CAL AGGIE CRIT
Cal-Aggie Crit at Land Park, Sacramento took place in unusually balmy January weather and in the midst of a severe drought. Folsom Bike p/b Cervelo set an aggressive tone early in the day, sending Diane Moug up the road on lap 3 with Rio Strada’s Breezer Hill. Moug and Breezer worked together until Folsom Bike bridged up another rider, Claire Morgan. The trio continued working together, establishing a substantial gap. Instead of patiently trading attacks against Breezer, Moug and Morgan took off together, audaciously, with 2 laps to go. The two Folsom ladies finished 1-2, but Morgan let Moug, who also rides for the UC Davis Cycling team, claim the victory on home turf.
The victory was Moug’s first P/1/2/3 win since beginning racing last year. She credits the UC Davis Aggies with inspiring her to come out and learn to race, “I was riding road and mountain bikes recreationally in Vancouver before moving down here for school. I went on a couple of rides with the Aggies with the intention of meeting some people and learning the local rides.” Moug stated that she would focus on collegiate racing, and collegiate nationals in May, before returning to the NCNCA scene with Folsom Bike/Cervelo.
“Those ladies are so fast… I am hoping to help them get some great results this season”.
The Men’s P/1/2/3 started their race as the sun dipped west, lancing wintery angled sunlight through the trees of Land Park. While the Early Bird criteriums in Fremont have been building up riders’ skills, for the P/1/2/3 category, Cal-Aggie is something of a rust buster, and the official opening to the season.
Dry winters tend to yield a very fit field for Cal-Aggie, limiting the chances of breakaways. This year broke the trend, with former professional and NorCal scorcher Max Jenkins forcing an escape group early. Mikes Bikes p/b Equator and Marc Pro – Strava matched each other rider for rider as they bridged across to the escapees.
The break lasted from lap 10 until approximately 3 to go. Up until that point, one spectator had observed that the race resembled “a Mikes Bikes – Marc Pro-Strava cockfight”. Their description was exceedingly apt until a new team entered the picture, surprising everyone. Davis Bike Club Race Team massed a well-organized leadout on the front of the peloton and hauled back the breakaway, methodically working their way through their riders with enough to spare for the final two laps. It was something of a renaissance for the team, harkening to the days when the likes of Judd Van Sickle, Paul Mach, Phil Mooney, Jesse Moore, Keith Hillier, and other notable riders all rode for the squad at the same time. It was later evident that most of the riders in the leadout were also UC Davis Aggies – their collegiate nationals crit squad will be in the hunt for the championship this year.
With 2 laps remaining, Mikes Bikes and Marc Pro-Strava fought their way to the front lined up alongside each other, dueling to position their sprinters for the final lap. On the backstretch of the final lap there was a crash, and with two corners to go, Mikes Bikes had taken control. A big crash near the front of the race on the final corner blocked most of the field, leaving a 3-man sprint between James Laberge of Mike’s Bikes p/b Equator, Matt Mikul of Pinnacle Reactor p/b JL Velo, and Matt Schaupp of Stage 17. With little surprise, Laberge won the reduced sprint easily, sealing Mikes Bikes first win of the season.
FOLSOM WINTER CRIT
On to the next weekend – a soaking affair under the serendipitous showers of a Pineapple Express that made landfall in NorCal on Friday. Riders warmed up and then threw off their rain gear for a slippery criterium in Folsom.
In the Women’s P/1/2/3, NorCal celebrated track rider, Beth Newell, fresh off of an incredible previous season that was capped with a silver medal in the points race at the Track World Cup, counterattacked a rider dangling off of the front on lap 3. The pack was highly reluctant to let the move go, given Newell’s stellar pedigree, and chased after her. Claire Morgan of Folsom Bike/Cervelo counterattacked the catch and Newell dug in again while the engine was still hot, forming the race defining breakaway. The two riders worked together the entire crit, pegged for quite a while at only 12 seconds before the chase lost steam and the gap began to grow. On the final lap, Newell sprinted from the last corner and took the win, although it was unclear as to whether Morgan intended to duel the closing meters with her. Nonetheless, a sterling ride by both Morgan and Newell in terrible conditions. Folsom Bike/Cervelo absolutely cleaned up the rest of the race with Judy Wexler and Diane Moug finishing 3rd and 4th, respectively.
The Men’s P/1/2 race took on a similarly breakaway-friendly structure. Willie Myers (Marc Pro – Strava) attacked solo on lap 3, looking eager to stay clear of the pack in the slick conditions. Soon after, Adam Switters (Mike’s Bikes p/b Equator) bridged up to Myers who was pedaling with determination, his Wild Cherries cap pulled low over his eyes to keep out the rain.
