After following along yesterday morning with Trofeo Alfredo Binda as my teammates toiled away in the bone-chilling rain of Northern Italy for the second round of the World Cup, I felt extra lucky to race under blue skies and sunshine in my short sleeve kit this afternoon. We were hoping to race aggressively in our bid to bring home the win or, minimally, another podium finish on the third and final day of racing at San Dimas. Although we ultimately ended up sixth in yesterday’s criterium, I think we were all happy enough with the way we raced.
Our goal was to attack from the start. We were looking to get up the road or force the extra weight out the back for a smaller group finish. It became clear quickly that other teams had alternate strategies in mind. Most moves were quickly neutralized and the pack stayed together as single unit until after the first points sprint. Then the attacks started to heat up as the teams were ready to start racing.
Thirty minutes into the race, a six rider move went up the road. Most of the big teams were represented, but we had somehow missed out. We each took turns jumping from the peloton in hope of bridging across. We’d gain a bit of a distance, but the gap was too big. Eventually, Jo just went to the front and drilled it. Her pace brought the break back to within closing distance. I took over from there to make the catch. I suspect that would have been the race winning move had we not been so insistent on being part of it.
After that, there were several more attacks – all insignificant. When we saw five laps to go, we knew were probably setting things up for a field sprint. My teammates and I focused on staying near the front to catch any late race moves. We were all pretty tired at that point, and we were lucky that nothing went away that would have forced us to respond. I’m still getting my race legs under me at this point, so I probably wasn’t in the best possible position, but I did keep an eye on Jo to make sure she was safely tucked towards the front.
With one lap remaining, I started to move up on the little steady uphill grade on the back side of the course. I saw Jo ahead in the perfect position, and although I wanted to help her if I could, I thought the best thing to do would be to stay put. I didn’t want to come around her and risk bringing too many people up with me. It could have had a swarming effect.
Honestly, I didn’t really have it, either. I didn’t have enough legs to keep the high speed Jo would have needed, so it also made sense in that regard to let her do her thing. The steady grade on the back side of the course is followed by two right hand turns in quick succession and then a fast downhill ahead of the finish. I’ve been told that Optum had been on the front and started to fade, and Gillian Carelton (Specialized-lululemon) used that as her opportunity to jump the field.
Gillian opened up a gap before the final turn before the finish. There was a little reshuffling before the line. Gillian held onto her ever so slim gap, and Jo took fifth in the sprint behind, good for sixth place. With a few more races in my legs, I know that I’ll be there for Jo in the end to help her get a better result that she deserves.
With the exception of missing the mid-race move, we rode pretty well today. Personally, I was happy to see how I handled the first bit of intensity of my season. This weekend was the perfect opportunity to slowly build into this type of effort instead of throwing myself into the deep end and drowning.
From a team perspective, it’s always a little bit disappointing to miss out on a better result. Still, we’re able to keep this weekend in perspective. Jo clearly has fitness that Amanda and I are still building, and Melanie is very green at these types of races. She’s new to criterium style racing, and she’s got a lot to learn – which is great. She has a huge engine, and it’s clear that once she figures things out, she’s going to be amazing. She just needs to be patient with herself as she learns the ropes and have faith that she’ll eventually be able to contribute.
All things considered, it was a good weekend. We all stayed safe. We communicated well. We snagged a podium. We’ve come out of the race with more fitness than we had coming into it.
Now, onto team camp in Carpinteria where we will finally join our teammates who have been in Europe racing all spring. After reading report after report of the dismal race conditions that they were subjected to, I know they will be incredibly happy to see sunshine and the beach! And I am excited to meet a few new faces for the first time and to reconnect with former teammates and new teammates who I know but have never raced with prior to this year.
See my Strava file here.