With all its glitz and glamour, the San Rafael Sunset Criterium did not disappoint. Zach Allison (Clif Bar) and Samantha Schneider (ISCorp) finished off tremendous performances by their respective teams. Schneider captured her fourth USA CRITS win in seven events this season, while Clif Bar finally came away victorious after knocking on the door of a win for the last month.
The two races saw markedly different tactics from the winning teams. ISCorp had an open plan and followed the flow of the race. They didn’t want to dictate the race from the outset, and instead let their competitors tire themselves out. Meanwhile, Clif Bar came out firing on all cylinders, riding as aggressively as their legs would let them.
In the end, both the pro men’s and women’s races came down to bunch finishes, and while Clif Bar constantly attacked and ISCorp followed the wheels of their competitors, both were clearly dominant. They rode the final lap the same way, delaying their final lead-out until the last possible moment.
The ISCorp Wall
For the second race this season, ISCorp demonstrated their superior strength and stamina by taking charge of the final lap and exiting the final turn holding the top three positions, making it impossible for any of their rivals to come around. Word on the street is the final-lap and final-corner dominance by the ladies in blue and orange has become known as the “ISCorp wall.”
Schneider led the way for the Wisconsin-based program and regained the orange USA CRITS overall leader’s jersey. She’s in a tight battle for the overall series title with Colavita-Bialetti’s Tina Pic. JL Velo Best Young Rider Caroline Baur finished second, with Josie Talbot rounding out the podium sweep.
Even though Schneider is by far the best sprinter in the women’s peloton on the USA CRITS circuit, the team is not beholden to a bunch sprint. “My teammates are so strong that any situation up the road happening I was comfortable with, and if it came down to a sprint my girls know what to do and give it 110% for the win,” Schneider said after the race.
Schneider had entered the race in second place with the overall standings, sliding from first because ISCorp did not attend the Boise race, opening the chance for Pic to surpass Schneider. That meant the best possible way for Schneider to make up ground was to get the 200 points for the race win at San Rafael
Throughout the race, ISCorp chased down moves and followed attacks, yet they rarely attacked themselves. Schneider’s teammate Yussely Soto did an incredible amount of work on the front of the peloton throughout the race and even mustered the strength in the final laps to help with Schneider’s lead out.
Schneider and Co. sat patiently for the first half of the final lap of the four-corner rectangular course. They didn’t move to the front until they reached the top of the small uphill drag on the course, which peaked midway through the back side of the course between turns two and three.
Turns three and four in San Rafael are downhill, close together and incredibly fast, which makes it difficult to move up in the peloton. This left ISCorp positioned to swoop through turn three into the lead and coast through turn four onto the finishing straight to take a podium sweep.
When all else fails, move to plan B
After months of intense and aggressive racing, Clif Bar is finally reaping the benefits of its hard work. The squad has all but locked up the team classification for USA CRITS, but they want the overall individual title. The Mullervy brothers, Kevin and Connor (a.k.a. The Ginger Twins), sit fifth and seventh in the overall standings, respectively. San Rafael winner Zach Allison is third overall. Allison trails David “Gutt” Guttenplan (Support Clean Sport-Guttenplan Coaching) by just 187 points with three races remaining and he’s been closing fast throughout the last month.
Clif Bar was once again on the offensive in San Rafael. “That’s kind of our M.O.,” Allison said of the team’s strategy to consistently attack throughout the race. “We are always aggressive because we don’t have a true sprinter. Our best results are generally from a small break. We usually ride really aggressive and we get some exposure from that, but it’s usually just because we want to make it happen on our own terms. We want to race for a small break, as Kevin and Connor Mullervy are just amazing riders from a small break.”
At one point in the race in California, an eight-rider breakaway rolled off the front of the peloton with Allison, Kevin Mullervy, and Owen Gillott all in the move for Clif Bar. It seemed to be the perfect move to stay away and Clif Bar had a numerical advantage. However, it was not to be. The breakaway was reeled in leaving the stage set for a bunch sprint finish.
“Once we’re within 10 laps to go, it kind of all falls into place to lead me out if I’m still there,” Allison said of the squad’s tactics to contest the finale . “We try to just not take the front too early. Mike’s Bikes has a really good lead out, there was another California team that had some guys in the lead out, and so we really just tried to be patient knowing that we really only had three or four guys to work with for the lead out.
“The last lap ended up with those other teams lead-out riders sort of taking it over the top of the climb. Once we were there I knew that we had it because Connor just drilled it full-on down the backside. Then when you’re first or second through the last few turns it’s really hard to come around at 40 miles an hour.”
Allison and Co. had to switch their tactics late in the race after it became apparent their goal of forcing a breakaway was going to be unsuccessful. Luckily, they still pulled off the victory and inched that much closer to Guttenplan in the fight for the individual overall series title.
“We’re coming for you Dave, winky face,” Allison told CyclingTips with a laugh after capturing the San Rafael Sunset Criterium. “Everyone races together so much that we’re all really close friends and we all wish each other success. Then when we’re in the race were elbowing each other’s shoulders and head-butting.”
The USA CRITS series continues August 4 with the Littleton Twilight Criterium in Littleton, Colorado.
Men’s Top 5: 2018 USA CRITS San Rafael Sunset Criterium
1. Zack Allison (Clif Bar)
2. Justin Poulson (Cycle Sport-Specialized)
3. Andrew Goessling (Team Mike’s Bikes )
4. Tyler Locke (Support Clean Sport-Guttenplan Coaching)
5. Garrett Hankins (Team Mike’s Bikes )
Women’s Top 5: 2018 USA CRITS San Rafael Sunset Criterium
1. Sam Schneider (ISCorp)
2. Caroline Baur (ISCorp)
3. Josie Talbot (ISCorp)
4. Harriet Owen (Hagens Berman-Supermint)
5. Christina Gokey-Smith (Colavita-Bialetti)
2018 USA CRITS Pro Men Series Leaders (After 7 of 11 Events)
Colavita Overall Leader: David Guttenplan (Support Clean Sport-Guttenplan Coaching)
Cycling Tips p/b BikeReg Lap Leader: Kevin Mullervy (Team Clif Bar)
JL Velo Best Young Rider: Spencer Moavenzadeh (Butcher Box)
FSA Fastest Lap: Kevin Mullervy (Clif Bar)
Bandit Award: Frank Travieso (EDA-Evolution Cycling)
D1 Team Leader: Team Clif Bar
2018 USA CRITS Pro Women Series Leaders (After 7 of 11 Events)
Colavita Overall Leader: Tina Pic (ISCorp)
Cycling Tips p/b BikeReg Lap Leader: Rachel Langdon (Gray Goat Mobile-Bullseye Total Media)
JL Velo Best Young Rider: Caroline Baur (ISCorp)
FSA Fastest Lap: Samantha Schneider (ISCorp)
Bandit Award: Georgia Baker (Fearless Femme Racing)
D1 Team Leader: ISCorp
Remaining events in the 2018 USA CRITS series
August 4: Littleton Twilight Criterium – Littleton, Colorado
August 11: Benchmark Twilight Cycling Classic – West Chester, Pennsylvania
September 2: Giro della Montagna (Gateway Cup) – St. Louis, Missouri
September 15: Atlantic City Resurgence Fest Criterium – Atlantic City, New Jersey
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