Round 1 - Downtown Criterium
Today was the first of the BMC series of criteriums in the USA. The BMC series was a huge event for the Saturn team last year. There were four races in the series and there was a US$250,000 bonus if one person could win all four races. Going into the last race of last year, Saturn's Nicole Reinhart had won the first three races and with a mile left to race, it looked like she was going to pull off her fourth win to take the huge bonus.
However, tragedy struck and Nicole suffered a fatal accident with less than a mile to race. The bonus was donated to begin a development team in Nicole's memory. Today, one member of that development team raced as part of our Saturn team - Ashley Kimmett joined our ranks to make a total of 9 Saturn riders in the race.
It was a huge team - a sign of our commitment to the race and we all honored Nicole with a minute's silence before the race began. Then it was into the racing. This year, there is the same four-race series with a big prize pool for the overall winners of the series. However, there isn't the same huge bonus if one person can pull off all four races. Our plan was to try to set up Ina Teutenberg for the win since she is our best criterium rider and she will also have the opportunity to race all 4 of the races in the series. >
From the gun, we tried to make the race hard, while saving Ina in the middle of the pack. We had a few small breakaways early in the race, but it wasn't until about 20 minutes into the race that serious gaps began to form.
At that point in the race, I got into a breakaway with Sarah Ulmer (Autotrader). The two of us were working evenly together, until Ina Teutenberg managed to close the gap to us by herself. At that point, Sarah Ulmer realised she was outnumbered by Saturn riders and so she stopped contributing to the pace-setting. Ina and I worked as hard as we could to establish the breakaway - it was a perfect move for us and if we could lap the rest of the field then we could rest safely in the pack until the finish of the race.
Ina seemed to be feeling better than I was - for a while I was taking turns at the front during the downhill half of the course, but then I was in danger of being dropped by Ina on the other half of the course. So we switched so that I took the uphill turns and had a better rest behind Ina while she set the pace on the downhill section. It took us 25 minutes but finally we latched onto the back of the field and we could take a little while to recover while the rest of our team took care of things at the front of the race.
Then it was all down to the sprint finish and we had a big lead out planned. Anke Erlank and Kim Bruckner had to start things off with a high tempo from 5 laps to go. Then with one and a half laps to go we were going to start the real train, first with Kim Davidge, then Suzanne Sonye, Kristy Scrymgeour, me and finally Ina.
Petra Rossner stayed behind Ina to prevent other teams taking advantage of our lead out and to stop anyone who planned a late move around Ina in the final lap. The whole team did their jobs brilliantly and Suzanne and Kristy set such a great speed that by the time I came through to the front, there were huge gaps in the field. Ina easily took the win, I held on to take second from Sarah Ulmer and I think Petra Rossner got 4th. Kristy Scrymgeour took 6th place and Suzanne was also in the top ten. Another perfect result for the team.
I have another week of training now before heading to Europe on April 13th to compete in the fourth World Cup race - Fleche Wallone in Belgium.