(photo credit: Jonathan Devich / epicimages.us)
We knew we had a lot of cards to play today over the 120 kilometer, five lap race in Fort Gordon. With a big team and several riders well-suited for the finish, we went out at the beginning of the race ready to throw down and see who wanted to play. In the last few races, most teams have seemed content to leave the race down to a field sprint. Racing aggressively from the start would allow us to gauge other team’s intentions.
We went out there and threw out attacks from the start as planned. Alexis Ryan, who took her second national title of the weekend yesterday in the 17-18 girls road race, attacked first. She took the only other junior in our field, Addy Albershardt (NOW and Novartis for MS), with her. A few other riders bridged across until a ten-rider move formed. Amanda Miller had made it up the road, so we had two riders in the break. I felt pretty good about the make-up of the move.
Those good feelings dissipated slightly when Megan Guarnier informed me that she thought Exergy Twenty12 had put three riders in the break. I dropped back to talk to our director, Angela, who confirmed that we were outnumbered. I knew they had Andrea Dvorak and little Kaitie Antonneau in the move. I didn’t realize Ali Starnes had made it up there, too. Angela said it wasn’t great for us, but it also wasn’t too terrible. I agreed. The group only had 1:30, and she asked that we prevent the gap from getting any bigger.
NOW did a lot of work attempting to bridge across. Riders would tag on to each of their attempts, and the moves never got anywhere. NOW and Primal rotated on the front. I wouldn’t say they were chasing so much as setting tempo and keeping their eyes out for any opportunities to bridge.
The break yo-yo’ed between 40 seconds and a minute, coming down to 20 seconds at on point. With the pack within striking distance, Amanda attacked and took Andrea, Anna Barensfield (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) and Debbie Milne (Absolute Racing) with her. The four established a decent advantage and yo-yo’d between 40-1:20 for the next two laps.
(photo credit: Jonathan Devich / epicimages.us)
Those four up the road were great for us. I was definitely comfortable with the composition of the group. I was confident in Amanda’s chance compared to the rest.
Heading into the finish with one lap to go, Amber Neben (Specialized-lululemon) went to the front and absolutely drilled it. Within three kilometers, she had single-handedly brought the move back. Just like that, we were all back together with one lap left to race.
Attacks flew left and right without anything really getting away. It was never quite the right combination, so the field brought back each attempt. We attacked, too, and we covered a lot of moves. We were really active at this point in the race.
Inside the final three kilometers, I attacked with Exergy on the front. They were chasing a solo rider, and as they closed in on her, I countered. They still had about 100 meters left to catch when I made my move. I timed my attack with the intention of keeping the pace high and forcing Exergy to remain on the front because they had already been pulling for a while. I didn’t want to give them the opportunity to rest after the catch.
When I got caught, I completely blew – so I didn’t see our spectacular show at the finish. I rolled in a few minutes down, and I immediately began to ask ‘Who won? Who won?” People at the line told me we had gone 1-2-5, and I was like ‘WHO? WHO WON?’ without getting a name for an answer. It wasn’t until I finally caught up with my teammates that I learned Megan had taken the win, Lauren Hall had earned another silver medal and Sam Schneider rounded out the podium in fifth, good for the U23 title.
It was incredibly exciting hearing my teammates tell me about the finish. It feels pretty amazing to take the two titles. We played things perfectly. It was an all around team effort today, and everyone pulled their weight.
(photo credit: Angela van Smoorenburg)
This is the third national title of which I have been a part. There’s my own title, of course, and I also rode for Kristin Armstrong on TEAm Lipton when she took the road win in 2006. My own win felt a lot different than this. It took time to sink in, and it was a huge deal to stand on the podium and pull on the stars and stripes.
It’s also an awesome feeling to stand on the sidelines and cheer my heart out for a teammate who is pulling on stars and stripes of her own. Being able to contribute to that victory is extremely satisfying. This year, in particular, we haven’t had many big results – not in the US anyway – so we are especially excited that things came together as well as they did on such an important day.
Three podiums. Two titles. It doesn’t get much better than this.
Official report, results and photos via USAC posted here: http://www.usacycling.org/elite-races-and-photo-finish-conclude-nationals.htm