The San Rafael Twilight Criterium quickly came down to a story of two men, Jared Barrilleaux (CalGiant/Specialized) and Eric Riggs (Mike’s Bikes). The two, allies for most of the race, become enemies once again after they lapped the field with 12 laps to go in the 75-minute race.
The first 30 minutes were non stop attacking as the riders navigated through the dark spots and the brightly light corners on the 1-km rectangular course. A prime spot for attacks were the start/finish straight leading into the slight uphill after the first corner but nothing was sticking until finally five men were off. But the five quickly became two.
“There was five originally, guys were playing games and opening gaps, it was really frustrating so me and Jared hut on them, we’re going to do this by ourselves, we don’t need you guys to slow us down.” Riggs explained.
The duo put their heads down and worked together to push the gap with Barrilleaux doing most of the work. The gap started quickly went up while behind the field didn’t seem interested in chasing. And then they dangled 10 seconds behind the field.
“Halfway through our break, I had lapping the field in the back of my mind. I kept saying to myself, ‘don’t think about it, don’t think about it’. We then rode right behind the field.” Riggs continued.
And there they stayed at 10 seconds for lap after lap, everyone wondering would they catch?
“Once we caught sight up this start/finish that was the carrot to go, we were just digging deep, really deep to link back up, that only lasted so long that extra effort. It seemed to be about 10 seconds off the back and that’s where we hit a wall, it was just floating right there, you could reach out and grab it but it was just tough at that point.” Barrilleaux said.
Riggs could see the field ahead. “For awhile we could not reach them but for whatever reason the peloton just sat up and we were able to make up the 10 seconds just like that. Jared was motivating me because I was not as strong as him. He would say, ‘c’mon we got this, let’s keep this going.’ Jared really helped me. Jared was so much stronger than me.”
The lack of race radios and the dark course led to confusion in the field. You see, many did not know that there were two riders off the front. One team did know and that was CalGiant who was shutting down attack after attack.
“Nobody had a clue.” Andy Jacques-Maynes (Kenda/5-Hr Energy) said. “It got kind of messy because there was a whole bunch of attacks, and then there were two guys and two guys, and we all chased down the first two guys and we lost sight of the second two guys and they were gone. Out of sight, out of mind.”
His brother Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell) agreed, “I thought we were all together. I thought CalGiant wanted a field sprint and they were just killing everything.”
Then with the duo dangling at around 10 seconds behind, Ben Jacques-Maynes heard the announcer. “Halfway through I heard Dave Towle talk about these guys are going for third, they’re not on the same lap or they’re going to get lapped and I knew that they must be close behind. Then I was just going for it, trying to string out. Hopefully they’d dig deep, burn themselves. You can be almost there and lose everything and come all the way back around, it’s possible but….”
Barrilleaux was starting to feel the hard effort he put in. “When we started getting close to the field, I saw that it was going be back together, we were going to link back up, I thought ‘try to start conserving, try to start conserving’ and right as I was thinking that my calves were starting to cramp and I knew it.”
Reaction was swift at the front of the field but it was too late a the pair connected with the back of the field a few laps later.
The reset button was hit and both teams scrambled to bring their respective teammate up to the front. The battle for control of the field amped up lap after lap, with Mike’s Bikes and CalGiant setting up their train while Riggs was feeling battered.
“The last five laps were aggravating. Jared and I lapped the field and I was expecting etiquette from the other riders. There was none of that. The were chopping me and hitting my handlebars.” Riggs said.
The 25-year old used his anger as motivation. “I was riding on fumes because I was so furious in the last couple of laps. I put my anger all in my pedals. My team was leading out for third place and I simply latched right on. My teammate Tyler Brandt is the reason my I won. In the back stretch he was right behind me and he sat up which allowed me to get a huge gap on Jared. I was able to carry that for the win.”
Riggs only had to beat Barrilleaux across the line for the win, but his anger propelled him and he outsprinted everyone to claim the biggest victory of his career. Barrilleaux took second and Riggs’ teammate James Laberge, a junior, was third.
“Winning felt spectacular. My teammate got third. It was cool to share the podium with my teammate. This year has been bad for me. I have had bad luck at races. I was afraid I was not going to win this year. This win is huge. I am very, very excited!” Riggs concluded.
Barrilleaux had left too much out on the road. “My team did awesome for putting me in position but I just didn’t have it at the very end.”
So was it worth chasing down the peloton? “In retrospect it might have been a good idea to stay clear of the field but that’s water under the bridge.” Barrilleaux replied. “We caught back up with them. We were both digging in the last two or three laps until we linked up, we were both digging really deep to get the field.”