14th Merco Merced Classic Men's
Ivan Dominguez takes the season opener, with Dan Schmatz and Ricardo Escuela
weighing in on day one of the classic weekend; but it was the Taz iron man, Karl
Menzies to take the 200km road race on Sunday as the NRC debuts.
Ivan Dominguez took the Merced River cobble home with his win in the 50 lap
criterium on Sunday with BMC's Dan Schmatz second and Ricardo Escuela
(Successful Living/Parkpre) taking third in his debut race in the USA. The
pressure was on for the teams to strike first blood in the opening race of the
National Race Calendar. The treasured trophy was the
Merced River cobble that the winners would take home to add to their
A fast race around the .8 mile course had the opening laps being contested at
50 km/ph being pushed into the speed zone by the constant attacks at the front.
Ten laps in a gap was taken by 15 riders, but typical for affairs like this they
achieved a brief one minute gap as the peloton let them dangle off the front as
the gap yo yo'ed eventually the sprinters teams drove the front and closed the
gap down. Crashes marred the day with some riders trapped in the gutter in a
fast and tightly packed peloton through the course's "S" shaped chicane and
penultimate turn leading to the finish taking two Las Vegas Elite Paul Tracy.Com
team riders out with 9 laps to go.
Josh Thornton and Rory Sutherland photo c.
Half way through the race a duo of Josh Thornton (Kodak Gallery/Sierra
Nevada) and Rory Sutherland (Health Net) blew the comfort of the peloton and
headed out on their own defying capture... with 8 laps to go Kirk O'bee joined
his mate after laying in a blistering attack coming out of the last corner and
bridging up to the dynamic duo.
Priority Health, BMC, Successful Living and Toyota United started to
take up the chase in earnest at this point to set up their sprinters as the race
closed down to the final laps. The catch was made as the trio started the bell
lap with the sprinters teams leading the charge and all hell broke loose
stringing the pack out through the final lap.
Ivan Domingez!!!!! Photo © Kathleen Poulos
As the riders came through the final turn a crash took out the late
followers, with Henk Vogels leading Ivan Dominguez to the line with a clear
victory over BMC's sprinter Dan Schmatz.
Successful Living's 23 year old sprinter Ricardo Escuela made his debut in
3rd after fighting a frozen deraileur that was damaged in the melee leading to
the finish. Dominique Rollin of Kodak, finished 4th, Toyota United's Henk Vogel
5th. Milne and Menzies copped 7th and tenth for the number one team of last year
HealthNet/Maxxis. Successful Living's Serbian rider took 8th on the day, placing
them second in the next days road race caravan behind Kirk Willet's Toyota
United. Ryan McKenzie of Volkswagen/Trek made a strong showing in sixth.
Dan Schmatz, Ivan Dominguez and Ricardo Escuela
Merco Merced Grand Prix
50 laps/.8 miles
1 Dominguez Ivan Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team
2 Escuela Ricardo Successful Living.com/Parkpre
3 Schmatz Daniel BMC Professional Cycling Team
4 Rollin Dominique Kodak Gallery/Sierra Nevada
5 Vogels Henk Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team
6 Ryan McKenzie Volkswagen Trek
7 Milne Shawn Health Net/Maxxis
8 Ganic Dusan Successful Living.com/Parkpre
9 Danesh Jamiel Kodak Gallery/Sierra Nevada
10 Menzies Karl Health Net/Maxxis
Saturday opened up under high clouds and cool temperatures in a race through
the almond orchards and farms of this agricultural heartland of the central
valley. The almost windless day would seem to heat up the same way the race did
as the day progressed. The first lap was as one would expect with the riders
finding their legs with few attacks of any significance; and most of teams
didn't warm up previous to the start.
The peloton in the chase as they enter the first of a series of long rollers.
As the peloton started the second lap a group of 28 riders escaped on the
first tall roller before the flat section of the course, in short order they had
a gap of a minute and went to work which see sawed for the next two laps.
The group works well together and looks to be the break of the day, but its a
long race with 100 miles left as the chase heats up at 30 to 32 mph the escape
with the break lingering at between a half a minute to over a minute as the
chase went on. The 28 faced a natural attrition due to flats, a few crashes and
in the third lap the break started to fall apart reducing to 20 brave souls with
40 pairs of tired legs.
Flats always play a part in this race with the local sharp thorns blown onto
the course, I learned how sharp when I sat on one trying to set up a photo... at
one point I saw a BMC rider being serviced by his team car, and less than a km
ahead another BMC rider was off his bike with a flat looking for the car, while
another rider ahead, waved his hand for neutral service while riding on a flat
front tire. He wasn't about to get a wheel fast as the neutral service was busy
behind replacing another wheel. The pace continued at 50 km/ph as some in the
break sat up willing to give up the escape and tired of looking over their
shoulders at the chasing group behind them.
