Today was a lot hotter than yesterday, and instead of racing mid-morning, we raced mid-day with a race start time of around 1:30PM. Yesterday, the talk was the technical nature of the course. Today, for the Crystal Cup, the heat was a concern for some people. Luckily, the humidity was pretty low, so it wasn’t too bad – well, not for me anyway. It was similar to the dry heat at home. It would have been brutal if it had been humid.
The heat and the nature of the course – a wide open, non-technical six-corner crit—didn’t lend itself to the most aggressive of racing. It was fast at times, but the fast pace was never super steady. The structure of the course also meant that it was unlikely a break would succeed. No matter how big of a gap an escape group managed, they would never get truly out sight because of the long stretches of straight road.
Despite this, we attempted to launch a move up the road. Odds are always better in a break than in a field sprint, so it’s generally a decent strategy regardless of the course. We raced as aggressively as the course allowed and repeatedly attacked. Moves would get away for one, two, maybe three laps and then we’d be back together again. At on point, Jen Purcell was in a break that I thought stick, but some of the smaller teams seemed keen for a sprint, and they worked hard to bring back breaks for their sprinters.
In the end, Jo Kiesanowski took a flyer with three laps left to race. She was riding strong, and as we approached the start/finish with two laps to go, I saw the perfect opportunity for a counter. I attacked hard and immediately got a decent gap. The field brought me back with one lap left, and someone immediately countered my move.
I had put in such a hard effort that I wasn’t able to rejoin the bunch. When I realized I had lost contact, I sat up, so I didn’t see the finish. I had to rely on my teammates to tell me how things had played out.
Our main concern ahead of the race was figuring out a strategy to beat Leah Kirchman (Optum Health p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) who won the field sprint at Clarendon Cup yesterday. In the end, Jo did beat Leah but Sarah Fader (Pepper Palace/Spin-Tech Training p/b ABRC) won the race. She snuck up on Jo’s left side and nipped her on the line. Jo was forced to settled for second with Leah rounding out the podium.
I was named most heroic rider of the day. Yes, most heroic. It sounds much more glamourous than the usual most aggressive rider title they award, doesn’t it?
Like yesterday, there’s a bit of disappointment to have missed out on the win, but overall we did what we could. We rode a great race as a cohesive team, and we were beat in the sprint. The only thing I could say about myself is that I wish I had attacked on the last lap. If I had, I possibly could have held on for the win, but the timing for move was so perfect with two laps to go. It was hard to resist.
Up next: Nature Valley Grand Prix. With three crits over five days of racing, I’d like to think the Air Force Cycling Classic is a good warm-up for Minnesota stage race.