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Obelleiro Makes Comeback Statement at Madera

Contributors: Tim Westmore (http://www.argentumimago.com)
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The weather was perfect for the opening time trial.

jason_brasel_madera
Jason Brasel in the Elite 4 criterium stage of the Madera Stage Race

First a little background about Aaron Obelleiro. Due a busy schedule of work and family, Aaron hadn’t raced since 2009 and last March he had hip surgery followed by 5 months of rehab. Since then he has been working to make 2012 his comeback year and the classic Madera Stage Race was going to be his opening performance.

Competing with the Elite 3s, the morning weather was perfect for the opening time trial. Aaron’s goal was to match last year’s winning time of 22:47 for the 10-mile course. He went off hard and settled in trying to get his watts down a bit. He felt he was going out too hard, but kept pushing. With 3 miles to go he thought that he went out too hard for sure. 

“I kept thinking, DIG DEEP DIG DEEP!”  

He came around the final turn and gave it all he had over the final 800 meters. 

After some anxious waiting, the final results were posted. Not only did Aaron win the TT, but he did so with a scorching 21:40. However, there was little time to celebrate before lining up for the criterium, knowing that the target was on his back now.

The 60 minute criterium was not too exciting, if you do not consider avoiding a crash with a flying bicycle exciting. Aaron finished safely and still leading in the GC.

The following morning, Aaron awoke feeling tired. In addition to the famed “cobbles” of the Daulton Road Race, the weather was not going to be so pleasant either with blustering winds. From the start the pace was high but Aaron hung in at the front marking the wheel of the second

mike_pugh_madera
Mike Pugh leads the pack through a turn in the Men’s 45+ 1/2/3 race

place GC rider, who along with a few others attacked while Aaron stayed with them. On the second lap, Aaron was in the break with 8 others, including DBCRT teammate Luciano Sponza who kept Aaron.

The tempo eased heading into lap 3, but as they entered the “cobbles” the second place GC rider attacked. Aaron thought, "There is no way that he is going to be able to stay away by himself in this wind.” So, he sat in and watched the #3 in GC pull them through the rough section. 

The final time through the feed zone, a group of 3 took off. Concerned that they may be able to stay away, Aaron bridged up to them. The chase group of 4 closed the 1 minute gap easily and dropped the second place GC rider.

Just as Aaron was feeling confident in his chances to maintain the GC lead, “POP!” goes his rear tire. He quickly starts to change the tube as the sag car pulls up with a spare wheel. As Aaron is making the exchange, the dropped second place GC rider went by and the panic set in. Aaron jumped on his bike and dug hard catching and passing his competitor. Another rider bridged up and beat Aaron to the line, but finishing the road race in 5th he thought that he had maintained his 1st place standing in the GC. Unfortunately, the wheel change took more time than he thought and allowed the 3 in the lead group to finish 1:56 in front of him, which moved Aaron into 3rd in the final GC standings. 

Although disappointed to miss out on the GC win due to the bad luck of a puncture, overall Aaron was happy with his comeback so far and hopes that to keep riding strong for DBC Race Team, especially with his Elite 3 teammates Michael Claudio, Luciano Sponza, and Mark Fiori, who joined him in Madera.

The DBC Race Team scored another podium finish in the Elite 4 Men’s race as well. Riding without any teammates, Jason Brasel started with a rare appearance in a criterium. Despite missing the final move, Jason finished strong in 15th. 

Following the criterium. Jason road a great TT, getting up to speed and keeping a good steady pace.  He ramped it up for the last 2k and set a personal best on the course finishing 8th.

fred_schnaars_madera
Fred Schnaars gives chase also in the Men’s 45+ 1/2/3 race

Like all the races on Sunday, the Elite 4 road race was a sufferfest. The first lap was fast and chaotic with attacking through the cobbles and finishing rollers. Going through the feed zone half the field had been shed but nobody seemed to know the race situation. The moto-ref rolled up next to inform the group that two were off the front and had over a minute gap. That lit a fire in the field and the pace across the cobbles became infernal. As they hit the rollers Jason was already at his limit . . . and pop, off the back he went. But he managed to keep the group in sight through the rollers and TT back to the group, which had caught the 2-man break. 

After some recovery, Jason found himself out of the saddle and putting in a dig in the middle of the cobbled section. By the time he looked back he had a huge gap and no one was chasing. He put his head down going for the win.

Alas, he didn't win, but was off the front for about 10 miles and had a 45 second lead at one point. By the time they got to rollers, Jason was cooked and 9 riders got away through the rollers, Jason finishing 10th and losing 30 seconds to the lead group. 

But the big news was that many of the riders ahead of Jason in the GC got popped off the back in the road race moving him up from 8th to 3rd in GC, which came with a $5 prize and one blue Velo-Promo t-shirt.

Although not placing anyone as highly, the Masters 45+ 1/2/3 squad was well represented. Despite missing Scott Wienker, their highest placing teammate from last year, due to a separated AC joint and Mike Pugh suffering from severe jet lag after a 24 hour trip from Alaska, the squad of 7 demonstrated its typical selflessness and teamwork.

Starting with the criterium, the team of Chris Bowlus, Mike Pugh, Fred Schnaars, Rod Fernandez, Todd Marshall, John Licatesi, and Shawn Miller remained out of harms way and finished with the same time as the field. 

After a 2 hour break the E45s headed out to the TT course, where the winds had begun blowing from the northwest. One mile into the TT, after some of the bumpier road, Chris noticed that his arms were no long parallel with the ground. The aerobars had slipped and were now pointing down at about 30 degrees. He tried to pull up on the bars but had no luck in moving them. Taking the 1st right turn a little gingerly, he gave the bars another good pull and got them in a semi-comfortable position. That lasted another 800 meters until there were more bumps. After struggling with the bars and the final headwind, he was pleasantly surprised to be sitting 11th, just 0.4 seconds out of 10th. 

With an added lap added to the road race this year, the first pass through the "cobbles" and rollers wasn't too intense and most of the group stayed attached. The second time through the cobbles, the pace ramped up and people were guttered in the cross wind. As gaps developed, Chris got on Shawn Miller's wheel as he was following Mike Pugh who closed gaps. Shawn hit one of the ever-present holes and pulled out of line thinking he had damaged his wheel or bike. Seconds later Mike hit a hole and punctured. Chris struggled to maintain contact with the lead group but managed.

Behind him, the typical DBC RT teamwork was on display. By the time Mike had removed his front wheel and let it hit the ground, Todd Marshall was standing there with his Zipp 404 already off his bike and a smile. Mike chased, going by a dozen guys on the rollers until he found Fred Schnaars who was waiting to pace Mike back to the main field, which they did 5 miles later.

There was further attrition the third time through the cobbles and roller sections. Mike and Chris were in a chase group trying to catch a lead group of 10. Mike was spent from his prior effort and after several strong pulls drifted back. Chris and a group of two others worked together to close the gap only for the lead group to surge again and pop the 3 out the back again. They continued to work together picking others who were dropped on the 4th time through the cobbles.

In the end Chris finished 16th in the RR and managed 13th in the final GC standings with Mike at 16th in GC.

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