JMSR Stage 4: Winners All Around

I’m not a bragger by nature, but what Team TIBCO accomplished at Joe Martin is worth a boast or two. We dominated the race from start to finish by winning the prologue, the first road race and today’s criterium. By virtue of winning those stages came the individual and team classifications. Claudia earned the leader’s jersey on the opening day, and we all worked together to defend it until the finish. By coming together the way we did as a team to defend the pink jersey, the team classification was just an added (and very welcome) bonus.

Claudia has primarily raced in Europe during her lengthy career, and, as a result, she doesn’t have much experience racing American-style criteriums. She’s a natural climber, and sprinting doesn’t always come easy for her, so she was a bit nervous about today’s crit. We repeatedly reassured her that we were confident in her abilities and, should anything go not quite as planned, we would be by her side to make things right.

She had heard us call the course ‘technical’, and I think that was part of the reason she was nervous. The course IS technical, but it’s mostly technical because of the descents. The field isn’t too large. The roads aren’t too narrow – even narrow roads here aren’t narrow by European standards. The corners aren’t particularly tricky. There was nothing about the course that she couldn’t handle.

(photo credit: Wil Matthews)

We developed tactics to counter-balance Ali Power’s (NOW) strength and protect Claudia’s weaknesses. Claudia started the day’s stage with a 16” advantage over Ali in second, and she remained the biggest threat to the overall win. Ali is a technically strong rider who excels on descents, so our goal was to keep the pace as fast as possible on the downhill to prevent Ali from slipping away on this part of the course. Claudia would easily be able to hold her own on the uphill sections.

After two rainy road races, we were greeted with sunshine and blue skies this afternoon. It was a welcome departure from the previous cold, wet races.

From the gun, we raced full gas. We knew we’d drop a lot of the field with this strategy, and that was our goal. We wanted to thin the field from the start to help Claudia feel more comfortable in the bunch. It was advantageous for the entire team – with fewer riders in the field, we had less people trying to attack us.

(photo credit: Wil Matthews)

I took over at the front of the peloton on descent on the backside of the course on lap one. I led as fast as I could downhill and through the first few corners at the bottom of the descent. The road kicks up ever so slightly before the turn onto the hill that leads to the finish, and Chantal came around me on the small grade to take us up the climb. My job was done, and my race was pretty much over at that point.

We stuck to the plan throughout the entire race. String things out on the descent to prevent attacks on the backside of the course, and let Claudia do her thing on the climbs. We knew she could hold her own when the road went up, so our main concern was keeping the field intact at any other point. Each and every rider had her turn on the front whether it was down the hill, up the hill or chasing down a break.

(photo credit: Wil Matthews)

It was a race of attrition, and as the front group began to take shape, we had five riders make the selection. Shelley won the small group sprint – her second stage win in four days. Claudia finished just a few places behind Shelley to easily maintain the overall.

The day went perfectly to plan. It’s rare that this happens in bike racing – rarer still that we can say that about an entire tour. I couldn’t be prouder! Everyone worked really hard today as they did all week, and we all contributed however we could. It feels really great to be leaving Fayetteville with several wins to our name. It’s been a long time since Team TIBCO has been this dominant, so it’s extra sweet to be back on top.

I fly home tonight, but I’ll be keeping a close eye on my teammates who are heading to Silver City, NM for the Tour of the Gila. I hope they can carry the momentum we’ve created here with them into our next stage race. Gila will definitely have a different feel than Joe Martin. The courses are harder and the fields are deeper. If we recover well, I know we can show that we’re on the up and up – a real force to be reckoned with this year.

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  1. By Podcast 2013 Episode 12 – Stabby Stabby | Unofficial Unsanctioned Women's UCI Cycling Blog on May 2, 2013 at 8:37 am

    [...] The Joe Martin Stage Race – we really liked Meredith Miller‘s race reports – Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3 and Stage 4 [...]

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