Peltonen and Wohlberg hammer away as they enter lap 5.
Canadian Eric Wohlberg (Symmetrics) and Garrett Peltonen (Priority Health)
launched their attack on the lap three as the break started to succumb to the
pressure from the peloton. With 40 miles to the finish the two strong time
trialists worked well together and made a maximum gap of 3 minutes as they
entered the final lap.
Kodak Gallery.com/Sierra Nevada leads the chase as they enter the final lap.
Photo © Kathleen Poulos
Up until the final lap the peloton was content to let the two riders stay
away; but the heat was on as the final lap hit the flat section Kodak Gallery,
and Toyota/United taking command of the chase, and slowly the duo's gap started
In almost a replay of two years ago when Gordy McCaulay was caught with 8 kms
to go; Wohlberg and Peltonen suffered the same fate as they hit the final climbs
up the Merced River escarpment the catch was made and Health Net joined the
front to setup their strong men for the finish. Up the last climb mayhem broke
loose with crashes on the final hill splitting the peloton one last time before
A commanding finish by Menzies and Downing with mate Shawn Milne celebrating the
teams win in the distance on the left.
The attacks in the final km had Health Net gaining the gap for the final 200
meters downhill sprint with Shawne Milne launching Karl Menzies first over the
line for the win with team mate Brit Russell Downing on his wheel for second,
and Ivan Dominguez joining them on the podium.
Wrapping up the first race of the NRC Toyota United/Pro and Health Net are
off to a good start; but the other teams weighed in well with Priority Health,
BMC's, Kodak Gallery/Sierra Nevada, Colavita/Sutter Home and Successful Living/Parkpre
weighing in testing the two teams that dominated the racing last year on the
domestic scene. So expect to see more of those teams and their sprinters in the
results in the future. Rock Racing the newest team on the scene had a less than
satisfying debut, but with the well known names on the roster we can expect them
to make their mark as the season progresses. Rock Racing's Young Gun 17 year old
Justin Williams distinguished himself with a win the Junior criterium and
returned on Sunday to win the cat 2 road race.
Mike "SoPro" Jones winner of last years criterium made his season debut
without his Jelly Belly team in Merced for support. Mike said he was glad to
join Danny Van Haute's Jelly Belly outfit and thought the team will be a
good match for him and his talents. The team will join Mike at next weeks
Central Valley Classic.
Podium: Ivan Dominguez, Karl Menzies and Russell Downing
MERCO Credit Union Road Race Pro Cat 1
Place Last Name First Name Team Name License #
1 Menzies Karl Health Net/Maxxis AUS19770617
2 Downing Russell Health Net/Maxxis GBR19780823
3 Dominguez Ivan toyota-united pro cycling team CUB19760528
4 Jacques-Maynes Benjamin Priority Health 19780922
5 Milne Shawn Health Net/Maxxis USA19811109
6 Stevic Ivan toyota-united pro cycling team SCG19800312
7 Rollin Dominique Kodak Gallery/Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. CAN19821029
8 Ganic Dusan Successful Living./Parkpre SCG19831020
9 Jacques-Maynes Andy California Giant/Specialized 17590
10 Damiana Luca Colavita/ Sutter Home/Cooking Light ITL 19841108
11 Bordine Karl Team 5 Star 163315
12 Schmatz Daniel BMC Professional Cycling Team 31615
13 Friedick Mariano Rock Racing 12421
14 Wiscovitch Jeremiah Rock Racing 188908
15 Gilbert Martin Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast CAN19821030
16 Martinez Alexi Successful Living.com/Parkpre USA19860530
17 Bazzana Alessandro Successful Living.com/Parkpre ITA19840716
18 Szolusha Keith Pacific State Bank/Anderson Homes B0109435
19 Hanson Ken BMC Professional Cycling Team b0194969
20 Vogels Henk toyota-united pro USA19730718
21 Sutherland Rory Health Net/Maxxis AUS19820208
22 Johnson Matt CyclingScience.org 52098
23 Crater Andrew Team Wheel and Sprocket B0070612
24 Guptill Andy Colavita/ Sutter Home/Cooking Light USA19830317
24 Hunt John California Giant/Specialized 17154
25 Morrow Anthony Team 5 Star 497
26 Dellalian Aram Time Factory Team 188580
27 Danesh Jamiel Kodak Gallery P/B Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. 177088
28 Timmerman Dan Kodak Gallery/Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. 79102
29 Charles Aidan Unattached 164128
30 Walters Mark Kodak Gallery/Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. CAN1970215