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By Bryan Jew, VeloNews Senior Writer
While the media focus in San Francisco over the weekend focused on Lance Armstrong and the inaugural San Francisco Grand Prix, most of the major U.S. men’s teams were on hand in San Rafael the day before, to contest the San Rafael Criterium and fight for a piece of the $10,000 prize list. And while all the sprinters were licking their chops for what looked to be a field sprint finish, Saturn’s Mark McCormack left them all hungry as he pulled off a surprise win on the final lap.
After a day of sparring among Mercury, 7UP-Colorado Cyclist, Saturn and Navigators, the field was still all together for the closing laps of the 90-minute race on the streets of downtown San Rafael, California. While Mercury put in a show of force at the front, hoping to set up Derek Bouchard-Hall, a pair of criterium specialists, Jonas Carney (Prime Alliance) and Graeme Miller (NetZero), were lurking just behind, ready to pounce the Mercury train on the final lap.
Instead, McCormack surprised them all, coming from about 15 riders back and sprinting up the left side of the road past the start/finish line with one lap to go, flying past everyone onto the hill between turns No. 1 and 2.
“It was perfect,” he said. “I just came with so much momentum.”
McCormack shot past as Miller, Carney and the Mercurys just watched. “I saw four guys just look at me,” he said, “and I thought, ‘This is just beautiful.’”
Once he crested the short climb out front, all he had to do was hold on for the final two turns, and he crossed well ahead of Carney, who beat out Miller in the sprint for second.
After the race, even a non-climber like Carney was looking forward to Sunday’s race in the streets of San Francisco. “San Francisco is the coolest city in the country, I think,” he said. “It’s about time we had a great race in San Francisco.”
Carney didn’t have high hopes for himself on Sunday, but like the thousands of spectators expected, he just planned on watching the fun on the 10-mile circuit with two brutal climbs. “It’s gonna be sick,” he said. “By the halfway point, it’s just gonna be a mess.”
1. Mark McCormack, Saturn; 2. Jonas Carney, Prime Alliance; 3. Graeme Miller, NetZero; 4. Soren Petersen, Saturn; 5. Derek Bouchard-Hall, Mercury; 6. John Lieswyn, 7UP-Colorado Cyclist; 7. Oleg Grichkine, Navigators; 8. Siro Camponogara, Navigators; 9. Dave McCook, 7UP-Colorado Cyclist; 10. Franky Van Haesebroucke, Navigators.