Back with a bang: Classic finds success

By Andrea Camarena

By 8 a.m., the rain paused and the roads cleared as cyclists began a rigorous trek through one of California's most beautiful time trial courses. On Saturday, March 18, the City of Exeter was primped and ready for the return of the Quad Knopf Sequoia Cycling Classic.

Rocky Hill Road and Yokohl Valley Road were packed with cyclists racing the clock in the Classic's Exeter Time Trial. The 30K course started at Exeter Union High School and guided riders over Rocky Hill into Yokohl Valley, to the Dynamite Shack and back.

Professional cyclists, beginners and recreational riders shared the road on the challenging trail that forced cyclists to climb over Rocky Hill at both the start and finish of the ride.

Although the crowd of spectators was thin, the cyclists, at every level were happy to welcome the return of two-day classic that also featured the Visalia Criterium on Sunday, March 19.

The featured Time Trials were the mens and womens professional heats. Pro Cyclists from across the country and around the world visited the small town classic as one of the biggest early-season events of the season.

Among the professional cyclists, the Time Trial course is hands down one of the most beautiful courses on their schedules this season.

&#8220This is our first time in this area,” Kiersten Robbins of Victory Brewing Pro Cycling said. &#8220There are a lot of Time Trials on the highway. But this kind of felt like we were in England. The hill adds more variety and a good mix.”

&#8220It's a cool course, it's beautiful and fun,” said Sima Trapp of Colavita Cyling. Trapp had her first race ever at the Sequoia Cycling Classic years ago. Her teammate, Sarah Tollitson, also competed in the Classic several years ago and took 12th on the Time Trial. This year, Tollitson took third.

Other returning cyclists to the event included Team Monex Manager, Roberto Gaggioli of Italy. He won the men's pro Time Trial event in 1994 and returned with six competing cyclists this year.

&#8220I saw the race was coming back and I wanted to bring the team because the people are nice, and because of the course and Rocky Hill,” Gaggioli said. Gaggioli has 207 pro wins under his belt and was the winningest pro cyclist in the country when he retired at the end of the 2005 season.

The Women's pro race featured cyclists from more than six states and from as far as Quebec, Canada. Members of Touchstone Climbing, Colavita, SLO Nexuz and the Olympic Club were represented in the second to last race of the day.

The women's pro race fielded 21 cyclists and was the biggest event of the weekend. For the procyclists, the big female turnout is simple. Director of the QK Cylcing Classic, Mark Purnell made a conscious decision to match the women and men's prize money.

&#8220We're excited to support a race that's so supportive of women,” said Sarah Tollitson of Colavita Cycling. &#8220Equal money for equal pain.”

&#8220What's special about this is that the prizes are the same for men and women,” said Victory Brewing's Kate Sherwin. &#8220It motivates women to get into the sport.”

The big winner of the weekend for the women's events was Victory Brewing Cycling Team whose top time trial rider, Leigh Hobson of Cambridge, Conn. posted the fastest time, 51:16.

Beverley Harper of Touchstone took second place with a time of 52:11. In third place, Sarah Tillotson of Colavita finished the time trial in 52:22.

Fourth place went to Chrissy Ruiter of Victory Brewing scoring a time of 52:34.

The last riders to take on the course were the Men's Professional Cyclists and Target Training came out as the time trial leaders. In first place, Ryan Blickem of Las Cruces, NM finished in 45:05.

Second Place went to Kodak Gallery's Ben Jacques -Mayn of San Jose. He placed with a time of 45:13.

Third through sixth places went to four members of Target Training. Finishing in 45:56, Alejandro Acton of New York, NY took third while Wes Hartman of Council Bluffs, Iowa took fourth in 46:30.

Members of California Giant, Team Spine, Team Monex and Pacific State Bank also took on the team time trial course with a total of 19 Cat 1 Pro entries.

Semi pro and recreational events

In the Cat 2 race, Brian Bosch of Central Valley Cycling took first place with a time of 49:13. Jonathan Eropkin, CVC, finished in 54:48 for second place.

The big winner of the Cat 3 event was Visalia's Joshua Gilbert in 53:48.

Madera's John Barry, of Central Valley Cycling, took first in the Cat 4 event with a finish time of 53:27.

In the Cat 5 time trial, Joey Galloway of Trisport won first place with a time of 53:47. Among 17 cyclists in the field, Clark McLennan of Cal Giant Cycling took second place in 55:18. Out of Morgan Hill and representing the San Jose Bicycle Club, Eric Burgener took third in 55:39.

Marco Hellmen won the Masters event. From Team Frollock, the Kentield native posted a speedy 45:05.

In second place, Frollock teammate, Robert Anderson finished in 48:54.

In the only non-pro, women's event, Exeter's own Tina Landry took first place with a time of 1:00:50.

Monique Snieder of Visalia took second with a time of 1:05.23. Melissa Cafiero of Pleasenton took third in 1:07:57. And with a persevering sixth place finish, Exeter's Meleana Harke, a beginning rider, finished in 2:13:42.

In it's rebuilding year, the Classic was not sanctioned by the NRC.

&#8220NRC races are our main focus,” said Director of Team Colavita, Jim Williams. &#8220So hopefully, we can be a part of this next year and earn points for NRC.”

Purnell is already planning for next year's Classic and has every intention of putting the Classic on the National Racing Circuit.

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