Photography by Alex Chiu Photography. More photos can be viewed here.
Women’s 1/2/3 coverage by Lisa Mueller
The women’s 1/2/3 event was a race within a race.
In one contest, solo superstars Mary Maroon (SBRacing), Starla Teddergreen (Vanderkitten), and unattached veteran Martina Patella were chomping at the bit. At last year’s Giro, Maroon won in a breakaway and Patella took the field sprint. Maroon is hands-down the most dominant crit racer this season, and all eyes looked to her for a repeat win. Teddergreen has shone as a lead-out woman, but has also logged many podium spots on her own.
A second battle raged between the NCNCA’s top women’s teams, Metromint Cycling and Pinnacle p/b Argon 18. Metromint’s Katie Hall, fresh off of her commanding win at the Esparto Time Trial on Sunday, lagged behind Pinnacle’s Sara Clafferty by only two points in the Cal Cup series. She would need to place two riders ahead of Clafferty to steal the lead.
These dynamics made for a tactically intricate, spectator-friendly criterium. Maroon and Patella formed several promising breaks, but as soon as Hall tried to bridge up to them, Clafferty reeled her in along with the other threats. “My goal was to wrap up the Cal Cup,” said Clafferty. “If that included a win, that would’ve been great, but my goal was really just to stay ahead of Katie at the finish.”
Metromint was determined to upset that plan. Their riders were the most aggressive of the day, with Joanna Dahl, Ellen Sherrill, and Julie Bellerose putting in repeated digs to make Clafferty chase. With nine riders in the field, they were a force to be reckoned with. Maroon said, “We know this is Metromint’s race, and that Metromint always brings out a ton of great people. They’re always really aggressive, and as a solo rider you have to ride aggressively to keep up.” This posed a challenge for Clafferty, who was tempted to take the bait but knew her best strategy was to be defensive and simply sit on Hall’s wheel.
Meanwhile, the solo riders rode their own race. Maroon admitted, “I gotta be honest. I wasn’t really gunning for the series and didn’t know what the standings were, so I just approached this a normal race.” Maroon had extra motivation to come out on top after the drama of last week’s Vacaville Crit, where some spectators say she saluted too early only to have Clafferty and Hall pass her at the line. It was unclear whether events actually unfolded that way, but Vacaville was nevertheless disappointing for a racer used to taking the top step. Maroon said, “I had a bit of bad luck last weekend, so I was determined to do better. Katie won yesterday’s time trial by a minute and a half. She absolutely destroyed it. We all know she’s really strong. And at Winters Road Race Sara showed that she has a great sprint. It was good to have them both in the race for some healthy competition.”
In the final laps, Maroon, Patella, and Teddergreen were rested and the favorites to win. Hall and Clafferty, along with their teammates, were relatively more tired from the race within the race. Despite some fatigue, it was Clafferty who contested Maroon in a one-up sprint for the line. No one had to review the photos to see that Maroon had defended her 2013 title, with Clafferty second, Patella third, and Hall and Teddergreen completing the extended podium. The Metromint women were disappointed not to have snagged the Cal Cup from Clafferty, but, as usual, they were all smiles about having raced their hearts out.
P/1/2 coverage by Alex Chiu
For the men’s P/1/2, Mike’s Bikes p/b Incase had the numbers and the lead in the Cal Cup, with Adam Switters taking the lead. While Switters was nowhere to be seen, several other teams had shown up in numbers to compete in the San Francisco race, including Marc-Pro/Strava, California-Giant/Specialized, Team Specialized Juniors, and hosting team MetroMint Cycling. Pacific Grove resident and pro Logan Loader of CashCall Mortgage was present at the line as well as Zeke Mostov of Slipstream-Craddock Junior Development.
From the start, the pace was kept high as attacks came left and right. From the climb after the third turn to the straightaway along the backside, racers were marking, attacking, and blitzing down the road, regardless of where they were on the course. For the initial laps, Jonathan Teeter (Marc-Pro/Strava) was often seen amongst the front of the group as joined by Mike’s Bikes p/b Incase teammates Brandon Trafton and Rainier Schaefer. The first break that formed included Teeter as well as Shawn Rosenthal (Mike’s Bikes p/b Incase) roughly 30 minutes into the race. For several laps they stayed away and were joined by Ariel Hermann (Metromint Cycling) and Tobin Ortenblad (Cal Giant/Specialized) before being caught by the field.
45 minutes into the race, spectators could begin to notice the pattern that amongst the leaders of the field, there was always representation from Mike’s Bikes p/b Incase, Marc-Pro/Strava, and Cal Giant/Specialized. If there ever was a break or a lead group, there would be at least one, if not more, teammate from each of the aforementioned teams in it. As the laps went on, the ratio of Mike’s Bikes teammates to the rest of the front of the field kept increasing. Other riders of note were Jared Kessler (Folsom Bike/VW/Raley’s) who held a gap for several laps with Trafton as well as Ortenblad, seen several times at the front of the main peloton. By the time the time elapsed had reached 90 minutes, the entire Mike’s Bikes p/b Incase team had reached the front with Marc-Pro/Strava close behind. And then there was a crash.
Not knowing the severity of the crash that had occurred along the backside of the course, the race was halted and restarted with five laps to go. While riders were clearly irritated at the loss of placement and progression that had been accumulated through immense effort up to that point, the field started off once again. Once again, Mike’s Bikes p/b Incase quickly came to the front, and despite another crash within meters of the finish line several laps later, the final lap concluded with sprinter James Laberge taking the top spot of the podium with his leadout Dana Williams taking second. Coming hot on the heels of the two Mike’s Bikes riders were Loader, followed by Hermann and Dustin Armstrong of Serious Cycling.
“The last lap was chaos. The wind played a huge factor the whole time … it was like a diagonal headwind. Going up the climb a strong headwind… after the top of the hill it was an all out drag race…”, exclaimed Laberge, who was newly crowned the NCNCA 2013 U23 District Champion as the winner of the race. As for the title of 2013 NCNCA Elite Distriction Champion, Laberge gave the title to teammate Williams, who describes more of the strategy that went into the final laps: “at the end that last lap, Trafton was all over… . Roman out of the back first through the top of the hill, accelerate down the back stretch. Last year, it was a little slower and I made the move before that last turn, but it was Roman I looked back nobody was coming by and James was there…second to last turn, down the front stretch, dug in, and then Mighty Mouse [Laberge] came by me”
Listen to Michael Hernandez’s post-race interview with James Laberge and Dana Williams below:
Full USA Cycling results can be viewed here.
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