19 May 2014
17th Annual Mariposa Women’s Stage Race
It is the only event of its kind in the Northern California/Northern Nevada cycling region and probably equally so further afield. This year’s running is continuing a tradition of bicycle-racing for women that has gone on for 17 years now. Yet there is more to it than that.
The regions latter emphasis on developing the sport for both genders and across several categories is already part and parcel of the Mariposa Stage Race and its predecessor, Kern County. Six categories compete spanning 55+, 45+, 35+, Cat 4, Cat 3, and P/1/2. But there is still more to it.
A small list of competitors took to the field this year but the racing remained exciting, interesting, and competitive from the first to the fourth and last stage. A 4-second gap going into the Bootjack Road Race, the final stage, separated the top two general classification contenders in one Master category. In another category, despite being outnumbered five-to-one, a lone racer fended off all challenges, and those came hard and fast, for an overall win. And there is even more about this Stage Race.
There is a tradition by many of those that compete to return their winner’s monies to support the Stage Race. This year one cyclist donated their registration fees knowing they were unable to even attend. This is Women’s esprit de corps in the guise of a bicycle stage race that every competitor wants to see continue for the camaraderie, the competitiveness, and the celebration.
ICE versus Dahl
The lightly subscribed Stage Race saw six racers compete in the P/1/2 category to battle over the 195km racing distance. With Joanna Dahl the lone Metromint rider against an entire team, this would become, in sorts, the “ICE Sportswear p/b Pinnacle Racing versus Dahl Stage Race”. Even with captain Jane Despas revealing before the first stage the ICE Sportswear team would split into two squads, Dahl had it all to do by herself.
“I think I can put in a good time trial and decent hill climb,” remarked Dahl before the racing began, “but the ICE development team has very strong climbers. We’ll see after tomorrow morning where it stands. If I play it smart, they obviously have the numbers, I’ll try for a podium but it’s going to be hard. It all depends on how these first two timed events go.”
Dahl would ride the second fastest time in the Basso Bridge Time Trial and fourth fastest at the Groveland Hillclimb. However, it would place her in first overall. After succeeding in winning the time trial, Despas dropped back early at Groveland to relinquish GC. Sara Bird (ICE Sportswear p/b Pinnacle Racing) would win Stage 2 but that left her and her team 66 seconds off the pace set by Dahl.
The Greeley Road Race is chock full of time bonuses at every lap and for overall placings. This would become the defining moment of the P/1/2 Stage Race and ICE Sportswear p/b Pinnacle Racing came out hard, fast, and early. It was an errant omission that left out a promenade as part of the course’s first mile. So it was Despas leading the field at full tilt and true determination over that short climb into the race proper.
The animated race eventually saw Despas and Dahl go head-to-head for the latter laps with Despas crossing each lap in front. However, it was the final lap sprint won by Dahl that left her up by 2m 31s overall and one stage remaining. Despas had put in an almighty effort, as the entire ICE Sportswear team would across all stages, but Dahl had absorbed it all.
“I was going for bonus seconds and making sure Sara [Bird] didn’t get too many on me,” described Dahl after the Greeley race. “I went early and when we were going to see five-to-go. It opened up a gap and Jane Despas came with me. Jane works hard and I would work with her so we just kept rolling.
“They got me today and I was at the back. It’s a small field and a narrow road but Sara Bird went and they had three across. So I rode in the dirt to get around them. I can’t do that again [tomorrow] and have to pay attention. I didn’t let anything get too far. A couple of pedal strokes of acceleration is easier than chasing for several miles so I was jumping on everything.”
Melanie Wong (ICE Sportswear p/b Pinnacle Racing) won the Bootjack Road Race with a massive solo effort starting early. Dahl crossed the line in third just 15 seconds back; even with time bonuses, it was not enough to take away general classification from Dahl and she joined the ranks of former event winners Dotsie Bausch-Cowden, Molly van Houweling, and Coryn Rivera.
And Something for All
This inclusive Stage Race, gender focus aside, has six categories and all put in excellent racing.
The field for 45+, with the largest number of racers, saw Maryann Levenson (B4T9 Masters Women Racing) and Camille Delucha-Flaherty (Velo Bella Specialized) battle each other throughout. Levenson won the Time Trial but Delucha-Flaherty chipped away starting with a win at the Hillclimb. Just 4 seconds separated the pair going into the final stage whilst Kim Wik (Pacific Crush Racing) and Lesley Jensen (Metromint Cycling) were within 2 minutes and at outside chances. Kim Wik would win Bootjack in a sprint finish from five other racers but the top eight were covered by 25 seconds. With Levenson in second and Delucha-Flaherty in fourth, GC would remain with the B4T9 racer in this close and competitive category.
Hovering over race officials for early news, Anne Valta (iRT-Reactor p/b JL Velo) was excited about her Time Trial winning result on the first day and also took the Groveland Hillclimb to head the Cat 3 racers. Battling team mate Bethany Allen, just 42 seconds separated the pair before Bootjack. Samantha Vroomen (Red Peloton) won that close race – 25 seconds covered the top seven racers. Allen did take second but Valta’s third was enough to secure her Cat 3 overall win.
Metromint had half the numbers in the six-racer 35+ field. Monica Harris (Thirsty Bear Cycling) put in mammoth efforts to break up the ‘Mints and, with serious aplomb, stayed near the front of the field at Greeley Hill and Bootjack. However, it was Ellen Sherrill (Metromint Cycling) taking the spoils. The singlespeed ‘crosser won all four stages, including two sprint wins, for the the GC win over teammate Rikke Preisler.
The four racer 55+ field was dominated by Yvonne Walbroehl (Penninsula Velo Cycling Club) but the group deserves the “never quit pedaling” award. Along with Walbroehl, Narda Roushdi (Berkeley Bicycle Club (BBC)), Dustyn Dustyn (Team Hammer Nutrition), and Linda Locke (Velo Bella) with inspiring riding are proof positive age is just a number.
Winner in 35+ and NorCal Cycling News Contributor, Ellen Sherrill described the always interesting podium presentations. “The awards ceremony was great fun. All the oddball awards that Robert conjures up, along with his corny yet endearing sense of humor in presenting them, made for plenty of laughs and smiles for all. The ceremony’s informal, laid-back sense of celebration of the weekend managed to embody what this stage race is all about – saluting the athletic prowess of some damn impressive female athletes while fostering a setting that feels welcoming to any woman bike racer, experienced or newbie, old or young.”
About the Mariposa Women’s Stage Race
The Mariposa Women’s Stage Race, presented by Velo Promo and Golden Chain Cyclists, is six categories of racing across four stages over 3 days. Racers compete in Pro/1/2, Cat 3, Cat 4, Master 35+, Master 45+, and Master 55+. Stage 1 is the rolling Basso Bridge Time Trial, a 16km out-and-back. Starting the second day, the Stage 2 Groveland Hillclimb is a steep 11km timed race with an elevation gain of 645m, setting off from the Ward’s Ferry Bridge. The afternoon of Day 2 is the Greeley Hill Road Race; racers cover several laps of an 8km circuit. The closing stage is the Bootjack Road Race along a 19km loop with nearly 400m climbing per lap. Race locations are picturesque in many spots but also provide courses for excellent, competitive racing.
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