Merco Cycling Classic 2013
By Jason Benford
This past weekend was my first go at a stage race. It just so happened that I picked one of the longer stage races (4 days) and harder events (M35 1/2/3). Since the first stage didnt start until 10 am, I drove out early in the morning. I will keep each report as brief as possible, since there were four big days involved.
Stage 1 was the hilliest course and I actually really enjoyed the 5-7 min climb. But, on the third time up it a small break of 15 went ahead and cleared the top by 10 seconds or so. That 10 seconds quickly turned into 30 seconds, and then quickly to two minutes. Everyone left in the second group was determined not to chase because they all had team mates in the break. That was the end of the race. We rolled in at a slow pace and 5 minutes behind the lead group of 15. Frustrating but also got to see how team tactics really work.
Stage 2 was the time trial and my first one I have ever done. I have been practicing frequently on the TT bike and it showed on that stage. I still have lots to learn about time trials, but I did see some positive signs. The TT course was a great course that was 6 miles out and 6 miles back, with a small hill on the middle.
(Photo: Alex Chiu)
Stage 3 was the downtown crit and probably one of the hardest races I have ever done. From the go the pace was super fast and I found myself hurting and towards the back. After 10 mins or so I was able to move up to the middle pack and finally get into a groove and feel better. With 3 laps to go the pace really picked up and I was lucky to stay on and finish in the main group. Really fun course that was flat, lots of turns, and very bumpy.
Stage 4 was the final stage and the longest race of the event. It was 96 miles of as David Bangor put it, “Snelling on Steroids”. It uses a lot of the same roads as Snelling, but with a few more hills and risers. The first two laps were pretty mellow, then the pace picked up and breaks were trying to form durning the past two. Two riders stayed away through the finish and the remaining field geared up for the sprint finish. I was able to get pretty good position and crossed the line in 25th.
(Photo: Ronald Mariano)
Overall GC was also 25th place. It was a huge learning experience and also a great time. I met lots of new friends like Kurt and Matt from Squadra SF. We roomed together in Merced and had a great time. This race also boosted the motivation for the rest of the season.