With all three stages of the 28th annual Tucson Bicycle Classic completed, San Diego native Janel Holcomb sported the yellow jersey and championship trophy in the pro women’s category.
She had company. Five of the top seven finishers, including Holcomb, are members of Team Optum.
“It was wonderful to be able to race with one another and get the season rolling in Tucson,” said Holcomb, who edged the field by 39 seconds; teammate and last year’s winner, Leah Kirchmann, took fourth. “It was a great race to be able to do that at.”
In the men’s pro category, Team Jamis/Hagens Berman saw similar success as substitute Gregory Brenes and teammate Ben Jacques-Maynes took first and second, with their overall times separated by less than a tenth of a second.
Holcomb, who won her only other TBC race in 2009, captured pole position after her first-place effort in Saturday’s road race in Sahuarita, the second of three stage races in Tucson’s own “mini Tour de France.”
The 36-year-old and teammate Denise Ramsden, from Vancouver, British Columbia, controlled the final three laps of the seven-lap, 5.6-mile circuit on Sunday, with Ramsden taking the first-place time bonus. Yet, she couldn’t catch Holcomb.
The two teammates were neck-and-neck at the end, both timing in at 1:42:47, but Holcomb said they missed out on the drama and celebration of a photo finish because they caught up and crossed the line with a previous group still on the circuit.
“At the end of the day, what matters is that the yellow jersey stays within the team,” Holcomb said. “It doesn’t matter who has it.”
Nearly 580 competitors made it out to Sunday’s final stage, a 5.6-mile loop starting and finishing next to the Pima Community College West Campus on Greasewood Road.
With 28 categories separating riders into different age, gender and skill categories, the field spanned from 11-year-olds to a biker who just entered his 80s.
Yet, it was the 25-year-old Brenes, from Costa Rica, who captured the men’s title. Brenes gained the slight advantage over Jacques-Maynes in the TBC’s first stage, a 3.2-mile time trial on the Old Tucson/McCain Loop, and never let up.
On Sunday, Brenes stayed tightly in the pack of racers, finishing 10th in the circuit race. The group of racers was so tight, though, that Brenes didn’t lose any ground to his closest competition, with a huge chunk of the men clocking in at 1:50:23.
Tucson’s Travis McCabe, last year’s runner-up, made a slight jump with his time bonus on Sunday, but still finished fourth overall.
Third-place finisher Mac Cassin, a 22-year-old student at the University of Colorado, said the final lap of the men’s nine-lap, 50-mile circuit was “really hectic” as 70-plus riders were amped up for a sprint finish, jostling for position.
Cassin said he was able to avoid several crashes during the lap, and his teammates from GS CIAO, Josh Yeaton and Emerson Oronte, “rocketed” into a first- and second-place finishes. Neither, though, could make enough of a dent in Brenes’ lead.
“It is frustrating and I’ve had it happen before,” Cassin said about finishing less than 2 seconds behind Brenes. “I’ve been on both ends of it. You just learn to take it in stride.”