Our objective today was clear. We wanted to take the yellow jersey. We started the day with two riders in the top ten. Megan Guariner was third overall, 18 seconds behind race leader Alison Powers (NOW and Novartis for MS). Amanda Miller was in fifth place, 1:19 back. We were ready to go in fighting to win the race.
Although we were ready and wiling to race aggressively, we also knew it wasn’t necessarily our responsibility to animate the race. Carmen Small (Optum p/b Kelly Benefits) was only four seconds off the race lead, and Jade Wilcoxson was in fourth. We knew Optum had multiple cards to play, and we figured they would be motivated to race aggressively, too. We wanted to play off their aggression, and if they weren’t racing as expected, we would do more work.
We knew our best chance to win was for the race to be hard. If the race was too easy, everyone would come to the finish together, and nothing would change on the general classification.
For some reason, they shortened our race from four laps to three laps. We traditionally race four laps of the Awbrey Butte Circuit Race while the men’s field races five laps. Somebody told me on the line they changed our race to three laps because we’ve been dangerously close to being caught by the men’s field on the last lap in past years. Chaos would ensue if we were caught, no doubt, but it was still disappointing to hear.
The peloton rolled along at a quick clip during the first ten miles at which point we hit the feed zone climb, and that’s when the flurry of attacks began. As expected, Optum was doing the bulk of the attacking, and we were able to play off of their tactics. Every attempt was neutralized.
The course includes two major climbs – there’s the feed zone climb and the QOM climb, and there’s not a lot of time between the two. Several km’s from the feed zone climb, we drop into a descent and then climb out of the descent to the QOM. It’s about five km’s of fast rollers from the top of the QOM to the finish. There were a few more attacks between the feed zone climb and the end of the first lap, but the attempts didn’t get anywhere. Basically, it was gruppo compacto coming through to start the second lap.
The rollers that begin each new lap can sting a little if the group is really going for it. Rachel Warner (FCS/Rouse) attacked over one of the rollers, and the group let her get away. She had gained over a minute on the field when Amanda Miller slipped off the front with a small group just past the sprint line. Amanda attacked her group and broke away alone to bridge up to Rachel. By the time we hit the feed zone climb, they were away together with Amanda doing the bulk of the work.
Up the feed zone climb, Miranda Griffiths (Optum p/b Kelly Benefits) set a hard tempo. I was just behind her, and I realized that I was feeling pretty good. Kristin McGrath (Exergy Twenty12) attacked a few times over the top of the climb, and I glued myself to her wheel. Eventually a group of us got a small gap, but with Amanda up the road, I wasn’t going to pull through in the break. The rest of the riders in the group never really got organized, and eventually it was back together again.
Amanda managed to drop Rachel at some point before the QOM climb, and by the time the main field hit the QOM, Rachel had rejoined the field and Kristin was making her way across to Amanda. We learned that Kristin successfully bridged to Amanda, and I thought the two of them up the road together could be good. If they worked well together, maybe they could put enough time into Ali Powers for Amanda to win the race.
NOW realized this was a dangerous move, and they brought them back over the top of the feed zone climb on the third lap. In the end, that was the race. We hit the QOM together, and at the point, there’s only five kilometers left until the finish.
Lindsay Myers attacked after the QOM, over the final rollers, and she managed to take a few people with her. Kristin made the group and then almost immediately attacked it. The field caught everyone except for Kristin in the run in towards the finish. A few riders attempted to bridge across, but with NOW patrolling on the front to keep the gap down, no one made it across.
Kristin won the stage solo, and Theresa Cliff Ryan (Exergy Twenty12) won the field sprint for third. Megan said she opened her sprint a little too early, and she ended up fifth on the stage.
The top three on the overall remained as they were ahead of the stage. Kristin put enough time into Amanda to leapfrog up to fifth overall, pushing Amanda back to sixth.
Another lap would have benefitted us. We still had a lot of riders left in the main group, and we all had energy to spare. It would have been to our advantage to have a longer race. We did what we could with the three laps we were given. Amanda’s break was the longest escape of the day. By the time we caught her and Kristin, there really wasn’t much race left. Megan tried to get away on the final QOM climb, but Carmen and Ali would have none of that. Those three marked each other the entire race. We gave it a good team effort, and I know we all feel good about that.
I have one final weekend of racing left in the US. I race Tour of Elk Grove during the first weekend of August before I head across the pond to race in France and Italy. Although I’ve done plenty of road racing in Europe, it will be my first time racing in Europe with a full Team TIBCO squad – and my first time road racing in Europe since Road Worlds in 2009. I’ve been to Europe the last several years racing CX, and I am definitely looking forward to getting back to France and Italy for some solid road racing.