The Saturday air was cool in Yolo, whose name has unfortunately come to match the anti-introspective, fast-living, self-destructive pop culture acronym, Y.O.L.O. (You only live once). As the men’s field raced by plumes of grapevines unfurling towards the sun, Kurt Wolfgang (Squadra SF) ran a poignant commentary on the risky moments of the race; a chopped wheel there, the ignored crash just outside of the neutral zone, a desperate attack to change the dynamics of the race. Each one was remarked upon in its most pithy summation: “Yolo”. Dunnigan Hills, is at face-value, an 86 mile featureless race – but the wind and rollers are not to be ignored, because they turn what appears to be a sprinter’s delight into a chess-like duel of island-hopping breakaways and chases.
The women’s race was mostly pacific for the first 20 miles of the course, with the exception of intermittent attacks that kept the pace fluctuating. Shortly after, Marley Smith (Folsom Bike p/b Cervelo) attacked and broke clear. Switching into time trial mode, Smith churned away at the pedals, forcing a 35 mile chase by the peloton behind. Although the chase was never well-organized, Smith was caught after the beginning of the 2nd lap of the course. The racecourse’s infamous heat only just began to make itself felt by the riders, and luckily for all of the fields, it did not reach the 100’s as it did the year before. Nontheless, Fiona Strouts (Folsom Bike p/b Cervelo) and teammate Amy Chandos made conditions hard enough, with a series of relentless attacks and counterattacks.
Chandos broke free, hoping to form a breakaway, but no other riders joined her. After resigning to a solo mission for the win, Chandos, like Smith before her, switched into time trial mode and cranked across the windy farm roads. Teammates Strouts and Smith neutralized the remaining bridge attempts and attacks, and without any organization, no serious chase formed. Chandos’ gap grew to 5 minutes.
The realization set in that Chandos was long gone and the race was hers, so Smith attacked with 10 miles remaining along the frontage road. With a good gap and a tailwind at her back, she sped away quickly. Each on their own, Chandos and Smith of Folsom Bike Cervelo finished well ahead of the peloton, giving their team a sweet 1-2 finish.
Chandos remarked after the race, “Definitely a very long day of racing, but a very successful one thanks to the wonderful work of my fantastic teammates!” Unfortunately, the remainder of Chandos’ season would be Suisun Harbor criterium before she packed up to move to Flagstaff, AZ.
“I am definitely going to miss the NorCal scene!”, she exclaimed.
The men’s race began with a tame roll through the neutral zone, lead by a moto-ref before turning left onto the course. Immediately, there was a crash on a puddle of oil in the middle of the turn, taking out at least four riders, among them Kevin Metcalfe (Specialized Masters) and Stephen O’Mara (Mikes Bikes p/b Incase). Without waiting, riders started attacking up the pitted the farm road – a reprehensible lack of class.
The race turned westward into the crosswinds. The breakaway finally established itself, balanced by the two NorCal amateur juggernauts of Mike’s Bikes p/b Incase and Marc Pro – Strava; represented by Eric Riggs and Ranier Schaefer and then Jonathan Teeter and Chuck Hutcheson, respectively. Zeke Mostov (Craddock Slipstream Development) and Keith Wong (HDR Lombardi p/b VuMedi) partook in the move too.
The time gap bled until an alliance of riders from Squadra SF, Giga OM-ARO Pistachios, and most prominently, Leopard-Sapporo, went to the front and chased. The gap remained stable for the remainder of the first lap until the peloton reached the long straight frontage road that concludes each lap.
Fresh attempts to bridge to the breakaway were made, but none succeeded. The chase was resumed and the gap fell somewhat, hovering around 50 seconds. Crosswinds stretched out the peloton as they headed west and before the turn northwards, two different attacks yielded formidable bridge groups, one of which contained Cal Cup rivals Adam Switters (Mike’s Bikes p/b Incase) and Chris Harland-Dunaway (Marc Pro – Strava). Strong work from Kurt Wolfgang (Squadra SF) and Craig Fellers (Red Peloton) allowed the bridge groups to consolidate and reach the front breakaway.
When the breaks melded, Chuck Hutcheson and Zeke Mostov were already away. The breakaways continually fractured and came back again as bridge after bridge was attempted, succeeded, or failed. Attacks continued without pause along the final frontage road 10 miles from the finish. One group succeeded in establishing a gap, containing Adam Switters, Jonathan Teeter, frenchman Thibault Jeanns of Hennebont Cyclisme, and Luciano Sponza of HDR Lombardi p/b VuMedi.
Isolated by the Cal Cup standings, Harland-Dunaway was forced to chase alone after the group. After a big effort, the breakaway was groupo compacto in advance of the finish, a mere 3 kilometers away.
Mostov attacked first, gaining a gap, and rode so cross-eyed he almost lost the road. Mike’s Bikes beckoned Schaefer to the front who rode until 1 kilometer where Eric Riggs launched a deep lactic attack, which was essentially his sprint. Colin Joyce (Cal Giant/Specialized) went after Riggs with Adam Switters following. Joyce did his best to catch Riggs before the line but could not quite make up the gap that the wily attack incurred. Switters finished 3rd, Wolfgang 4th, the frenchman Thibault “T-Bone” Jeanns 5th, and Harland-Dunaway in 6th, hedging some of the Cal Cup loss inflicted by Switters in the bunch sprint. Eric Riggs has now won Dunnigan Hills twice in a row.
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