant/Specialized) crosses the line in a victory salute as he secures first place in the men’s P/1/2 race.

    Official results can be found at USA Cycling.

    Photos by Alex Chiu Photography. More photos can be found here. Like the photos you see? Consider buying your favorite race photo! Funds help to support the continuing pursuit to capture that perfect moment during the race. Also consider donating to NorCalCyclingNews (link is on the right side of this page) to support all of us that strive to bring you race reports, news, interviews, and coverage from all over Northern California to YOU.

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    Alex Chiu is a local photographer in the NorCal cycling scene. After dabbling a bit in racing (and not doing very good at it), he decided to pick up a camera and take pictures at the races to still be a part of the action. Chances are if the race is within a 2 hour driving window from Sacramento, you'll find him somewhere along the course. You may find his photos at http://acaurora.smugmug.com

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