Switters and Myers worked cohesively for most of the race, and behind their breakaway, various bridge groups formed and crumbled. Eventually, a promising bridge comprised of Max Jenkins (Marc Pro – Strava) and Brandon Trafton (Mike’s Bikes p/b Equator) were making excellent progress towards the escapees. Switters attacked as the laps cards went up and Myers was struggling to regain contact, Trafton and Jenkins continued to storm towards them. Myers regained contact with Switters after Trafton and Jenkins made contact and Jenkins did some monsterous work. Trafton counterattacked, but then, disaster struck. Myers slipped out on a corner, screaming his immediate regrets about the predicament. Trafton and Switters were able to stay clear, while Jenkins demonstrated his classy bike handling, unclipping one, then both feet, riding a grassy knoll off the course and getting back to finish 3rd. Myers recovered from his crash and finished ahead of the group in 4th. Switters and Trafton cross the line 1-2, dominating the final tally for Mike’s Bikes p/b Equator.
CHERRY PIE CRIT
At last, Napa! The first big race of the season, Cherry Pie Criterium. Again, it was raining hard and the fields were greatly diminished, however, the conditions only whetted the appetite of some of the areas most aggressive racers.
The women’s P/1/2/3 field gathered underneath a jolly gloom, because even with the bad weather, excitement pervaded the atmosphere at the course. The race would be short, 40 minutes, which lead to a viciously fast start. Predictably, Allison Tetrick of Exergy 2016 attacked with Judy Wexler of Folsom Bike/Cervelo, Joanna Dahl of Metromint, and decorated NorCal crit rider Mary Maroon (Exergy 2016), all on her wheel. A series of attacks unfolded after the strong breakaway was established. Maroon, attacked, Wexler covered, Tetrick attacked, and Dahl covered. The moves left Tetrick and Dahl out front on their own while Maroon, poised to sit on Wexler should she had decided to chase. As a result, the two riders waited for more to join them. About 6 riders joined them while Dahl and Tetrick forged on ahead, building up a substantial gap, until Tetrick cracked Dahl. Sensing the opportunity, Folsom/Cervelo organized a chase, bringing Dahl back into the fold and setting up for a field sprint for 2nd place, as it became increasingly clear that Tetrick was mounting an unassailable push for the win. Tetrick stayed away, finishing solo in the rain. Behind, her teammate Maroon opened up and took the field sprint, while Wexler fought into 3rd thanks to a strong leadout from teammate Diane Moug, an impressive finish for a rider so active early on.
The men’s race looked like it was going to be dud, with a large contingent of Mike’s Bikes p/b Equator but not many other riders, until the local crew and added firepower of Hagens Berman Under 23 team rolled to the starting line.
The race proved to be equally aggressive with breaks and splits and chase groups all over the road. Max Jenkins (Marc Pro – Strava) was the sole representative for the riders in lime green, and attacked repeatedly to create a move. Everything was shut down, but a group of 6 formed up the road, containing Zeke Mostov (Hagens Berman U-23), Adrian Costa (Hagens Berman U-23), Owen Gillot (Hagens Berman U-23), Chris Riekert (Mike’s Bikes p/b Equator), Adam Switters (Mike’s Bikes p/b Equator), and Martin Acosta (Threshold Sports p/b Leadout). With the roads quite wet, everyone was making their way gingerly around the course’s signature 180 degree turn atop a gradual kicker. That is, until Chris Riekert (Mike’s Bikes) unleashed an unexpected attack into the corner, forcing the break to its handling limit, while he opened up on the downhill, took a risk on the off-camber corner and continued on full-steam. Hagens Berman responded immediately via Adrian Acosta, who forded the watery gap solo up to Riekert, and the two began working together. The remainders of the initial break continued riding, and when the lap cards went up, strongman Eamon Lucas (Hagens Berman U-23) bridged to the group. As the laps ticked by, it became clear that the duo up the road was not going to return and the winner would emerge from there. And an exciting duel it was.
A moto followed the two riders, casting a long reflection of its headlight across the dark glassy road. Costa relied on his aggressive style to find weaknesses in Riekert, launching a couple big attacks to try and break away. Riekert reeled him in, clearly riding defensively and waiting for the final. On the last lap it was Costa’s turn apply pressure through the 180 degree turn, which Riekert managed to control, and the two began jockeying immediately after, moving side to side, slowing down, feathering the acceleration. Coming into the homestretch, Costa watched over his shoulder carefully, waiting. In the closing meters, Riekert went for the line and proved too powerful in the sprint to be shut down by Costa. A memorable win for the new Mike’s Bikes p/b Equator recruit in his second year of P/1/2 racing. Eamon Lucas won the field sprint, rounding out the podium.
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