The final stage of Trophée d’Or was a short (85 kilometer) but hilly loop that began in Saint-Amand-Montrond, where we have been staying since we arrived last week. Short stages like this usually can mean only one thing – racing is on from the gun. Our plan was to be aggressive from the start, so the stage suited our intentions.
We began the day with Megan in fourth overall and Amanda in seventh. In order to move up on the general classification, one of them would need to get in the break. There were time bonuses available at the finish but not enough to see movement on the overall, so a break was our only option.
All of us would need to do a lot of work the entire day if we hoped to wear down the other teams, which was an important component of our plan. Basically, it was our goal to be so aggressive so that other teams, MCipollini in particular, would be too tired or reduced enough in numbers that they would lack the ability to chase down a move if Amanda or Megan managed to get up the road.
The first GPM came at seven kilometers, and by the time we hit the climb, we had already started to throw down. The GPM provided further opportunities to launch, but everything came back together pretty quickly. No significant moves got away between the first and the second GPM that came at 27 kilometers. Shortly after the second GPM, Megan and Amanda slipped off the front with a large group. I think the size of the group made other teams anxious. I’m not sure if it was one person or one team that took responsibility for the chase or the collective nervousness of the group that brought back the break. We would have loved for that particular move to have stayed away. It was perfect…for us.
From there, it was attack after attack after attack with nothing getting away. No move gained more than 30 seconds. The stage today was tough because of the categorized climbs and the relentless terrain between each of the climbs. There was little flat road and no sections that would have been an ideal place for the peloton to catch its breath. Plus, part of the route took us on narrow, winding roads through small towns. When the pace wasn’t fast, it was easy to be stuck in a less than desirable position without the option of moving around.
The stage ended with a finish circuit, and the group was still together as we hit the first of three final laps. We had hoped that Amanda or Megan would have been in a break at this point but that just wasn’t how tactics played out today. The whole group rode around in circles. Amanda launched an attack at some point and was brought back just in time for Giorgia Bronzini (Forno d’Asolo / Diadora-Pasta Zara) to win her third straight sprint finish. The bunch sprint ensured no movement on the general classification, so we ended the five day, six stage race with Megan’s fourth place position as our highest placed overall. Elena Cecchini (MCipollini), who won the opening stage of the race, went on to successfully defend through the final day of racing.
I was completely cooked by the time we hit the circuits, and I fell off the pace of the group inside the penultimate lap. I rolled around alone for the final lap to end my race.
We did everything we could today. We raced our bikes hard. We threw everything we had into the race to try to shake up the general classification. Sometimes the courses aren’t hard enough to allow for natural breaks or the peloton is too fired up to let anything go up the road. You can try and try and try but nothing will happen, and that’s how things played out for us. We can’t be too disappointed with how things went even if we had been hoping for a different outcome today.
We head to Plouay tomorrow where we’ll race the World Cup on Saturday. I’ve heard through the grapevine that there may be live footage for our race (a rarity in women’s cycling!), and I’ll be sure to let you know if I hear anything solid before I toe the line.
Strava file here.