Monday, July 20, 2009

8th Annual Claremont Criterium, July 18th, 2009

The 8th annual Claremont Criterium saw racing on the same downtown course as previous editions, but with a new finish line. The organizers decided to move the finish away from the park and put it right in the thick of the downtown businesses. Fortunately, many of those businesses donated cash and gift certificates for primes making this “the prime heavy criterium” as the promoter, Kevin Ondre, has dubbed the race. And he is right, I don’t recall giving out so many cash, merchandise, and gift certificate primes in a race in seven years of announcing as I did at this one. I was either ringing the prime bell or making sure that the prime sponsors got some publicity for their donations on every lap and since the course is only 0.45 miles long and lap times were often under a minute, the action kept coming fast. I had little time for journalistic note keeping for the blog, but here is what I've got:

Kids Races
We started the afternoon schedule with two heats of 300 yard sprints for the kids under 10 years of age. It was a great way to start the day and all the kids seemed to have a good time. Hopefully we will see some of them in junior races in the future when their training wheels come off.

Junior 10-14
Peter Vollers Jr. (Vollers Law/Start House) won two cash primes and then beat Owen McCullom in a two up sprint at the finish. McCullom (Team Placid Planet) is about a foot taller than PVJ and a year older but PVJ barely held him off.

Juniors 15-18
Joshua Leaman (Noreast) broke away solo about half way through the 30 minute race and looked good to go for the solo finish. But John Herrick and Chris McKenna (Woodstock Bicycle) put on the chase and got him with 4 laps to go. Somewhere out of site on the last lap, Leamann attacked the two and took the last portions of the final lap solo to win by several seconds. Herrick would outkick McKenna for second.

It was nice to see four young women compete in the race with the boys. They were racing for the same prize list so there were no prizes for the girls but, unofficially, Emily Curley (Gearworks) won the “girls’ race” by a lap.

Cat 5 19-34
The promoter decided to hold separate races for the Cat 5s based on age with the split at 35 years. This was probably a good idea as the course is fairly technical and larger fields of inexperienced riders would only lead to trouble. In the race for the younger Cat 5s, Ben Kramer (Sunapee) went solo from a field of about 10 riders with about 10 to go and looked good for the win but he was caught just after the final corner, about 300 yards before the finish, by Dustin Marshall. Marshall led it out and just edged out Kramer.

Cat 5 35plus
16 started the race for the older Cat 5s and it got whittled down to just 6 on the lead lap with 6 to go. That group included the only woman in the race, Carolyn Cole (Claremont Cycle Depot). She took the first prime of the race in the first half and was usually in the top three places throughout the race. She would finish fourth in the field sprint after Brice May, Alexander Gray, and Raymond Surell (in that order).

Masters 40 plus
One of the sponsors of the race was Vollers Law of Woodstock, Vermont. If that name sounds familiar, it is because it is the law firm of Peter Vollers, the former collegiate champion (at UMass in the mid 80s) and pro rider with Bill Sykes’s IME cycling team. He is still in great racing form as evidenced in the 40plus race where he broke away and took an uncontested solo win.

As the race announcer, I used the cash primes as an opportunity to give a shout out to the race sponsors by assigning each prime in the name of one of the sponsors. Most primes are awarded on the leader or lead group in the race, but when a lead is firmly established and there seems to be little else left for the field to race for, I start putting primes on the field to liven up the action. But that is actually bad news fo the field because that means that it seems like they are out of contention for the win.

Vollers got away with a solid gap on the field so I started ringing the bell for field primes. I credited the first one to Vollers Law. So, we had the first field prime sponsored by the guy that was riding away from them. Cruel? Maybe, but it got a laugh out of quite a few folks including Peter himself who told me later that he was cracking up on the bike while trying to concentrate on time trialing away from the field.

I guess the teasing got to the Sunapee guys because they eventually decided to put on a chase. Pat Ruane (Sunapee) came the closest to catching Vollers with Eric Pearce (Bethel) right with him. The official results indicate that they finished with the same time as Vollers but I think I remember a gap remaining at the finish. The rest of the field came in 21 seconds later.

Cat 4
Zach Labry (MIT) went off the front solo in the first half of the race and stayed out long enough to bag several primes. But then he got caught. He went again with about 8 to go in a do or die move. You got to give him credit for riding aggressively, but this time it would not be the “do” option. He was caught and went to the back of the field at the finish. At least he won a few primes while he was away. Bryon Lewis (Colavita) would take the field sprint win, followed by Alfred Bissell (Essex Velo), and Sam Van Kuren (Bikyle).

Pro 1,2,3
Adam Myerson (Mountain Khakis) was on the pre-registered list and he would have been the favorite to win but he must have extended his vacation by a day because we didn't see him this time. In years past he has done quite well at Claremont. Even without him, a strong field lined up for the feature race of the day. With the prime bell ringing nearly every other lap, and lap times well under a minute (the average speed must have been about 30 mph), the action kept coming with new breaks forming and getting caught constantly.

At one to go the field was all together. Luke Keough (CLNoonan) started the 90 degree left hand corner after the start/finish line in about 8th place, but by the time he was through that corner he was in second slot right behind Jake Hollenbach (CRCA). It would apparently stay that way until they came back into sight at the final corner 300 yards from the finish. Keough came around Hollenbach right after the corner and spun his junior restricted gear as fast as he could, with his head bobbing as fast as his legs were spinning. Most adult riders have about a 53x11 front/back gear combination. If I recall correctly, the max gear for a junior is something like a 45x12. That is a huge handicap for the younger rider when the speeds get over 30 mph. Considering that the average speed was near 30 mph, the sprint was probably close to 40 mph when it topped out.

Steve Stockwell (Sunapee) also came around Hollenbach as Hollenbach felt the pain of sprinting out of the saddle after leading out the last lap. Keough would pull away for the win with Stockwell behind, then Hollenbach maintained enough speed to hold on to third. Hollenbach was heard saying after the race, “I’ve got to get myself some of those junior gears.” Just wait and see what Keough does in the sprints next year when he will be 19 and on unrestricted gears.

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