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By Karen Kefauver – Sentinel correspondent
May 14, 2010
Link to Sentinel article

Cycling Tour of CaliforniaA common misconception about bicycle racing is that it’s an individual sport.

While it’s true that in a competitive event, each cyclist’s performance counts, it’s ultimately the effort of the team
that helps propel the winner across the finish line — thereby making it very much a team sport.

“Team camaraderie is key to high-level cycling performance,” said Ben Jacques-Maynes of Watsonville, a pro cyclist with 10 years experience and a member of Bissell Pro Cycling. “You can have a whole group of strong individuals, but if they can’t work together, they won’t win, especially against a well-functioning group of less talented riders who can work together. That team will have a much better chance of winning through team tactics.”

Jacques-Maynes, along with his twin brother and teammate Andy Jacques-Maynes, will showcase the importance of cycling teamwork when they race in the prestigious Amgen Tour of California, America’s biggest pro bike race, next week. The grueling, eight-day, 800-mile stage race starts Sunday in Nevada City and will end in Thousand Oaks on May 23. Stage 3 will end in front of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk on Tuesday.

The spirit of teamwork will also be on display Saturday at the inaugural Scotts Valley Grand Prix, a closed-circuit event featuring amateur and pro racing.

“You have to faith in your teammates,” said Jacques-Maynes, who considers himself especially fortunate to have his twin brother on his team.

Team tactics are discussed by the cyclists and their coaches before, during [via radio headset] and after a pro bike race. Planning a strategy for the team’s race is essential. It means figuring out how each individual — from sprinters to climbers, domestiques and the leader — can contribute to get a team member across the finish line first.

“There are those cyclists who have the capability to win races; some are on the cusp, ready to gobble up a win if they get a chance,” said Jacques-Maynes, 31, a team leader for Bissell. “Then, there’s a bunch of new guys, first-year professionals, in the 18- to 21-year-old range, who have a superb amount of talent. They just need more experience to apply to racing.”

Team tactics can be equally effective in pro stage races, like the Tour of California, and amateur circuit races, like some of those at the Scotts Valley Grand Prix.

The Grand Prix begins at 3 p.m. and will feature amateur and top-level women and men racing around a 1-mile circuit on streets closed to traffic. In this type of race, called a criterium, the action is fast and furious. Saturday’s event will be no exception, promised organizer Mark Davis.

A Scotts Valley resident and cycling enthusiast and co-team director of the women’s Third Pillar Cycling team, Davis expects hundreds of athletes to participate in the twilight criterium and even more spectators to cheer them on.

“Our race is totally different and designed to engage the community,” Davis said. “This course is short and the riders will race on city streets. Competitors circle the course many times, giving spectators the chance to see the entire race.”

He also noted that it’s a twilight criterium, starting in the late afternoon, with the premier professional events starting at 5 p.m. for the women and 8 p.m. for the men.

Another thing that distinguishes the race is that Davis and fellow organizer Anthony Borba wanted to highlight women’s racing.

“Top-tier women’s pro racing is underserved in Northern California,” said Borba. “We wanted to put on a big race for women. There is a $3,000 purse for the women and $2,000 for the men.”

Many of the women pro riders who compete in Scotts Valley will then travel north to race Sunday in the Sacramento Grand Prix, the sole official women’s event associated with the Tour of California. That Grand Prix will take place in Sacramento as a precursor to the finish of Stage 1 of the men’s tour.

In all three races, the team that best works together will most likely be the one with a rider on the podium at the end of the day.

Karen Kefauver, www.karenkefauver.com, is a freelance sports and travel journalist. She blogs weekly about bicycling for the Sentinel at www.santacruzlive.com/blogs/outside.

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