This year's edition of the San Rafael Cycling Classic was extremely hot. Right after finishing, Eric Saunders (Ofoto) shook his head and smiled, "It was hot out there. Real hot." It was also fast. From the gun, men were flying off the front trying to break the string that kept pulling riders back all day. The race went on for eighty laps, and few laps went by when there was a significant group on the attack.
The fireworks started with Eric Wohlberg (Saturn) and Mike Sayers (Healthnet) getting a good 50 meter gap on lap 4. John Lieswyn (7Up) led a fierce chase that broke down into men in groups of one and two flying off the peloton in counterattacks. Things were back together on lap 6 when Sayers launched again, only to be brought back. Then it was the turn of the strongmen and sprinters to launch the first of many surprise attacks on the day. Chris Horner led the charge for the very aggressive Saturns, flying out of the pack on lap 7 followed by ace sprinter and last year's winner, Gord Fraser of Healthnet. They were soon joined by a few others, including Prime Alliance sprinter Jonas Carney, who was fresh off a nice win in last week's Manhattan Beach Grand Prix. Horner, Fraser, Carney, and a 7Up rider had a good gap with the Navigators on the front of the main group chasing. The pace was high, a high quality group of dangerous men were attacking, weaker riders were getting shelled off the back and pulled off the course, and it was only lap 11 of 80.
This was the way the race would go for the rest of the day. Horner went on several attacks, including a monstrous solo effort from laps 15-18. The field splintered and regrouped several times as first one team, then another chased, attacked, and chased some more. Wohlberg and Sayers had another dig together, as the duo managed a good gap that was shut down after a couple of laps. Ivan Dominguez was another Saturn rider who worked his hams off, as he was on a long attack that lasted from lap 33 to lap 38. He was joined eventually by Wohlberg, Saunders, Jacob Erker (Schroeder Iron), Alex Candelario (Prime Alliance), and a few others. By lap 43, the break was over and the peloton was all back together again.
From laps 45 through 55, Horner, Jeff Louder, and Greg Henderson managed to stay off the front. Their gap on the field grew to 30", but Healthnet and Sierra Nevada teamed up to chase them down. Finally, on lap 59, the big move of the day flew the coop. A group of nine men got off the front, followed by a chase group of four. The two groups merged and soon built a 24" gap on the field. The break included the right combination of strongmen and sprinters to stay off the front until the finish. It included Chris Wherry and Jeff Louder (Navigators); Jacob Erker and Miguel Meza (Schroeder Iron); Chris Horner, Eric Wohlberg, and Viktor Rapinski (Saturn); Doug Ziewacz and John Lieswyn (7Up); and Mike Sayers (Healthnet), along with a few others. Navigators had four men in the break, and Saturn had three, so they had the advantage of number. In the pack, Healthnet led the chase to try to bring Fraser to the line for the sprint. Their chase was starting to have an effect, but when Fraser crashed it sunk their chances. They charged back to the front, and Fraser shouted in frustration for his men to go, but the gap had grown to over 30" with the race rapidly flying to a conclusion.
In the break, Wherry and Erker took turns pulling for laps at a time. Their hard hammering kept the break's lead steady. With just a few laps remaining, Wohlberg let a gap open and split the break, and only seven men were left to contest the sprint, and a late crash took Horner and Wherry out of the mix, but Wohlberg sprang back into action to gave Rapinksi a blistering lead out for the win. Sayers, in the break without his sprinter, Gord Fraser, carried his team's hopes, and tried to get the jump on e'm, but Rapinski countered and came around him to take the victory. Sayers finished 2nd, and Meza came across in 3rd. Dominguez took the field sprint just ahead of British legend Malcolm Elliott, who has just returned the American racing scene.
Rapinksi gave a lot of well deserved credit to his teammates for their stellar riding, and second placed Mike Sayers gave him his props, saying the Belorussian Concussion is one of the riders that represents the future for cycling in America. Sayers himself has placed second a number of times in San Rafael, on his own in the break this year, he decided to go for it. "I'm not really a sprinter," said Sayers, "but I'm wiley."
Women's race report from Team Saturn's Giana Roberge:
In the women's hour long event it was again the Saturn Team quickly upping the speed, stretching the 110 women field into a thin line, when Katie Mactier shot off the front from the gun. As she was brought back, Saturn continued to riders with Ina Teutenberg, Amy Moore and Jessica Phillips all taking their turn at trying to escape. However, it was Sue Palmer-Komar who finally was able to escape the blistering pace, craftily countering an attack and making her way up the road solo. Despite the heat, the Genesis-Scuba rider pressed on, opening up a half course gap until it was clear she would stay clear for an impressive victory. With a lap and a half to go Kori Kelly (Diet Rite) attacked, making her way clear, and staying away for strong showing in second place.
1 Viktor Rapinski (Saturn)
2 Mike Sayers (Health Net)
3 Miguel Meza (Schroeder Iron)
4 John Lieswyn (7 Up Maxxis)
1 Sue Palmer Komar (Genesis Scuba)
2 Kori Kelly (Diet Rite)
3 Madeleine Lindberg (Nurnberger)