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North Carolina Grand Prix - Race 1 - C2
Hendersonville, North Carolina, USA, November 22, 2008
Race 1 - November 22: Elite Women
Swartz wins first career UCI race
By Peter Hymas in Hendersonville, North Carolina
Melanie Swartz (Velo Bella-Kona) converted a decisive late-race attack midway through the penultimate lap into a solo victory over AnnaJean Dallaire (SoBe-Cannondale), whose own bold solo effort for virtually the entire race was rewarded with a second place finish in Jackson Park. Ally Stacher (Lees-McRae College) won the sprint for third place from the remnants of the chase group that pursued Dallaire for the entire race, but were kept at a consistent yet tantalizing close 10 second margin until Swartz decided to launch her winning move.
"It was a game of risks and chances," said Swartz regarding her strategy of extracting herself from the chase group to pursue race leader Dallaire. "I wasn't sure how the game was going to play out with five of us all pretty strong riding together. I tried pushing the pace going into the second lap through some of the corners and I was getting shut down. So I then was able to gradually nudge my way forward and move up to fifth wheel, then to fourth wheel. Finally, I had enough of an opening to attack with everything I had with about a lap and a half to go."
AnnaJean Dallaire didn't plan her four and a half lap solo effort at the front of the race. "It just happened by accident," said Dallaire. "I thought, 'Oh no, this is going to be so much harder.'
Dallaire quickly established a gap on her own early in the first lap and consistently maintained a 10 second lead for the first four of five laps. A chase group of five, sometimes six, kept Dallaire's lead in check but for much of the race seemed content to let Dallaire overextend herself with her lengthy solo effort. The chase group consisted of Kimberly Flynn (Vantaggio/Specialized/SCV), Julie Kuliecza (Alan North American Cycling), Deb Sweeney Whitmore (BMW-Bianchi), Ally Stacher (Lees-McRae College) and Melanie Swartz (Velo Bella-Kona). Cara Applegate (BMW-Bianchi) couldn't consistently maintain the chase group's pace, but she kept herself within striking distance and made contact for good on the closing lap.
The extended game of cat-and-mouse between Dallaire and the chase group began to lay seeds of doubt within some of the chasers while strengthening Dallaire's resolve in the battle of nerves and the battle for UCI points. Ally Stacher thought the chase group had conceded to Dallaire. "I think everyone assumed AnnaJean wasn't going to stay out there for very long, but then we began to realize that she really is gone. At that point everyone was just fighting for second but then the Velo Bella girl just flew by us and no one did anything," said Stacher. "I was just holding on for dear life."
Dallaire, too, hoped that the fight had left her pursuers. "Since I was out there by myself I thought maybe they would simply be content with second place. I made it to the last lap [with a lead] and then I saw the attacks starting to happen," said Dallaire.
While Dallaire was aware of Swartz's initial attack to separate herself from the chase group, the arrival of Swartz during the run-up section of the final lap caught Dallaire totally off guard. "I don't even know where she came from. I almost ran her off the course because I didn't know she was there. I moved to the side and I heard, 'Hey!' Ten seconds wasn't quite enough going into the last lap. I really needed more like 20. She came up to me with a lot of power. She caught me on the run up and wasn't fading at all."
While Dallaire was impressed with Swartz's strength, Swartz still had doubts about her capacity to remain in front. "I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to hold it by myself," said Swartz. "She [Dallaire] didn't come with me. I just kept putting my head down knowing the others were stronger than me on the road sections. I went as hard as I could on the road sections and put myself into a big hole. Going into the woods I had enough of a gap to ease off a little bit but still keep the pressure on. I was then able to hold it to the finish."
The Reston, Virginia resident had reason to celebrate her victory. "This is my first UCI win so this is very cool," said Swartz.
The racing will continue in Jackson Park for the second day of the North Carolina Grand Prix on Sunday.
1 Melanie Swartz (USA) Velo Bella - Kona 40.49 2 AnnaJean Dallaire (USA) SoBe-Cannondale 0.17 3 Ally Stacher (USA) Lees-McRae College 0.20 4 Julie Kuliecza (USA) ALAN North America Cycling 0.21 5 Cara Applegate (USA) BMW-Bianchi 0.23 6 Kimberly Flynn (USA) Vantaggio/ Specialzied/ SCV 0.26 7 Deb Sweeney Whitmore (USA) BMW-Bianchi 0.35 8 Samantha Williams (USA) Sorella Cycling p/b BVM Engineering 0.56 9 Catherine Walberg (USA) TREK 1.01 10 Elizabeth Frye (USA) Boone Velo 1.07 11 Lauren Franges (USA) Team Tibco 2.26 12 Kristin Jo Markham (USA) Lees-McRae College 3.00 13 Melanie Black (USA) Moots 4.34 14 Haley Beann (USA) Bolt Brothers Cycles 4.40