The Merco Cycling Classic concluded on Sunday with the Merco Foothills Road Race held on rolling hills loop of a 24 mile (38.6 km) course surrounded by blooming almond trees, vineyards and bees.
The third and final day brought a little bit of redemption for BISSELL’s Ben Jacques-Maynes. After being caught in the final meters in Saturday’s criterium, he outsprinted his breakmates for the win ahead of Saturday’s winner Matty Rice (Bahati Foundation) and Will Routley (Jelly Belly).
“A little bit of payback for yesterday, I felt strong yesterday and I knew I wanted to come out here. An hour and half crit versus a five hour road race close to 200 kilometers, this definitely suits me better. You take it down to smaller groups and my odds of success go way up.” said Jacques-Maynes.
First group on the road at 9am, the 142-rider Men Pro/1/2 field started off aggressively with no teams taking control. Then on the second 24-mile (38.6 km) loop, a group of 10 riders got a gap on the field and a break was formed.
“It pretty much just rolled off the front after 50, 60 km.” explained Rice. “There were lots of little attacks, nothing really dangerous then all of sudden, I was right off the front, it didn’t mean to be an attack but turned into one.”
“I was riding along and talking with a friend, Matt Crane, on United Healthcare team and we were thinking ‘yeah it’s probably going to happen about now’. And sure enough, five minutes later it did and I missed it after we just said it was going to go. Luckily enough there was a strong guy in the CalGiant team and a Yahoo! Cycling guy and the three of us bridged across, we had to do it the hard way.” said Routley.
And with that a strong group of 13 riders was off the front. The break included a trio from United Healthcare, Roman Kilun, Jonny Clarke and Adrian Hegyvary, three from Yahoo! Cycling, Philip Mooney, Evan Huffman and Adam Switters, Jacques-Maynes and his BISSELL teammate Paul Mach, Steve Reaney and Tyler Brandt, both from California Giant Specialized. Also in the lead group were Rice, Routley and Alexander Blease of Chico Corsa.
The gap quickly went up to 30 seconds, then one minute and finally hovered around two minutes until the final lap when it came back down to one minute.
“I stayed on top of it the best I could in the break. I wanted to keep the break going, the guys were toying around a little bit, I figured I’m just going to push myself for all I’m worth to keep this break rolling because the alternative is to go back to the group and there are no other Jelly Belly there, so that’s the end of the day.” said Routley who was racing solo. “So I just kept pushing it.”
With each major team having at least one representative off the front, it was left to the smaller teams to organize the chase in the group.
“I was chasing for Iggy and Justin.” explained Charlie Avis who was working for his Trek-Livestrong teammates Iggy Silva and Justin Williams. “There was Chris Jones from Team Type 1, the MS-Now team was chasing but they went poof with one lap to go and a couple other random people. It was organized but there wasn’t enough people. We brought it back significantly, it was two and half minutes, we brought down to one and a half minute then it went back up to two. The last time check we had was 1:02, we could see them but it wasn’t meant to be.”
Brandt dropped back and had rejoined the field by the fifth and final lap as the games began in the break.
“Most of the rollers on the course are towards the end so it’s condusive to a lot of attacks over each hill, just a constant shuffle back and forth. But you have those constant descents after each one, it kept coming back together and sure enough our little group came back together on the final hill.” said Routley.
“You knew when it got close to one minute, it was time to break up the group and bring the race home. I was personally motivated to not get caught on the line again.” laughed Jacques-Maynes.
Rice tried to break up the group. “With 15, 20 kilometers to go, I attacked on the back straight to split up the race a bit because three United Healthcare there.”
The lead group splintered in two under the stress of the attack.
“When it splintered in two, the same thing you were looking at the teams, you go boom there’s one from United, there’s one from BISSELL, and so on, there’s one from Yahoo and I was the last one. So I’m just counting, keeping track.” said Routley.
Jacques-Maynes was caught in the second group along with Clarke and Hegyvary. “They had to mount a chase and pulled in all back together just in time at the bottom of the roller and I carried on right into the group and they dropped anchor.”
The lead group was down to nine riders on the final hill before the downhill sprint to the finish.
“He really is a sprinter, ” said Jacques-Maynes who was marking Reaney, “chock full of power and I was expecting him to have a pretty strong finish. We were coasting down to the line, just to wait for the right time to sprint and that’s the kind of sprint I think suits me best where it’s a quick torque and then whoever can make it through their gears the fastest. I think I’m halfway decent at that, it worked out for me today.”
“The last 5 kilometer, it’s just attack, attack, attack and trying to follow wheels the best you can. Ben Jacques-Maynes got the jump on me in the sprint for the win. It’s been a good weekend for us, I can’t complain. “ smiled Rice.
“Once the attacks started to go, I did the best I possibly could, covered one after the other. The teams alternated 1-2, I tried a few myself , I felt pretty good today and I knew it had that little kicker at the end so that was good for me. I just probably started a little too far back on the sprint, I was coming up on him.” said Routley. “It’s a good start to the season.”
