• Topsport: NorCal’s friendly, fun alternative to Redlands

    by  • April 8, 2014 • race coverage

    While the NRC slugfest of the Redlands Cycling Classic went down in Southern California this weekend, Northern California roadies who had not traveled south to suffer convened in the foothills west of Yosemite for a relaxed weekend of low-pressure competition. After some rain during the week, Saturday and Sunday shaped up to be sunny, warm spring days. Saturday’s stage one road race began already windy, even for the morning flight, which included the P/1/2 men.

    P/1/2 men

    Suffering from low enrollment, the M35+ 1/2/3 field was rolled into the P/1/2 for the weekend, possibly changing the dynamics of the proceedings slightly, as potentially was the slightly unusual decision of the race promoter to pick 1s and 2s separately in each stage. Everyone seemed awake enough at 9am, and not interested in letting the early breaks go, that the group stayed largely intact in spite of attempts at animation.  In line with the weather forecast, the wind quickly picked up during the race and would prove a defining factor.  After a number of moves that were kept on a short leash, a small group with varied representation escaped midway through the race.  VuMedi had the numbers present, but lost three riders due to ill-timed mechanicals on a course, with no follow car, leaving a motley crew to do the chasing. A number of riders without a team member in the break worked the chase, while Safeway, another team with numbers and representation in the break, was animated in attempting to disrupt these efforts. Some escapees eventually tried a late bridge, but several in the peloton took big pulls as the finish line neared, finally catching the break inside 1km to go, leading to a strung-out field sprint. Randy Bramblett (Pinnacle-Reactor p/b JL Velo) and Joe Dickerson (Pinnacle-Reactor) went 1-2, with Ariel Herrmann (Marc Pro-Strava) third, while Isaiah Jerez (Allegiant p/b Matt Smith PT), Garrett Hankins (VuMedi), and Guiseppe Erico (Squadra SF) snagged top honors for the cat 2s. Half the field had been shelled in the last hard laps in the wind or suffered stage-ending mechanicals, but with no time cuts everyone could continue for another day.

    The next morning, the quickest on the time trial course were Connor Spencer (Fresh Air Bicycles-Focus), Greg White (VuMedi), and Herrmann for the 1s, and Sam Warford (Big Orange), Mackenzie Champlin (Big Orange), and Luciano Sponza (VuMedi) for the 2s. However, with no results posted by the start of the circuit race, the field was left to guess at the best tactics to put themselves and their riders ahead in the general classification. Possibly due to tired legs and less wind, the stage began more tame in pace than the prior day’s road race. By mid-race a solid break went with multiple team representation. Presumably no great GC threats, but with times not posted that assessment involved a bit of a guessing game.  The time gap grew would reach nearly a minute at points with no organized chase, but within a lap of the field seeing 3 laps to go, the pace quickened and the break’s advantage began to dwindle.  The catch happened after the last U-turn outside 2km to go, setting up a long drag to the finish.  VuMedi led out early, but the pace wasn’t high enough to avoid some chaos in the last 1.5km. Herrmann, third to a repeat of Bramblett and Dickerson’s 1-2 finishes again, described the finish: “With the field swelling well before the line, a crash around 1km to go, (there was) enough sideways riding for a month’s worth of sprint finishes”.  The top cat 2 finishers among the finish-line entropy were Matt Valencia (NCCF/Team Specialized Juniors), Warford, and Scott Penzarella (Studio Velo).

    The end result of the proceedings saw Spencer, Herrmann, and AJ Kennedy (VuMedi) ultimately snag cat 1 podium steps, with cat 2 leaders Warford, Champlain, and Jerez finish atop their peers.

    P/1/2 Women

    The women’s field was predictably small, with only 12 starters, creating difficult conditions for any lasting breaks with winds only becoming stronger in the afternoon. The first two of six laps around Woodward Reservoir were aggressive, with concerted efforts by Threshold Sports riders to send Jeanette Haggas up the road, and many attacks by lone Folsom Bikes rider Danielle Haulman. However, nothing was able to stick for any appreciable length of time, as everything was quickly chased down, largely by Marissa Axell (Velo Sports Group), Rikke Preisler (Metromint), and Kim Wik (Mellow Motors). A mildly frustrated group ended in a safely strung-out field sprint, with Kaytie Scott (LiveWell p/b Bountiful Bicycles), Clarice Sayle (Threshold Sports p/b Leadout Endurance Coaching), and Axell rounding out the top 3.

    Stage 2, Sunday morning’s time trial, set the general classification going into the afternoon circuit race, with Axell riding the field’s quickest time, followed by Sayle and Haulman. After a brief respite, the group set out from the Disneyland-like Copper Town Square for laps on Little John Road. After a couple of laps, a break containing Sayle, Haulman, and Preisler escaped, pricipitously at first, then increasing to a very large gap when chase efforts eventually abated. Axell, stuck in the chase group, had to settle for third in the GC final results, after Sayle’s win and time gap in the circuit race put her at the quickest overall time, with Haulman second in stage three and stepping to second overall.

    Thanks to Ariel Herrmann for allowing me extensively pick his brain regarding details of the men’s race, and to the women’s field for tolerating me to infiltrate the field for a truly inside report.

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