The lineup promised to deliver exiting racing and the raucous and appreciative crowd was not disappointed last Saturday night at the 11th Annual San Rafael Twilight Criterium. Not only were they (and I) witness to aggressive riding under the fading sun and then stars but we also got a two rainbows and a fabulous sunset. What more can a girl ask for? (Or two girls actually, as this report is from both Stephanie and I.)
Winner of the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix Coryn Rivera of the Proman Hit Squad took another bunch sprint in junior gears, as is required due to her age of 16 years, ahead of Stacy Marple (Colavita/Sutter Home) and Olivia Dillon (Touchstone).
“I am very proud of the support from my team. Being in San Rafael, racing in the hometown of my team, it was important to race well.” said Rivera who is in the Bay Area to attend the pre-World Championship track camp in San Jose. “I am hoping it will put up another level before Worlds in Moscow. ”
Right from the start in the women’s 60-minute race, the attacks flew to get the break going on the 4-corner, 8-block radius course – with the first right-hand corner going up a kicker, followed turn two into a false flat, then turn three down to final turn and 200 meters dash to the start/finish line. The Proman and TIBCO squads danced together launching attacks and counter-attacks again and again throughout the race. One major move was put forth by Fitchburg Longsjo winner Evie Stevens, who was guest riding for the Proman squad, when she took a solo flyer that the pack chased lap after lap.
“It was total team effort today. If the break was going to go then Evie (Stevens) would be there but if it the group stayed together then we would still get it. Proman wanted to stay up front. We made sure to cover all our bases. If there was a break we were there. Evie was in the front making it a hard race.” said Rivera about her team’s tactics.
With five to go, the pack was back all together and it looked like a bunch sprint was winding up, but TIBCO gave it one final go with Alison Starnes going off the front with Alison Shanks, but they were reeled in with less than two laps to go. Then it became all about positioning in the final lap and the all important final corner. Rivera timed her moved coming out of turn four and won the sprint to take the win ahead of Marple and Dillon.
“In the last lap I was just following the right wheels. It was pretty hectic but I was just patient and calm. I tried to be at the right place at the right time.” said Rivera.
“On the backside it completely reshuffled. Coming into that last corner I was pretty far back, I think 7 back. There was a lot of room to make up. There was a strong wind on the course too. I was able to come inside. It was a nice fast corner. If you know how to take it you can gain a lot of advantage.” said Marple about the final lap.
“I just knew that in the last lap you had to be first in that last corner so that was my goal, but there was a break getting a gap towards the end, and I had to close it. I knew I had one sprint left in me. I came in second around that last corner. I just didn’t shift right and then Coryn came flying by. It really was as a super fun race today, very aggressive.” said Dillon.
A who’s who of the local pro men came out to play on Sunday night with a few out of towners showing up to try and spoil the party. In the end, it came out to a drag race with 2008 Elite Criterium Champion Kan Hanson (Team Type 1) taking the win ahead of US Pro Criterium Champion Rahsaan Bahati (Rock Racing) and 2007 Elite Criterium Champion Daniel Holloway (Felt-Holowesko Partners-Garmin).
“This crowd here, every year is so amazing. It’s just a great race to come out and compete in, the course is really fun, the crowd is great so this is a really special one. ” said Hanson who finished second to Bahati at Manhattan Beach Grand Prix a few weeks ago.
“Some of the local guys, we don’t talk but we look at each other and say let’s go. Guys like Freddie [Rodriguez] and Rahsaan show up, we want to isolate them and put them in difficulty early. As locals up here in the Bay Area, we want to put the hurt on people. We just want to work together and make the race as hard as possible together and then get into the last lap and all of a sudden we become enemies and try to cut each other’s throat.” laughed Holloway about the local alliance.
Time and time again in the 75-minute crit, breaks would form with strong riders such as Chad Gerlach and his Amore e Vita teammate Andrew Talansky, Ben Jacques-Maynes (BISSELL), Dan Ramsey (Mt Khakis), Jackson Stewart (BMC) and last year’s winner Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly) providing firepower. And of course, the ever aggressive local amateur teams California Giant and Webcor Alto Velo teams were in the mix too.
Riding solo, Hanson had to pick which break to go with to try and conserve some energy if possible.
“Being alone, I don’t have anyone else to cover moves so I try to stay in all the dangerous breakaways, and sometimes I was putting a lot of energy in trying to make those stick. You have to be willing to ride a little bit more aggressive, for me it’s tough because I’m a sprinter and I’d like to be able to sit and rest for the finish. I wasn’t sure how I would feel coming down to a field sprint but things just worked out really well and I had good legs. Read the race and work a whole lot harder than you think.” said Hanson.
“I was patient but man there was some strong single guys out here, Van Ulden, Jacques-Maynes, Ramsey, those guys are powerhouses and if they get together, they can really do a lot of damage so I just played my cards right. I wanted to get across to a move that I thought had the right numbers and the right combination, I did but the field was motivated because of the excellent crowd here and everything came back together.” said Bahati about his strategy.
But nothing stuck – all the break attempts, big or small, were brought back.
“All the big breaks that went were really strong but they just had one or two guys that would love the rhythm, open gaps and then you couldn’t keep the break rolling through and it messed stuff up. On a course like this, it’s all or nothing and you get these little tweaks like that in a break and I just disrupts everything and it’s game over.” explained Holloway.
The remaining pack got ready for the bunch sprint in the final laps, rubbing shoulders to try and position themselves for the final corner.
“Coming out of the last corner, positioning is the most important. It’s a really short distance, it’s really fat coming into the last corner so in some ways, you spend most of your energy trying to get into that position as best you can, it worked out for me, I got an open lane on the right hand side. I came out the last corner third wheel, I might have been fourth wheel, it happened so fast. I saw an opening on the right, I just went, I got a clear shot and I was happy to be able to hold it.” said Hanson.
“I was trying to get my own line and trying to follow the right wheel, I had perfect corners, 1 and 2, on Gerlach and then Freddie came flying down the backstretch and I was able to catch the wheel, and then through 3 and 4, he looked back and saw it was me so he didn’t jam it through there so I was a little bit on the outside. I jumped about 20 meters out of the last corner but then Ken Hanson came flying by and there was nothing I could do about it and then Bahati showed up and I get third. ” said Holloway about the final lap.
Riding in the dark with spotlights illuminating only certain areas on course, with a raucous and noisy crowd added an extra thrill to the racing for all including the riders.
“You just have to be completely focused, it’s amazing how fast things change. It’s harder to see at night, your depth perception isn’t as well, all it takes is one moment where you can cross wheels with somebody and you can go down at 40 miles per hour, so you just have to be really on top of it and really sharp.” said Hanson about racing at night.
“It’s totally different, you can’t see the little details.” agreed Holloway. “A lot of guys aren’t used to riding really close so they can’t see the front wheel so they leave a little gaps that an experienced rider can take.”
Complete results here
Photo Galleries – as always click for larger images (purchase here)
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