DANA POINT, Calif. (VN) — Brad Huff (Jelly Belly) emerged from an 18-man break to take the fifth annual Dana Point Grand Prix criterium over Rahsaan Bahati (SKLZ p/b Pista Palace) and Ben Kersten (Fly V Australia).
Local rider Devan Dunn (CashCall Mortgage) almost upset the Jelly Belly-Fly V apple cart when he broke away from a race-winning break with four laps to go on the .8-mile, six-turn NRC course overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Dunn swept up $600 in primes for his effort, but was ultimately swept up by a charging Huff with two corners remaining before a long straight finish on the Pacific Coast Highway.
Things got off to a speedy start on the blustery, but warm and sun-drenched day with the field throwing down 1:30 lap times from the start.
Ruben Meza (Socalcycling.com) launched an immediate attack, but it was shut down in short order. A flurry of counters went driven by riders including Adam Livingston (SKLZ/Pista Palace), Anthony Canevari (CashCall Mortgage) and the irrepressible Dunn, a 21-year old from nearby Irvine, California. After spending almost three laps off the front during the race’s first 15 minutes and collecting a $100 prime for his effort, Dunn was absorbed by the field, but he’d be back.
Meanwhile, 2009 Dana Point winner Rahsaan Bahati had taken up the caboose position at the back of the field, biding his time for later, when the real race would begin.
30 minutes into the crit, another break sallied forth, this time driven by riders including Jason Bausch (Velo Club LaGrange), Lucas Binder (SKLZ/Pista Palace), and Sterling Magnell (Wonderful Pistachios). Like the others, this group was also caught by the field, which now featured Fly V Australia riders patrolling the front.
With 56 minutes remaining, yet another attack went, this time containing Brad Huff (Jelly Belly) Micheal Johnson and Chris DeMarchi (SKLZ/Pista Palace) and Brian McCulloch (CashCall Mortgage). 11 riders bridged up to this break a few minutes later, which now included Bahati, Collin Samaan (Wonderful Pistachios), and Kayle LeoGrande (Monster Media/SC Velo).
20 minutes later, the break had, in spite of its ungainly size, managed to solidify its gap. With Fly V Australia riders Ben Kersten, Bernie Sulzberger, Cam Peterson and Sean Sullivan in the break, it looked like it was the Australians’ race to loose.
However, about a third of the break was not taking pulls, and the resulting dissension in the ranks was caused their lead to fall to 15 seconds from over 30.
But just when it looked like the break was doomed by its size, the chasing field suddenly lost their moxie. The peloton swelled from one side of the Pacific Coast Highway to the other in a mighty show of collapsing resolve.
Up in the break, Jelly Belly’s Huff was concerned that some people were slacking. “Me being the old man out there, I started yelling and telling people what to do.”
That had effect, as the break got back into an orderly paceline and with 10 laps to go had increased its gap to 34 seconds. That said, winds gusting in off the ocean and channelling between homes at times had the break moving at what Huff called “a crawl.”
A $100 prime on the next lap saw CashCall’s Dunn snag another C-note in a hard-fought sprint against Fly V Australia’s Sean Sullivan.
Then, at the five-to-go bell, Dunn attacked the break yet again, taking a succession of $100, $200 and $300 primes, leaving him with a healthy lead over the rest of the Fly-V led break on the bell lap.
Race announcers Dave Towle and Steve Hegg had the crowd banging their tables in support of the young surprise Dunn, a rider who won Dana Point as a Cat. 3 two years ago and who rides locally with both Bahati and race organizer Roger Worthington.
But as the field rose up from a slight dip in the course, Fly V’s Bernie Sulzburger turned the screws at the front, catching Dunn, but also ushering Jelly Belly’s Huff to the front of the line with just two turns remaining. Launching off the Fly V ride, Huff swept past Dunn and kept his lead through the final corner, taking the win over Bahati and chagrined Fly V rider Ben Kersten.
After the race, Huff, a two-time winner of the Tulsa Tough race, said of Dunn, “He just went for it. It was a great move for him. It set him up in a position to win the race because no one wanted to take the chase.”
“Luckily,” Huff adds, “on the last lap Bernard Sulzberger took up the chase for Kersten. I was able to get on his wheel.”
When Huff caught Dunn, he says he just kept riding because “I knew Bahati, Sulzberger and Kersten would be right on me.”
Asked about the point when the break was falling part, Huff said “it was just too big. With so many teams represented, no one really wanted to work. I was just kept yelling at everybody to keep working. Luckily it worked out.”
While Bahati says Dunn seems to be getting stronger by the week, he didn’t think he could stay out alone for the final four laps.
“With three Fly V guys in there they were not going to just let him fly. I knew that he would come back.”
Unfortunately, Bahati adds, “When Huff hit he hit pretty hard and he held it all the way to the line. I wanted to win, but I’m happy to be on the podium at another NRC race.”
Fly V Australia’s Ben Kersten was clearly disappointed in his third place finish. With three other Fly Vs in the break with him, Kersten says his teammates “put their faith in me and pulled all the turns for 45 minutes while I just sat at the back and waited for the sprint.”
Kersten recalls that when Huff jumped on the last lap, another rider on Huff’s wheel faltered, opening a gap between Kersten and the eventual race winner.
“By the time I found my way to the front it was already a good 15, 20 meters. And you don’t want to give Huff a meter, let alone 20. I’m feeling a little bit guilty for not winning. We had such good numbers in the break. I’ve got to go and think about that tonight.”