The crowd at the finish line in downtown San Rafael helped Miles Hubbard celebrate his victory in Saturday’s Sunset Criterium by serenading him with a chorus of “Happy Birthday.”
Hubbard’s late move as he turned up Fourth Street pushed him past Tyler Locke for the win in the Men’s Pro 1/2 race to end a full day of bicycle racing in the criterium’s return after it was shelved for the past two years by the COVID pandemic.
“This win means so much,” said Hubbard, who turned 29 Saturday. “All the work we’ve put in this season as a team, all the training.”
The event was true to its name when the sun set behind the hills in time for the start of the Men’s Pro race.
Hubbard worked with Project ’74 teammates Sam Benedict and Kenny Tsuda to set a strong pace throughout the 70-minute race. Benedict (9th) and Tsuda (17th) were in the thick of the main field late in the race. During the final 10 laps, however, it was a five-man race with Hubbard pushing for the lead.
“There were lots of attacks on the hills when we’d see the field close up,” Hubbard said. “Finally, two-thirds of the way in, we got the breakaway with just the five of us.”
A crash just past the start/finish line with seven laps to go threatened to wreak havoc with the pace of the race, but the downed riders got right back up again before the leaders came back around again.
The top five riders distanced themselves from the rest of the field by 10 seconds during the final nine laps. Tim McBirney, who led the first 10 laps of the race, finished third, followed by Rex Roberts and Marin rider Gavin Hlady, who turned in an aggressive performance.
“This was an amazing race,” Hubbard said. “This is one of the best races on the West Coast. Twilight races always bring an extra level of excitement.”
The celebration of cycling began in the early afternoon with the first of 11 races. The event brought riders from across the United States and Canada to Marin.
Project ’74/Specialized Bicycles rider Helena Gilbert-Snyder flew into the Bay Area from Colorado on Friday morning, but showed few signs of jet lag as she won the Women’s Pro 1/2/3 race. Gilbert-Snyder powered ahead of Chloe Mauves in a neck-and neck finish.
“It’s nice to be able to race here in Specialized Bicycles’ home turf,” she said.
The wheel-to-wheel action in the Men’s Elite 3/4 race came down to a three-lap sprint after a caution for a crash near the corner of C and 5th streets. The race was halted for nearly 20 minutes with the riders staged at the start/finish line, waiting for the green light, with three laps left to go.
Alto Velo rider Chun-ting Liu powered to the victory ahead of Testing Alleyne and Maxwell Rye.
Clay Jones was among the 64 riders who did not finish the race. Jones was taken out in a crash, but walked away with a badge of honor in the form of road rash on his elbow and thigh.
State Bicycle Company riders took first place in the both the Men’s and Women’s Fixed Gear races. Arizona’s Scott Piercefield, 35, finished ahead of David Tolley in the men’s race and Wei Yan.
“We had a race strategy and it worked 100 percent. We let the race narrate itself and made the move near the end,” Piercefield said as he celebrated with teammate Celine Oberholzer after she won the women’s race.
“My teammates convinced me to try a fixed gear race and this sounded fun,” said Oberholzer, who plans to race in San Francisco’s Mission Criterium in September. “This race was a whole lot different than what I normally do. It was a great challenge.”
Oberholzer, a former professional ballet dancer, showed the same dedication and focus during the race that she brought to the stage in Chicago.
‘I had tunnel vision when I was a dancer and I just burnt myself out,” said Oberholzer, who suffered torn cartilage in her hips as a result of dancing. During her physical therapy, she turned to cycling and discovered a new passion. Her first big race was the famous Little 500 in Indiana.
The return of the Sunset Criterium was described as a “rebuilding year” by announcers, with a smaller field and smaller audience than in past years. The women’s races didn’t attract as many riders as hoped with many of the nation’s top riders competing in the Intelligentsia Cup in Lake Bluff, Ill., part of the American Criterium Cup schedule. Still, there were enough riders in San Rafael to produce an exciting day with thrills and spills.
The youngest competitive riders Saturday were battling near-80 degree temperatures in the afternoon hours, long before sunset. Ten-year-old Levi Fisher of CBRE Racing won the Junior men (9-10) race, followed by Lucian Nelson, 10, of Lamorinda Cycling Club.
Ayla Zavalla, 9, edged Ainsley Courter, 9, in the Junior Women (9-10) race, in which they were the only two entrants. To make it a family celebration, Lyndon Zavalla, 11, won the Junior Men (11-12) race ahead of Noah Hekkert and Corey Shen.
Aidan Zavalla also stood on the podium, with a second-place finish in the Junior Men’s 15-16 race, behind San Jose Bicycle Club teammate Kevin Li. Marin Academy’s Matisse Buckley placed fifth.
“This was really fun,” said Buckley, a member of Marin Academy’s mountain bike team making his road racing debut. “I learned I have a lot of work to do if I want to keep doing this.”
Buckley will be back in the saddle of his mountain bike for the Marin Century on August 6.
Other Junior winners were Uhllana Woods (Women 11-12), Maxwell Doyle (Men 13-14) and Cooper Downing (Men 17-18).
Powerhouse San Jose Bicycle Club saw Rikke Jeppersen and Andrea Tyson take the Women’s Masters 40 1/2/3 and Women’s 50 Masters 1/2/3 titles, respectively, in the first races.
Jeromy Cottell took first place in the Men’s 40-plus 1/2/3/4 ahead of 17 other cyclists who finished the race. Cottell was followed across the finish line by David Koesel of Monster Racing and Stephen Hofmann of Cognition Racing Road, respectively.
In the Men’s 50-plus 1/2/3/4, Michael Foley of Cognition Racing Road led Kyle Gleam of Peet’s Coffee Racing to the finish, with E-VOKE Racing’s Bart Clifford third.
In a two-man race for the Masters 60-plus 1/2/3/4 title, Kevin Metcalfe of Peet’s Coffee Racing held off Hayward rider Paul Penn.
In the Women’s Novice 3/4 race, a fast start by Alto Velo racing’s Gina Yuan, 25, was enough to hold off a hard-charging Chloe Mauves, 24, of SquadraSF and 17-year-old Elizabeth Fetter, the youngest woman in the field.
Marcie Palmer of Revolution Racing came through with an aggressive assault on the downtown streets to win the Women’s 35-plus 3/4 race. Lora Maes of Pen Velo Racing and Andrea Tyson of San Jose Bicycle Club finished second and third, respectively.
Dylan Fryer won the new Mountain Bike Criterium, ahead of Griffin Hoppin and Brad Wilhelm.