True, collegiate is a remarkable breeding ground for select riders to go on and become accomplished professionals, but mostly it is about fun. The atmosphere at collegiate races is indisputably jovial and oftentimes hilarious, with die-hards chasing cookie primes as though it were equivalent to a race win, burrito feeds in road races, and speedo warriors.. This is not to mention the colorful hijinks and characters that fill the post-race conversations, chats, and general milling around.
So for 2014, we’re making an effort to shine a light on the collegiate scene, not purely to emphasize the competition, which is riveting, but to expose the greater world of regional cycling to something more focused on fun, that knows not to take itself too seriously.
On to Santa Cruz, for a recap of the first NorCal-based collegiate race weekend.
The Santa Cruz race weekend hosted by the UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs, begins with a well-known and incredibly brutal ‘road race’ around a 2.6 mile loop. Its a simple course, you climb up a 400ft climb, and promptly descend to the bottom, turn around, and do it again. It is the exact same course as University Road Race, which is an NCNCA race that used to occur in the summer – and where Velopromo has had trouble hosting the race recently due to the university’s concerns over “construction”, the Slugs have hosted it the last 2 years with barely a hiccup. They are a determined and talented rabble of college bike riders.
Women’s A Road Race
Stanford clearly had the numbers at the startline and the motivation to control the race from the beginning, working for their team leader, Kate Courtney. Two laps in, attacks had already begun, the field kept itself together and the potential escapees in check. After a gradual sorting-out over the next series of laps, a front group selection was formed, containing Judy Wexler (UC Davis), Diane Moug (UC Davis), Kate Courtney (Stanford), Gina Ricardo (UCLA), and Erica Grief (University Nevada Reno). The front group was generally cohesive, with the 5 women rotating together.
The selection continued to march away from the remaining peloton steadily, and with the last lap approaching, it looked as though all 5 riders were reluctant to try any attacks, satisfied to continue willing heavy legs forward until a final decisive move was made.
With 500 meters, Diane Moug (UC Davis), opened the sprint early, attempting a ‘hail mary’ ride for the finish. The move caught the group off-guard, allowing Moug’s teammate, Wexler to follow wheels and try to time a well-executed sprint. The plan didn’t materialize as expected, as the bunch finish was turned into an exciting drag race for the line, as Kate Courtney (Stanford) made an inspired burst, coming even with Moug. The two were neck-and-neck to the line when Moug found one last turn-of-the-pedals to inch ahead for the victory.
Men’s A Road Race
If there ever was a year where Stanford was the overwhelming favorite for this climber-friendly course, this was the one. Tim Aiken, Elliot Hawkes, and Riley Majeune-Fagan all came to the line ready to send lactic acid coursing through the veins of the collegiate men’s peloton.
Under the duress of a cascade of attacks and bridging maneuvers, the field broke apart steadily, until a 4 rider selection remained: Elliot Hawkes (Stanford), Tim Aiken (Stanford), Riley Majeune-Fagan (Stanford), and Nick Newcomb (UC Santa Cruz). Unfortunately for Newcomb, it looked like a win at his beloved beach-side school would be swept away by the cardinal tidal wave.
Riley Majeune-Smith unleashed a blazing final and won, 10 seconds in front of the rest of the group, with Time Aiken securing 2nd, Newcomb in third, and Hawkes in 4th.
UC Santa Cruz Criterium Racing
Now for the races in the riders’ own words
Women’s A Crit – Judy Wexler, UC Davis
To understand the Women’s A crit at Santa Cruz, you first have to get acquainted with some race parameters:
Wind — there was a brisk breeze out which gave the finishing straight a nice tailwind!
Field size – Unfortunately, only 11 or 12 womens showed up to race their bikes on Sunday. This made for negative racing. No one wanted to spend too much time in the wind (described above).
Race length — A crash in the men’s B race earlier meant we only had 40 minutes to race. With six primes in 40 minutes, the race felt like a sprint clinic.
I decided to go for the first couple primes. In comparatively easy races where energy conservation is less of an issue, I like to use primes as practice for the finishing sprint — where should I start my sprint? What’s the best line to take? How far back can I be coming into the last corner? I took the first two primes and then decided to sit in for a while. All the attacks were half hearted until my teammate Diane got away with 6 laps to go. This was perfect for me. I sat on while Stanford, UCLA, and University of Nevada Reno chased her down. We caught Diane with 1.5 laps to go, and everyone chilled out for half a lap. I found myself on the front with 1 lap to go, so I slowed the pace down and waited for someone else to jump. When one of the Stanford girls started to accelerate, I jumped on her wheel and stayed there. I came out of the final corner second wheel, jumped hard, and sprinted for the win.
Men’s A Crit – Jonathan Penaloza, UC Davis
The Santa Cruz Mens’ A collegiate criterium was defined by the dynamics of the brutal University Road Race the day before. The UC Davis squad wanted to ensure a sprint finish that would suit our riders better than our rivals from Stanford, who thoroughly overhauled us on the previous day’s unforgiving campus circuit. We knew they would prefer a breakaway finish, so the five of us judiciously traded covering each of their numerous attacks. This resulted in a prolonged stalemate on the exposed, D-shaped course, with no dangerous separations until about 15 minutes from the finish, when Stanford’s Riley Majeune-Fagan, yesterday’s solo breakaway winner, put in an attack with our man Daniel Kosykh on his wheel. I let the gap open up in the second turn, and they were away with a healthy gap. Stanford was happy to let the break stick and so were we, confident that Daniel would handily outsprint Riley at the finish. However, the other teams were not as content with this arrangement and riders began to chase and bridge across until, with less than two laps to go, the field was more or less whole again.
Going into the last lap, I realized I was more than ten wheels back, a small gap was still open between me and the front of the field, and Daniel’s sprint had been compromised by the late breakaway. I rode the wheel of UC San Diego’s Daniel Zitter until he brought me to the back of the lead group, then wove my way through the backside headwind to arrive at about fourth wheel going into the last corner, with the UC Berkeley leadout going full gas on the front. I was on the wheel of John Tomlinson from USC and favored my odds on a late sprint off his wheel inside the final 100 meters. I knew I had made a mistake in delaying my sprint when I saw the blur of a Santa Clara University kit fly by me on the left, belonging to none other than Garrett ‘Baby Face Killer’ Hankins. I sprinted to third after Garrett and UC Berkeley’s Connor Benton. My teammates Jeff Buscheck and Jacob Aman came in 9th and 11th respectively, which gave us the top team points in the Nationals Qualification scoring on the day. We hope to continue our performance as a team throughout the season to earn spots for all of our A riders, men and women, at Collegiate Nationals in Richmond, VA this May. A big thanks to UC Santa Cruz for hosting this fantastic race weekend, and all the racers, officials, and spectators that came out to make it so enjoyable!
-The weekend of racing for March 8-9 occurred at Stanford – recap forthcoming.
-Weekend of March 15-16 is the infamous downtown Berkeley Streets Criterium, featuring NCNCA racing in complement to collegiate.
-Weekend of March 22nd-23rd goes to the far reaches of NorCal for Humboldt Collegiate Race weekend.
-March 30th returns towards Sacramento for the UC Davis race weekend, featuring the Land Park Crit with NCNCA races to complement as well.
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