Excellent Racing at the Santa Cruz Classic Crit
Santa Cruz Classic Criterium
Santa Cruz - 15 April 2012
This Classic criterium race went off under sunny skies today after the rain and thunderstorms earlier in the week. The 0.9-mile course, in the mixed Beach Hill neighbourhood of residential homes and small businesses, is shaped like a foot with a protruding heel. The bottom of the foot is a long straight up and over an 18-metre hill that leads into a downhill hairpin turn. The course then winds back on flatter ground, past the San Lorenzo River, before another sharp turn back onto the straightaway.
Master Men 45+ 1-2-3
An exuberant Steve Heaton (Echelon Gran Fondo/Charity of Choice) punched the air as he crossed the finish line to win Master Men 45+ 1-2-3. Racing on his own, Heaton's strategy was to stay near the front, "[On] that last lap, when the pace is high, you've got to be right up in the front," said Heaton, "I sat about third wheel back. It felt like full gas the whole way coming into the finish. Once we hit the top of that hill it was pretty much game on. It was time to throw down the sprint." Heaton went on to say holding his top end and the headwind made it difficult for anyone to pass and "[I] was able to coast in for a little arm pump in the air."
Michael O'Rourke (SAFEWAY/GA PRC Group/Bicycles Plus) took second place and enough points to assume the lead in this category of the 2012 NCNCA Bikereg.com Premier Series. Kevin Klein (HDR Racing p/b Lombardi Sports) finished in third while Larry Nolan (Team Specialized Racing Masters) was fourth and Dennis King (CCT) fifth.
Master Men 35+ 1-2-3
Chris Phipps (IronDataThirstyBearCycling.com) got away late from the field and made his break stick to win the race for Master Men 35+ 1-2-3. "I attacked with two laps to go and got a little bit of a gap," said Phipps, "I think people thought I'd just dangle out there and they'd get me in the sprint. I don't know how many seconds I had, maybe five or six. Then I was barely able to hold on to the line. The whole last two laps were an all-out sprint for me." The race announcer had expressed doubts about Phipps' ability to sprint and Phipps agreed, saying "I can go almost as fast for three or 4 minutes as I can for 10 seconds."
Dean LaBerge (Team Specialized Racing Masters) finished in second place whilst AJ Kennedy (Fremont Bank Cycling Team) came home in third. Andres Gil (Michael David Winery Cycling Team) scored 7 points from sixth place to extend his lead in the 2012 NCNCA Bikereg.com Premier Series over Nick Theobald (SAFEWAY/GA PRC Group/Bicycles Plus); Theobald managed a tenth-place finish in today's race.
The race for Women 1-2-3 included last year's winner Pascale Schnider as well as last week's Copperopolis Road Race winner Rebecca "Wombat" Warner (SportVelo Racing). Vanderkitten-Focus, Touchstone Climbing, Steven's Bikes p/b Pactimo were all teams well represented in field. Loren Rowney (Specialized-lululemon) went on a break with around 7 laps to go, steadily built her lead, and come home for the win with a comfortable margin. "My plan was to go whenever a prime went and just test the legs of the other girls," said Rowney, continuing on to say that "I just settled into a rhythm. I knew once [the lead] blew out to about 20 seconds I would be out of sight out of mind."
Werner won the field sprint for second place just ahead of Schnider. Vanderkitten-Focus team mates Kate Chilcott and Emily Collins finished fourth and fifth, respectively. At 13 years of age, Courtney Comer (Acqua 2AL/San Diego Bicycle Club) drew applause for her effort in the race almost every lap she passed the finish line.
The Men's P-1-2 race was an affair dominated by Team Mike's Bikes. Early in the race, a four-racer break got away with Martin Acosta (McGuire Cycling Team), David Benkoski (Webcor/Alto Velo), and two Team Mike's Bikes racers, James Wingert and Andrew Goessling. This group of stayed away for a good portion of the race. Last year's winner James Mattis (California Giant Cycling), at times, was heard yelling at other racers to pull as he attempted to lead various chase groups. Team Mike's Bikes racers covered many attempts to bridge as the team worked the race to their advantage. With two laps to go, the field did catch the four-racer breakaway but Team Mike's Bikes maneuvered again to put James LaBerge and Rainier Schaeffer in first and third while Charles Hutcheson (Marc Pro-Starva) took the second spot. "With one lap to go we lined it up with three or four guys," said LaBerge, "They all helped me get [around] the last turn safely. [I] got a gap and sprinted from there."