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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Official results can be found at USA Cycling.
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