MERCED, CA – In this quaint little town with a giant university in the outskirts built on top of a golf course, Merced is a small city surrounded by miles and miles of flat farmland and agriculture, which has made it an ideal place for a road race as well as a fun criterium that takes place the day after. With the unexpected end of the MERCO stage race, one would think that the the large crowds and turnout in both spectators as well as participants would flock to race this weekend, and while that seemed to be true, the next “big” local stage race on the calendar appears to be Chico.
Saturday, 2/22/2014: Snelling Road Race
Snelling is a great race with a little bit of everything – flat-as-a-pancake stretches of road, short pitches, and a road that while it *looks* smooth, it definitely doesn’t feel very smooth. With the almond trees blossoming, the wind was unseasonably absent – while it did pick up later in the day, it was nowhere near the hurricane that it was last year. There were, however, a large number of reported flats throughout the day at various points on the course. Yours truly helped to pick up and drop off a number of riders left stranded on the road.
For the men’s P/1/2, the field had many strong contenders and the local teams were well represented with Mike’s Bikes p/b Equator Coffee (in new kit colors) and Marc-Pro/Strava. Chris Harland-Dunaway of Marc-Pro/Strava had this to say:
Snelling just keeps evolving every year, getting faster every year. Granted there was less wind this year, we still completed the race in 2hr40min. It may also be the closest its come to a bunch sprint in quite some time, with a break finally getting away after 5 laps.
Among the notable names on the start list were Adrien Costa (Hagens Berman U23) and his teammate Eamon Lucas, Ben Jacques-Maynes (Jamis Hagens Berman), Rahsaan Bahati (Bahati-WTR), Daniel Holloway (Amore e Vita) and Kirk Carlsen (Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis). With a field of over 70 strong, it was going to be a fast and fun race for sure. According to Max Jenkins on the Marc-Pro/Strava blog, “the move” happened halfway through the fifth lap (of six):
I saw it going and realized that it was about 15 riders and we only had Teeter in the front. I picked my way up the side of the field with speed and launched across pretty quickly[...] Suddenly we had two non-sprinters out of 15-20 riders which included some fast finishers and all around strong people like Ben Jaques-Mayes (Jamis) and Kirk Carlsen (Jelly Belly). Teeter and I were desperately trying to shut the move down by getting in the way and generally not working [...] Teeter also confessed that he was cramping, so I knew the race was pretty much down to me.
A few miles before the end of the lap, Colin Daw (Mike’s Bikes) and Adrien Costa (Hagens Bergman) attacked. I sensed an opportunity to get a better group formed and bridged across solo. They were moving fast and it took a big effort though. By the time I got there and felt rested enough to pull, another group with BJM, Kirk, Tyler Brandt (Stage 17), and Chris Riekert (Mike’s) also bridged. With BJM and two Mike’s guys I really couldn’t think of a way to win, so I continued to do as little work as possible. However in short order, the Mike’s guys started taking BJM off the back and an attack from Costa and Kirk sealed the deal. Chris and Ben were gone and suddenly I had a chance. We rolled through pretty well for the rest of the race.
I was planning my attack to go for the win, but with about 2km to go I rolled through and realized no one was on my wheel. I took that tiny gap and just put my head down and went for it. It was a bit earlier than I wanted, but when you get the chance you have to just go. I pulled out a decent advantage of a few seconds, but I was hurting from all of my efforts at the start of the race. I didn’t quite have enough power to hold it and Kirk flew past me right before the last turn at 400m to go. He didn’t pull away, but I couldn’t close the gap either. [...] I saw that Tyler was also coming up to me but my legs were done and I had very little left for a sprint. I still almost held him off, but he came past me about 20m before the line.
For the women’s P/1/2/3 field, while there was less than a third of the amount of riders in the men’s field, it was still a very active race with riders such as Olivia Dillon (Colavita-Fine Cooking) and Katie Hall (UnitedHealthCare Pro Cycling) as well as newly minted team Pinnacle Reactor p/b JL Velo. As described by Susannah Breen of Folsom Bike/Cervelo :
25 women represented a good mix of consistent Nor-Cal riders and teams for this year’s Snelling Road Race. I was happy to be reunited with teammates Heather Van Sickle, Heather Lipana, and Marley Smith for a warm and sunny afternoon bike race. We patiently assessed the field and riders in the first lap, taking turns following moves and assuring the team was represented near the front. A few attacks on the third lap started to string things out and I found myself in a group with seven other riders including UHC’s Katie Hall and Colavita’s Olivia Dillon, both of whom continued to drive the pace until we had a gap on the field.
Shortly after, the main field was neutralized by a passing men’s group which allowed the gap to grow significantly but also prevented any successful bridge attempts from my teammates. On the final lap, we all started looking at each other hoping someone else would make the first move….but instead we all came into the final corner together and Olivia and Katie jumped first. Despite my best efforts to have a good position in the group, I wasn’t able to match that final punch of speed and came in 7th. Marley rounded out the top 10 and Heather and Heather finished safely in the group.
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