One minute later the pack raced in for the field sprint with a crash marring the final kilometers. “The break was up the road but there’s money on the line and they’re jostling for position.” said Avis who was sporting minor road rash after the finish. “It was just of those routine sprint finish crashes, somebody bumps somebody else that can’t handle it. I hope everyone’s all right, there were a couple of guys that ended up in the ditch. I think there were 10 guys that went down.”
The powerhouse HTC-Columbia Women’s team swept the three races in Merced when German Road Champion Ina Teutenberg outsprinted Shelley Evans (Peanut Butter Co TWENTY12) for the win. Kelly Benjamin (Colavita/Baci) was third. The team won the team time trial on Friday and followed it up with a win for Teutenberg in a close sprint with Evans in Saturday’s Merco Grand Prix.
Starting 15 minutes after the pro men, the 68-rider Women Pro/1/2/3 race also began aggressively with attacks flying on the first of the three loops, but nothing stuck.
Even Teutenberg threw one in on the second lap managing to get up to two minutes on the field.
“If you just roll around in a flat race, you can go train at home.” said Teutenberg. “You might jeopardize your chances to win but I just want to get out there race and try to get the race fitness. It wasn’t a preferred break by myself but that’s alright it was just 20 kilometers so it wasn’t major, it was good.”
The rest of the field looked to the Peanut Butter Co TWENTY12 and TIBCO/To The Top teams to mount the chase to bring back the attacks.
“They had to do all the chasing which actually gave us a free ride for two laps so we’re just spinning away.” explained Benjamin who had only one Colavita/Baci teammate, Modesta Vzesniauskaite, at the race.
Attacks continued once Teutenberg was caught. “When she got caught, there was a flurry of attacks, a bunch of breaks that went up the road, we were in some of them, not in some of them, with only two of us I decided to mark the sprinters, I just stayed with Ina, Brooke and Shelley.” explained Benjamin.
The pace slowed down on the third and final lap as teams prepared for the bunch sprint.
“With one to go, it got mellow. HTC-Columbia took control coming down the hill into that left turn and it got a little strung out.” said Benjamin.
TIBCO’s Brooke Miller was the first to go on the final roller.
“At the bottom of the hill, I was positioned behind Brooke and she went, I thought she was just moving up, but she just went. I actually had good position, so we’re coming down the hill, that downhill sprint, I was second wheel, I knew they were right on me.” said Benjamin.
“I was sat down in the saddle behind Brooke when we past the 200 meter sign, but it’s downhill so it’s hard, I had the best sprinter in the world on my wheel. I’m like ”Should I go long? Go short?’ and I kind of heard them which at which point I think it’s maybe a little bit too late.” laughed Benjamin. “It’s my first race of the year, I can’t complain, super happy with a podium.”
Teutenberg used her tremendous experience against Evans’ legs. “I just stayed on Shelley and played a bit of case and mouse there because I think she wanted to stay on my wheel. Brooke started the sprint, attacking us a bit over the top of the hill, Kelly Benjamin was there and Shelley waited and waited because she knew she was behind me. I jumped her so then she had to go the long way, I guess that’s just experience there, having not the legs she has but having the experience.”
As in previous years, Teutenberg is using the California races to get ready for her first major objective of the season, the Classics. “I’m lacking top end, last year we had Santa Rosa and I had done more intensity at this time of the year, I will build on that. There’s still one month of training to be done before the Classics, I’m doing San Dimas and Redlands and hopefully it works.”
Top 10 Men Pro/1/2 Results (complete results here)
1. Benjamin Jacques-Maynes (BISSELL Pro Cycling)
2. Matty Rice (Bahati Foundation Pro Cycling)
3. Will Routley (Jelly Belly Cycling Team Prese)
4. Steve Reaney (California Giant Berry Farms/S)
5. Evan Huffman (Yahoo! Cycling Team)
6. Philip Mooney (Yahoo! Cycling Team)
7. Roman Kilun (UnitedHealthcare presented by)
8. Paul Mach (BISSELL Pro Cycling)
9. Adam Switters (Yahoo Cycling Team)
10.Hilton Clarke (Bahati Foundation Pro Cycling)
Top 10 Women Pro/1/2/3 Results (complete results here)
1. Ina Teutenberg (HTC-Columbia)
2. Shelley Evans (Peanut Butter & Co.TWENTY12)
3. Kelly Benjamin (Colavita Baci/Cooking Lite)
4. Brooke Miller (Team TIBCO/To The Top)
5. Mary Elizabeth Maroon (Touchstone)
6. Modesta Vzesniauskaite (Colavita/Baci)
7. Lauren Hecht (Webcor/Alto Velo)
8. Liza Rachetto (TREADS.COM/DFT)
9. Maria Lechuga (Helens-Cannondale)
10. Rebecca Rising (Serria Pacfic Rasing)
Men Photo Gallery (Click for larger images)
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Women Photo Gallery (Click for larger images)
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