Photos used with grateful courtesy of Alex Chiu Photography.
The Copperopolis Road Race, a Northern California classic always held the day before Easter, celebrated its 34th iteration with impressive solo wins in the P/1/2 men’s and women’s fields. Even for first flight starts, the day was already warm and continued the slightly windy conditions seen throughout the state over the past several days.
The women’s race began without initial outright attacking, but a spirited enough tempo up the initial main climb to pare down the front group to a selection of nine. Eventual winner Beth Newell (Jakroo Racing Team) noted that for the remainder of the first lap, “There were some attacks going, but nothing was sticking.” By the time the group returned to the climb to begin the second lap, Newell said, “I kind of hit it – not a full-out attack, but just to kind of whittle it down a bit. Joanna (Dahl, of Metromint) put in a really hard dig on a steep section, and I just kinda kept driving it. We dropped the two Velo Sports girls so we were down to six. We rotated pretty good during that lap.” Newell, Dahl, and Jane Despas (SCC) found themselves outnumbered, team-wise, by Folsom Bike/Cervelo, with Marley Smith, Judy Wexler, and Heather Van Sickle a dominating presence in the break. Newell admitted she didn’t want the three Folsom riders all with her, and moved to strike to that goal at the base of the final climb of the main hill. “I hit it pretty hard…got a big gap, and held it to the finish”. She was delighted with her win, exclaiming, “This has been my nemesis race for four years. I’ve come in second and third each year – it’s been bad luck or mechanicals…so, ahhhh, finally!”
Meanwhile, the Folsom Bike threesome attempted to rid their chase group of Despas, which may have hindered the group’s chances of catching Newell’s solo dash. Despas tenaciously hung on through the remainder of the final lap and was taken by the sprint-talented Wexler for second at the line, but managed third. Newell praised Folsom Bike for being “…super strong all day, all those classy riders, great riding.”
Throughout the first three laps, the front of the men’s race saw a constantly evolving and dynamic chain of events, with attacks breaks, bridges, and dropped riders leading to an ebb and flow of personnel at the front, but constant representation from Marc Pro/Strava, Mike’s Bikes p/b Equator Coffees, and the ever-dangerous Ben Jacques-Maynes (Jamis Hagens Berman). Eventual winner Jacques-Maynes commented, “This is a great race to be out in front and just be trying to put yourself in the driver’s seat”, and acted by staying active and at the front of the race. By the third lap, the Jamis rider found himself in a break of around ten. “Everyone was kind of watching each other, and the racing was kind of shutting down. So I attacked again, on the flat, windy section.” Elucidating his choice of location for a launch, he continued, “On the hill, everyone’s thinking about it, looking for it there – everyone ignores that big, wide-open section, which is actually great for putting distance (on other riders).” Justin Rossi (Marc Pro/Strava) had attacked a bit earlier, with Adam Switters (Mike’s Bikes) following, and the two had a gap on the group. Jacques-Maynes bridged to the duo. “He sat on us for about 30 seconds, then just dropped it,” said Rossi. He and Switters agreed to work to keep Jacques-Maynes in sight, but the gap held. During the last lap, Switters and Rossi were joined each by a teammate when Max Jenkins (Marc Pro/Strava), Roman Kilun (Mike’s Bikes) and Kyle Murphy (CRCA/Foundation) joined them. There was some discussion of working to chase Jacques-Maynes, and the group narrowed the gap some, but soon were upon the final climb, not far from the finish. Rossi attacked, and Switters was able to catch on after cresting the hill, upon the descent. Describing his finish, Rossi said, “With about 300 meters to go, I saw (my teammate) Max coming across. I screwed up the timing a little bit – I thought that if I attacked first, he’d be able to grab on Adam’s wheel. But he was already spent, and with about 100 meters to go, Adam came around me and I couldn’t hang on.”
Around ninety seconds ahead of Switters’ sprint to second and Rossi’s third across the line, Jacques-Maynes finish first after a long two and a half laps solo, perhaps fifty miles. This is his fourth time winning the Copperopolis Road Race. “I had a little bit of fire in my belly for this one, (following) my friend (former pro cyclist) Chase Pinkham’s death this week…a little bit of motivation to ride hard and do this one for him.”
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