Merco Cycling Classic in Merced, CA. Merco, the traditional Southern California early season opener, is a classic American cycling event celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
Merco Cycling Classic
by Alison Tetrick
Timing is everything. That is so true, especially when competing in a
timed stage race. Suddenly, the world revolves around time, as if
it didn’t before.
Speaking of time, this is the time of year that our race bags become
meticulously packed again and we begin spending more time than we ever
thought possible in the Central Valley. The almond blossoms are
blooming, the grass is turning green, and the bike racing is hot on
the rolling country roads of Merced. Throw in an air mattress and
some compost piles, and it doesn’t get any better than this. The good
thing about early season racing is that you can remind yourself of all
the items that should be habitual in your preparation, and also a
great reminder to your legs what they are supposed to be trained for
this. It’s bike racing time! Are you ready? Doesn’t matter. It’s time. [Read more…]
By Dion Smith (Full Circle Cycling)
The 4th and final stage of the Merco Cycling Classic was set to be a big day with 120 miles to be covered. The course, a 24-mile circuit that we had to complete 5 times, was rolling and the roads were rough, with a lot of uneven surfaces and potholes. The first 2 laps were crazy fast and aggressive, with most of the field trying to get in the break. I think we covered 60km in the first hour and 15 minutes. I tried having a few goes off the front, but nothing really stuck, which was OK because my legs didn’t feel too great, so I decided to sit in and stay out of trouble.
The main break of the day finally escaped at the beginning of the 3rd lap. It included 6 or so guys, but lasted just under a lap before the peloton brought them back. Two more riders got away with just under 2 laps to go and established a sizeable gap. I knew they wouldn’t have a chance to last, as Bissell was in control and setting a steady tempo.
With a lap to go, things started to heat up. Bissell lifted the pace and everyone started fighting for a good position near the front. By then, my legs had opened up and started to feel good. I positioned myself in the top 20 so there was less chance of getting into trouble and it was easier to save some energy for the finale. The peloton caught the 2 breakaway riders with half a lap remaining and there was no chance of anyone else getting away. It was going to come down to a bunch kick.
I wouldn’t call myself a pure sprinter, but whenever I get the chance I will definitely give it a crack. I knew there were a lot of stronger and faster guys in the bunch, so I had to be smart and follow the right wheels. The final 2k was technical and also slightly uphill, so it suited me more than a dead-flat sprint. I managed to follow some good lines and the right wheels, and I also made sure I didn’t get “boxed in.”
With 400m to go, I found myself 2nd wheel, which couldn’t have worked out better. It was a headwind sprint, so I made sure I didn’t go too early. With just over 200m to go, I kicked and gave it everything, hoping for the best. There were 2 other riders on either side of me and all 3 of us lunged for the line. About 5 minutes after finishing the stage, I heard I had won by a tyre’s width. That was good enough for me and I couldn’t have been happier, especially on my birthday!
I really enjoyed the Merco Cycling Classic, so thank you to all the people that made it happen. I would also like to thank Full Circle Cycling, our mechanic Brian, and Paige for the massages and preparing our race food and bottles.
Merced Cycling Classic Hilltop Ranch Road Race
by Adam Switters (Mike’s Bike)
This was probably my 8th or 9th time doing this road race. I’ve it in the juniors, the 2’s, and been top 10 in the pro race. I like to think I had a pretty good idea how the road race was going to play out: break goes on the first lap, leader’s team rides tempo, big pack sprint. Turns out that I was wrong…way wrong.
Team Mike’s Bikes p/b Incase had been having an up and down race. On the first stage, our sprinter and I had been caught out in the 2 crashes within the final 3km, but we still put 2 guys in the top 20. We managed to put me and Roman Kilun in the top 25 of the TT (not good, but not bad either), and we finished just off the podium with a 4th in the criterium. [Read more…]
by Kristabel Doebel-Hickok
I overheard a racer in Sunday’s field say something like, “there is no better way to learn than to be thrown into the fire.” That pretty much sums up why I was at the Merco Classic Stage Race. It was my first stage race, individual TT, and experience beyond the local SoCal races.
Stage 1 was the MID road race, which sounded the least daunting of the 4 stages; except that it would be my first glimmer of higher level of competition. I started at the back so I could just watch what happens for a while. Unfortunately, I found that moving up in such a huge field (60+ racers) is not easy and it’s hard to really follow what’s going on from the very back. I spent most of the race moving up a bit by riding on the outside of the pack and then giving up wheel after wheel to return to the back of the pack on the relatively flat sections and trying to climb hard on the steep section although the super rough road made that quite the challenge. I held my own in the first main pack after the break, but felt a bit lost and uncertain of my role among such loaded teams and constant shuffling of wheels. I finished 16th, 3’25” behind the leader. [Read more…]
by Tayler Wiles
Merco was the first race with my new team (Specialized-lululemon) and it was a pretty incredible start. I was really happy to see the women’s 4-day stage race return with the MID road race as stage 1. Two years ago, this was my very first race as a professional. This year, I was able to cross the finish line 1st, with teammate Evelyn Stevens taking 2nd, and it was some of the most fun I’ve ever had racing my bike.
We wanted to get Evie and I in a break, which happened on lap 2 as Alison Powers went hard up the climb to get the QOM points and caused a split. We got a break of 6 rolling with Evie, Andrea Dvorak, Alison Powers, Lauren Hall, and me. The last time up the climb, Evie attacked and got a good gap. Powers chased her and I just sat tight on her wheel. After the descent, I looked back and noticed it was just Powers and me. We’d lost the rest of the girls in the break. I sat on Powers until we were about 30 feet from Evie, and then I attacked Powers on a small kicker and bridged to Evie. Then came the fun part, as the two of us time trialed to the finish. [Read more…]
It was a great day to watch the Downtown Merco Criterium . We saw Ken Hanson (Optum/KB) win the sprint in the Men’s Pro Field. Then we got to watch Ina-Yoko Teutenberg out sprint the ladies to be victorious. The Masters race did not let us down as Kayle LeoGrande (MMRI) out sprinted the field to win the Master 35+ race.
More Sprint Videos are on the way!
[youtube width=”560″ height=”315″]http://youtu.be/Kf7yDWh1wpw[/youtube]
The Almond Blossom Road Race was a different kind of a day for us. I got the privilege and honor to drive the CashCall peloton car in the caravan for support of the riders. The director had to leave on an emergency, so I put Danny Munson in the front seat for 3 laps as we chased the Pro peloton around. It is really hard to get quality images from the position you find yourself in most of the day. Some how Danny still pulled off some amazing images. Have a look.
The Classic consists of the Merced Irrigation District Road Race, an Individual Time Trial, the Downtown Grand Prix, and theHilltop Ranch Road Race.