Tour of Elk Grove is a wrap. The three day omnium came to a close with a 75-minute circuit race over the same roads used in the time trial on Friday and crit on Saturday. We raced five laps of the ten kilometer course. Each lap took us through the neighborhood in which we raced.
With the exception of the start/finish are, where there was a jumbotron and expo area, most of the spectators were people who pulled out lawn chairs and hosted small gatherings at their homes. The course ended up being far more spectator friendly than it looked on paper, which was good because two of my most vocal cheerleaders (my parents!) were on hand once again.
With only one second separating Alison Powers (NOW and Novartis for MS) and Jade Wilcoxsin (Optum p/b Kelly Benefits) for the overall win, I suspected the race would be a tightly controlled affair. There were time bonuses up for grabs via a strange point system on the first and second laps. Basically, points went five deep on the first two laps, and then the top three among the point getters were awarded bonus seconds. Three seconds for first, two seconds for second and one second for third.
Given the tight battle between Ali and Jade, we knew that Optum wouldn’t let anything go up the road that didn’t have Jade in it or didn’t include at least five riders to gobble up all the points on offer. We were gunning for the stage win, so we decided to let the two general classification teams battle it out for points and seconds on the first two laps. No need for us to waste our energy early when every attempt would likely be futile.
As predicted, Optum didn’t allow anything to go up the road. Jade won both sprints ahead of Ali, so at mid-race, the two were tied on time. We stuck with our plan to follow wheels as Optum and Now did their thing.
At the end of the third lap, there was a $1000 prime on the line. The race hadn’t really heated up yet, so we decided we might as well go for the cash. Three hundred meters from the line, as everyone was sort of looking around at each other, I jumped hard. At first, it didn’t seem as if anyone was going to challenge me. Then, with 150 meters to go, Theresa Cliff-Ryan (Exergy Twenty12) blew past me. There was no catching her, so I sat up and watched her pocket the prime. As we made our way past the finishing stretch, I rolled up to Theresa and asked “Can you teach me how to do that one day?”
Originally, we had planned to light things up on the last two laps. With the bonus seconds behind us, we thought we’d have more of an opportunity to really race our bikes. Then, I realized with Jade and Ali tied on time, they were both going to want the race to come down to a field sprint. I knew then that nothing was going to get away and attacking ourselves silly would only leave us with less to play with at the finish.
So, instead of race aggressively, we watched Jade and Ali mark each other. A few other teams launched moves up the road, and we’d follow wheels. As expected, nothing went anywhere.
Coming into the closing kilometers on lap five, four kilometers from the finish, one of the Optum girls on the front made a left-hand turn off-course. I’m not quite sure how it happened. She was probably going cross-eyed on the front, turning herself inside out for the team, and just made an honest mistake. It was chaos, complete with a huge crash, in her wake.
My teammates and I managed to avoid the carnage, and when the dust settled, it was clear that all the major players remained upright. No one wanted to be the jerk that attacked after a crash, so everyone hesitated initially. When we passed the final 180 turn on the course, the field finally seemed to be racing again.
Still, speeds weren’t as fast as usual coming into the final kilometer. I noticed that Sam Schneider wasn’t in a great position, so I dropped back to get her and brought her towards the front on my wheel. As I slipped into a space on the front, the people around me slowed slightly. I needed to keep things fast so that we would say safe and strung out, so I did what I could to push the pace. I managed to stay on the front, but Sam and Kendall Ryan were caught up in the swarm behind me.
When we made the final left hand turn ahead of the finish, our sprinters weren’t in a great position. Optum ended up doing a great lead out for Jade, who took the win and the overall victory. Theresa finished second on the stage with Ali rounding out the stage podium. Sam squeaked in to fourth.
And so ends my US road racing season. I’m headed to Europe in one week for my final three weeks of racing with Team TIBCO. My last European road race was the 2009 World Championships in Mendrisio, Switzerland.
It was sad to say goodbye to my teammates who weren’t going to Europe. I won’t race with them again this year. The end of the season can have an anti-climatic feel, especially when we don’t end on a high not. I’m thinking that there might be a bit more fanfare to end of my season with this Europe trip.
See Strava file here.