Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell) won the Merced Foothills Road Race Sunday from a 13-man break ahead of Saturday’s criterium winner Matty Rice (Bahati Foundation) and Will Routley (Jelly Belly). The three-event Merco Credit Union Cycling Classic, which concluded with Sunday’s road race, was the first major pro road race of the U.S. season.
Jacques-Maynes called the win a bit of redemption after his efforts on Saturday, where he helped drive a late-race break only to be caught in the final corner.
On Saturday under warm sunshine, a group of 13 got away on the second lap, consisting of two riders from Bissell three from UnitedHealthcare, two from California Giant Berries, three from Yahoo!, three from Bahati Foundation and one from Jelly Belly.
The group worked together to hold a gap of about two minutes for most of the day.
“Though the gap started to dwindle in the last half lap we were not in any real pressure from the group behind,” Jacques-Maynes said. “Things broke and reformed in the last 10k over rolling terrain, and nine of us went to the line out of the break.”
“I got a great lead-out from Paul [Mach] and just timed the sprint right. I’ve been second and third in Merced previously so I know how to do the sprint there,” Jacques-Maynes said. “I’m really happy with how the weekend’s gone; Bissell won the TTT Friday and with this win we’ll bring some confidence in our ability to race together effectively.”
In the women’s event, Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (HTC-Columbia) captured her second win in as many days, again nipping Shelley Evans (Peanut Butter & Co.) at the line. On Sunday, Colavita’s Kelly Benjamin placed third.
HTC-Columbia also won the team time trial Friday.
Attacking solo in the first of three laps, Teutenberg held a 30-second gap for about 20km before being caught by the field. She still had enough in the tank to outkick Evans and Benjamin.
“I’m happy with the race,” Teutenberg said. “We tried to be aggressive early and make the race hard. I was in a solo break early which was hard so I was happy to be able to sprint well at the end of the race. The team did another great job going with breaks throughout the day but none of the breaks stuck so then they looked after me for the sprint at the end. It was a good weekend of racing to start the season.”
Evans said her Peanut Butter & Co. helped police the front end of the field. Peanut Butter was directed at the race by the recently retired Kristin Armstrong.
“We wanted to keep it together for a field sprint, to give me another opportunity to sprint against Ina, the best sprinter in the world — what better preparation for track worlds at the end of the month?” Evans said. “So, we covered everything all day. There were lots of counter-attacks and small breaks formed throughout the course of the race, but nothing ever stuck because it was never the right combination for all the big teams.”
The finale played out similarly to the previous day’s criterium, with a drag race between the lead-out trains of HTC-Columbia and Peanut Butter.
Peanut Butter’s Olivia Dillon was driving the field over the crest of a hill with about 300m to go when Tibco’s Brooke Miller attacked.
“Kelly Benjamin was on her wheel and I jumped on Kelly, with Ina on my wheel,” Evans said. “With about 150m to go, Ina jumped from behind me and I had to react. I tried to match the speed going into the final 50m of the sprint, but she had won the race already when she jumped first.”