Bonsall, CA – April 14, 2012: The San Luis Rey Road Race has seen a significant course change in recent years, but the final three-mile climb up West Lilac to Norman Sullivan Middle School still marks the finish of the long-running Southern California classic. At an average grade of just 2.5 percent, the ascent is nothing to write home about unless you’re Geoffrey Curran (Surf City Cyclery/Sterling BMW) or Phillip Tintsman (Monster Media/SC Velo).
The pair each came away from the 25th annual event with impressive wins in their respective races. Curran’s win over the Mens Pro/1/2 field came out of an approximate 90-mile, 10-man breakaway that was cut down to just three survivors as it headed into the final 14.7 mile lap. Meanwhile, Tintsman’s victory in the Masters Men 35+ race was the result of a last lap attack – just one of many strategically planned moves on the day made by his Monster Media squad. Although the two premier races went down in completely different manners, it was the rude, last lap upward tilt of West Lilac that separated first from second at San Luis Rey yet again.
At 1:00pm, when the Pro/1/2 field started its seven lap, 103 mile race, wind was on everyone’s mind. Howling from the west, Mother Nature offered a strong tailwind going up West Lilac, but on the lower and flatter parts of the out-and-back style race course, violent gusts swept through the valley. Despite the conditions, the attacks started as early as the three-mile mark where West Lilac bottoms out and turns left at Camino del Rey.
None of the first-lap moves turned out to be serious until Austin Carroll (Full Circle Cycling) attacked a short-lived break that he was actually a part of. At that exact moment, the rest of his comrades were being brought back by the field, proving Carroll’s timing to be just right. In the scramble, the 25-year old was then joined by nine new comrades, the biggest threats including Curran, Rudy Napolitano (Time Factory Team), Lucas Binder (Spy-Swami’s), and Anthony Canevari (Cash Call). With less than a lap in the books the gap between the break and chasers began to grow. The first of two crucial selections had already been made.
The early escapers rode lap after lap, well into the race without much bother from the field of chasers, however Napolitano, was himself bothered by the rate at which his breakaway companions were moving. “Our break had been loosing steam since lap five due to some riders skipping pulls and interrupting the flow,” said Napolitano. “On the way up the climb heading into the bell lap, I went pretty hard hoping to drop them and bring the strongest guys with me.”
Napolitano did just that, taking only Curran and Binder with him. The others did not fair as well, although Carroll and Canevari still had enough in each of their tanks to give chase to the now three-man leading group, which according to Napolitano was more of a two-man group.
“For the entire last lap, Binder sat on ‘too tired’ to contribute, but he was miraculously able to match every acceleration made by Geoffrey (Curran) and myself,” said Napolitano. “On the final climb Geoffrey and I took turns attacking, hoping to eliminate Binder and have an honest race to the finish. Finally, with a K to go, Geoffrey put in an attack that opened a gap that I could not close, and he rode in solo to the finish.”
Thirty-eight year old Napolitano followed 17-year old Curran across the line. Binder took an uncontested third, but the race for fourth between Carroll and Canevari came down to the wire. “Going up the climb on the last lap, Canevari attacked with about 200 meters to go,” said Carroll. “I was able to respond and came around him to take fourth.”
After the race, an impressed Napolitano added, “Watch for Geoffrey to continue winning this season and have a successful career down the road. The kid is the real thing.”
Masters 35+ (Categories 1-4)
Leaving the start/finish line just five minutes after the Mens Pro/1/2 field, and slated to ride five laps, the Masters 35+ event started with an immediate solo attempt by Randall Coxworth (Monster Media/SC Velo). Coxworth’s early attack was just the first of the many that were launched by various members of his team throughout the 74 mile race.
When the solo breakaway was caught, the race was well into the second lap, and not long after rejoining the field, Coxworth’s teammate, Chris DeMarchi was the next to try his luck at escaping. Joining DeMarchi was Jon Stark (CA Pools/CFS Mortgage) and James Pearce (Allegiant Airlines).
“I decided to give it everything I had and the other two guys were all in too,” said DeMarchi. “Down in the valley the three of us rode like a machine. Nobody skipped a pull and nobody was talking.”
By the time the threesome reached the bottom of the West Lilac climb at the end of the third lap, their advantage over the field of chasers had grown to nearly two minutes. DeMarchi set a hard tempo to the top in order to increase their lead, but it turned out to be too much for Pearce. “He was riding so hard in the valley for so long, he just pushed the limit a bit much,” said DeMarchi about his breakaway partner. “Initially we tried to slow and let him rejoin us, but after a while we couldn’t wait. It was a bummer because I knew when the field saw him coming back to them; they’d be more motivated to start chasing.”
The motivated chasing actually started before Pearce became detached from DeMarchi and Stark. Craig Turner (Team Redlands), Michael Easter (Time Factory Team), and Michael Johnson (Breakaway from Cancer) did the lion’s share of the chasing, with occasional help from members of Surf City Cyclery. Meanwhile, Monster Media thwarted the various attempts of riders trying to bridge from the field up to the breakaway.
When DeMarchi and Stark hit the bottom of the climb in the closing miles of lap four, their advantage was down to just 50 seconds. “I knew my day was done and that I had done my job because we only had one lap left to go and my teammates would be hitting the wind for the first time,” explained DeMarchi. “Not to mention, the other race favorites had been wasting themselves for the last few laps chasing Stark and me.”
At the start of the race, the main field was approximately 70 strong, but by the fifth and final lap, it had shrunken to a mere 30, mostly due to blistering trips up West Lilac. A near third of the survivors were members of Monster Media, so when DeMarchi and Stark were finally caught in the early stages of the bell lap, the real fireworks began. In pairs of two, Monster Media launched multiple attacks while everyone else did their best to cover them, one after another.
With the scale tipped in Monster Media’s favor, it was only a matter of time before one of the attacks stuck. About three kilometers from the final turn-around on Camino del Rey, Coxworth was at it again, initiating a move that was joined by eventual winner, Tintsman, Mark Fluss (Velo LaGrange), and Time Factory Team’s Easter.
“Before I knew it, we had 15 seconds on the field,” said Tintsman. “Once that was established I told Randall (Coxworth) to just get me to the bottom of the climb. I knew that Easter was probably tired from chasing all day and he was the biggest threat in our group.”
Ironically, the race came to a close in nearly the same manner it opened – Coxworth with his head down cutting through the wind. The Monster Media strongman, Fluss, and Easter rode through the swirling valley to the base of West Lilac with Tintsman, the closer, in tow.
Giving all he could for this teammate, Coxworth peeled off the front, setting up Tintsman to ride away from Easter and Fluss. Despite all his chase efforts earlier in the race, Easter was still strong enough to take second, out-riding Fluss to the finish line. An impressive Coxworth finished fourth, while his Monster Media teammate, Chris McDonald escaped from the dwindled field to solo up West Lilac for fifth.