By VeloNews Interactive
The two top teams from last year’s National Racing Calendar kicked off the 2001 NRC season with impressive sweeps at the McLane Pacific Cycling Classic in Merced over the weekend. On the men’s side, Australian Baden Cooke took both the road race and criterium for Mercury-Viatel, while Ina Teutenberg and Lyne Bessette took one win apiece for the Saturn women’s team.
The weekend began with the Downtown Grand Prix on Saturday. With 19 laps remaining in the 45-lap, 36-mile women’s race, a group of seven escaped on the fast, eight-turn, 0.8-mile circuit. Teutenberg made an attempt at a solo break, but was eventually reeled in by the group which included riders from 800.com, AutoTrader’s Tina Mayolo and Californian Laura Charameda. In the group sprint, Teutenberg edged Mayolo, with Charameda third.
In the men’s criterium, it was a familiar story, as Mercury-Viatel did its best to keep the race intact, and then set up its train late in the race to deliver its sprinters to the line. Controlling the front of the pack in the closing laps, Mercury-Viatel delivered Cooke and Gord Fraser to the final corner in first and second place, and they would go on to finish one-two, with Saturn’s Ivan Dominguez finishing third.
The following day, the Foothills Road Race was contested in high winds and rain, but the final result was the same with Mercury winning the men’s race and Saturn the women’s.
In the women’s race, Teutenberg and Bessette escaped on the first of three 24-mile circuits, along with 800.com’s Katrina Berger. The two Saturns eventually dropped Berger and rode off to the finish, Bessette first, Teutenberg second. Berger, meanwhile, rode an impressive solo race to hold off a chase group of four and finished the day in third.
The men’s race turned into a Mercury-Saturn battle, with the numbers heavily in favor of Mercury. Early in the race, the Mercury-Viatel squad strung the field out with a hard tempo, and the race eventually shook out to a 10-man break, with three Saturn riders and seven Mercurys. Saturn tried to play it smart, first letting the Mercury riders do the bulk of the work early, and then launching attacks in the final 10 miles to try to whittle down the group. The strategy nearly worked, as the final group of six included three from each team – Cooke, Jamie Drew and Chris Wherry from Mercury, and Harm Jansen and Frank and Mark McCormack from Saturn. However, at the finish, Cooke made it two wins for the weekend, easily handling the sprint and beating Jansen to the line.
Downtown Grand Prix
Women: 1. Ina Teutenberg (G), Saturn; 2. Tina Mayolo, AutoTrader.com; 3. Laura Charameda.
Men: 1. Baden Cooke (Aus), Mercury-Viatel; 2. Gord Fraser (Can), Mercury-Viatel; 3. Ivan Dominguez (Cub), Saturn.
Foothills Road Race
Women: 1. Lyne Bessette (Can), Saturn; 2. Teutenberg; 3. Katrina Berger, 800.com.
Men: 1. Cooke; 2. Harm Jansen (Nl), Saturn; 3. Jamie Drew (Aus), Mercury-Viatel; 4. Mark McCormack, Saturn; 5. Chris Wherry, Mercury-Viatel.