Sunday, 2/23/2014: Original Merced Criterium
The following day, there was the Merced Criterium – a standard square with the added variety of one of the turns being a narrow alleyway behind the city courthouse.
In the men’s pro field, a majority of those that had raced the previous day made up the peloton. With Marc-Pro/Strava and Mike’s Bikes p/b Equator Coffee facing off each lap, one of their teammates riders would be sure to be seen leading the front at any given moment in time in the opening laps. The two long parallel stretches of road that comprised the front and back of the course were polar opposites – being extremely wide on the front while narrow on the backside proved to be tactical advantages. With each lap, the two teams would drill it to the first turn, only to be greeted by the second turn in a very short distance. Along the backside, the road islands restricted movement. Once through the courthouse alleyway, the road would open up once again and into the final stretch to the finish line, where riders would seem to have the most benefit to attack and gain a lasting gap.
While there were a few flyers, they got chased down quickly by Roman Kilun (Mike’s Bikes p/b Equator Coffee). An attack by Colin Daw (Mike’s Bikes p/b Equator Coffee) set off a chase group so that he would be joined by Justin Rossi (Marc-Pro/Strava), David Grundman (Bicycles Plus/Sierra Nevada), and John Bergmann (Team CLIF Bar Cycling). While they had a promising constant gap of 15 seconds, they were caught within 5 laps.
Rossi attacked again shortly after and was soon joined by sprinters Brandon Trafton (Mike’s Bikes p/b Equator Coffee) and Rossi’s teammate Willie Meyers along with several others. Bridging up to the group, Kilun would round out the group of 8 along with Blake Anton (Team CLIF Bar Cycling), Steven Tortorelli (SquadraSF), and another unknown rider. The group would eventually get caught, only to branch out once more and finally settle with Rossi and Daw competing for first place with less than 5 laps to go. Whereas Daw had done most of the pulling in the initial breaks of the race, he took a back seat behind Rossi in the final laps while the field scrambled for third. The final seconds saw Daw and Rossi side by side with Daw taking 1st, Rossi 2nd. Third place was a close call with sprinters Trafton and Myers, but Bramblett took third.
For the women’s P/1/2/3 field, there were barely over 10 women that lined up at the start. In the opening laps, Clarice Sayle and Jeanette Haggas of ThresholdSports p/b Leadout Endurance Coaching took control at the front. However with only a handful of laps left Felicia Gomez of the aforementioned new team Pinnacle-Reactor p/b JL Velo would attack on the inside of the wide open stretch of the front size of the course with Haggas in pursuit. Despite her best efforts Haggas would not catch Gomez, who would take first place, with Trish Black of Team Kit Order second, and Haggas third.
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