Kat Carroll (Peanut Butter & Co.-Twenty12) and Ken Hanson (Team Type 1) won their respective fields in the San Rafael Twilight Criterium Saturday night, albeit in very different ways.
The large crowds lining the downtown circuit were treated to textbook examples of diverse strategies in criterium racing.
Carroll launched a dramatic solo breakaway effort to claim her victory, and for the men’s field, a chaotic field sprint under the floodlights went Hanson’s way, giving him a second win in as many years in San Rafael.
Men’s race is wide open
The 118 entrants of the men’s field opened with a who’s-who of call-ups: 2009 Nor Cal/Nevada Crit Champion Ryan Parmes (Yahoo); 2010 Elite National Crit Champ Steave Reaney (California Giant Berry Farms); 2008 San Rafael winner Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly); Elite and Professional National Champion Rahsaan Bahati (Bahati Foundation); and Hanson (Team Type 1.) The rest of the field was also packed with West Coast criterium veterans, any one of whom could have a lucky victory.
The 90-minute event began with the field strung out single-file thanks to big efforts from Patrick Miller (Yahoo), Rand Miller (Webcor Builders), Chris Jones (Team Type 1) and Reaney. The downtown four-corner course is known for fast speeds to discourage breakaways, which on this course are hard to monitor and can slip away as night falls.
Especially well-marked was Reaney, visible from almost anywhere with his stars and stripes champion’s jersey, and his moves were closely monitored by the entire field.
As Hanson stayed on wheels in the field and Bahati patiently warmed up his legs, often sitting upright and holding the brake hoods, the first real move materialized 52 minutes into the race.
Yahoo’s Philip Mooney, Webcor’s Justin Fraga, California Giant’s Chris Stastny, and Jones broke off and eventually built a 14-second gap, holding a lead together for more than 10 minutes until nine laps were called.
At six laps to go the quartet was caught and by four laps the field was again single file and it was anyone’s race. Yahoo, Adageo Energy, and Cal Giant teams took huge pulls as Bahati floated on his own toward the front.
On the final lap Hanson came out of the shadows to take control through the last turn and on the long finish straight. Not part of any significant move until this point, the 2009 San Rafael Twilight champion held off a charging Bahati and Reaney by a bike length to defend his crown.
“I had a few teammates, and Chris Jones was off the front in a breakaway,” said Hanson, explaining his sneak attack. “That gave me an opportunity to save up some energy for the sprint. I had to be really patient and wait for the right moment.”
Patience is not Kat Carroll’s way
Carroll went into the race saying, “I feel great. I’m really inspired about the success our team has had all over the country and the world the past two weeks.”
True enough, Peanut Butter & Co.-Twenty12 has notched recent wins at the 2010 USA Elite National Championships, the Nature Valley Grand Prix, and the Tour of New Zealand. Though their teammate and defending San Rafael champion, junior phenom Coryn Rivera, couldn’t make this race to defend her title, the Peanut Butter crew considered it their race to lose.
That didn’t mean the race would be easy. The 56 starters featured serious criterium riders including Martina Patella, the recent Burlingame Criterium champion; Devon Haskell from Tibco-To The Top; and deep squads from Metromint and Touchstone Climbing.
Carroll and teammate Oliva Dillon took that seriously, reeling in Guarnier, and creating a break that notably included Tyler Stewart (Luna.)
“It was a strong break, some of the strongest women in the race were in that move, but it doesn’t matter if nobody wants to pedal,” Carroll later said about the short-lived break. “We had the advantage of having two people in there. When I saw the group about to catch us, I knew it was the perfect time to go.”
“I had no idea there there was that much left in the race. I was hoping someone would come with me, but sometimes it doesn’t work like that. So I just put my head down and hit the pedals.”
And that would be that. At 25 minutes into the 60-minute race Carroll took a lead by herself that she wouldn’t relinquish. A breakaway attempting to join her fractured and was caught by the field as she built a 20-plus second advantage. With teammate Dillon patrolling the field for threats, Carroll consistently ticked off laps in front of enthusiastic crowds lining the downtown corridor.
Carroll’s lonely lead began to diminish slightly at 10 laps to go, providing a suspenseful conclusion for the spectators, but in fact she was showing no weakness. A methodical victory with a ten-second advantage offered the Tennessee native and Fairfax, California, resident ample time to celebrate 150 meters from the line.
“Every time I came around, I kept hoping to see eight or nine laps, and when I finally did see it I thought it was a joke,” she said of her finale. “Going up the hill with two to go, I felt pretty strong on that.”
Women’s final results:
- 1 Kat Carroll Peanut Butter & Co / Twenty12
- 2 Mary Elizabeth Maroon Touchstone Climbing
- 3 Hanan Alves Hyde Peanut Butter & Co / Twenty12
- 4 Devon Haskell TIBCO / To The Top
- 5 Jane Robertson Metromint
- 6 Martina Patella Third Pillar
- 7 Tyler Stewart Luna
- 8 Mary Ellen Ash Los Gatos Cycling
- 9 Oliva Dillon Peanut Butter & Co.-Twenty12
- 10 Vanessa Drigo Touchstone Climbing
Men’s final results: