A Weekend at West Branch

It was an exciting weekend of racing in West Branch, with a ton of great performances across all categories.

Andrea Merlotti wins cat. 4 crit.
The racing began on Saturday, with a 0.95-mile criterium course around an undeveloped subdivision. Road conditions were perfect, with smooth surfaces and wide runoff areas. In the morning we had our men’s category 4 and 5, with Rob Shoemaker and Matt Raezler respectively coming up with solid mid-pack finishes after putting in work to try to control the breakaway. It’s tough out there without teammates! (Check out Rob's weekend race report.)

The women followed that up with amazing performances, with Andrea Merlotti taking the group sprint from the women’s 4 field on the hoods! Sarah Seylee followed that up with a master’s class in timing in the women’s 1/2/3 field, taking a bike length out of her competitors in a long, tough sprint. In the men’s 35+, Lucas Wall flew the AAVC colors alone as he battled to control a small but loaded field. As the laps ticked down and approached the final sprint, you could see him picking his way up to the front, and with 200m left he lunged down the left side of the road, but was beaten on the line by less than half a wheel. Next time Lucas!

The last race of the day for the AAVC was the men’s category 3 race, the only one where we fielded more than one rider. Stephen Doll and Tyler Carlton were confident their sprint skills combined would yield an easy victory. After sitting on the back for most of the race, with about a lap to go Tyler moved into position and started leading Stephen out for the line. Everything was going smoothly until the final corner, where a rider being lapped made a frantic move to the outside and put Stephen off the side of the road. Without his sprinter on his wheel, Tyler decided to just win the race himself! Hugely impressive, considering he had been leading the field for almost a kilometer already! Stephen made up a lot of ground in the final 100m and managed to get third. (Check out Tyler's race report.)

Sarah Seelye (Top) and Tyler Carlton/Stephen Doll (Bottom)
sprinting to the finish of the Crit

Sunday’s road race course was an entirely different affair, with an insane amount of climbing on the menu. The day started off cold but warmed up considerably, and with the strong, 20+ mph crosswinds this was truly a day for the hard men (and women!). In the men’s category 5 field we had a number of talented riders, with Matt Raezler, Ben Rothacker, Hani Habra, and Mike Kines all feeling the bite of the famous final climb’s 5% gradient.

In the men’s 4 we had Tyler Trask, Rob Shoemaker, Harvey Elliott, Mick Jones, Doug Plowman, and Jared Salinger – quite a stacked deck. From the start four AAVC riders took the lead and made it painful for the pack hoping to tire them out before the big climb. About two miles from the main climb a CMS rider attacked and successfully broke from the pack. Sitting in on the chase, Harvey launched a counter-attack on the next climb and got a clean separation from the pack. The hope was to tire the best riders while Tyler, Doug, and Mick sat back in position to launch the next attack. Unfortunately the big climb proved to be too much and Harvey was caught when no one had the energy left to strike. Doug was at the front of the pack, but flatted at the top of the climb. Mick and Tyler were drained from earlier efforts and racing the day before. Moving on to plan B: Tyler, Jared and Harvey worked hard to keep the pace high on the backside of the course. When it came to the final climb, Harvey was able to finish in the top 5 with Tyler, Rob, and Mick in hot pursuit.

Harvey Elliott (5th) in Cat 4 podium
In the Women's races,  Andrea barely missed the podium by half a wheel as she attempted to muscle out her last bit of energy, finishing 4th in the 4’s and Sarah, who claims she isn’t a hill person, managed to pull out an outstanding 5th place finish in the 3’s.

In the Men’s cat 3 we had perhaps our best chance at victory, with Danny Soltan leading Kevin Juntunen, Stephen Doll, and Colin Herbert. The plan was for Stephen to go with the early break to take the pressure off AAVC to chase, but that backfired when the field split into shards and the break actually stuck. Danny had to chase alone, but despite his amazing climbing abilities, he never caught them. Stephen dropped his chain and fell back from the break, but managed to hang on for 3rd. Danny finished 4th just seconds behind him. (Check out Colin's race report.)

While I don’t know their full stories, I also wanted to mention that we also had Ed Koster, Gahl Berkooz, David Fanslow (taking 4th), Winston Benedict, and Rich Stark racing in the Masters categories. Great job guys!
Stephen Doll followed by Danny Soltan on the final climb!
Stephen Doll (3rd) and Danny Soltan (4th) in Cat 3 podium