The Optum pro cycling p/b Kelly Benefits Strategies team had a great start to the season this past weekend at the Merco Cycling Classic in Merced, California.
For a small early season race, it had a pretty stacked field. Along with OptumKBS, there were also full squads from Specialized- Lululemon and Exergy. There were also lots of other teams present making for a decent field.
The race was based on omnium points, unlike most stage races, which are based on time. The winner gets the most points (25), and they decrease by 1 until 25th place. At the end, the total number of points from stage finishes determined the winner.
We received our awesome Orbea Ordu TT machines the day before the time trial, so this race was really about getting used to the bikes and dialing in position. I hadn’t ridden a TT bike in quite awhile, but felt really good and pulled off a 10th place finish. The team received some new clothing at the race, and we were excited to wear our speedy new Champion System speed suits. Yes speed suits, not skins suits. Much faster. It was intimidating to read the label which read “Speed suit (Tight fit Racer Only)". I was relieved that mine fit! Joelle was our top OptumKBS finisher of the day in 5th.
The next day was a crit, yay! I was much more pumped for the crit than I had been for the tt. It was a great nine corner, 1 mile course. The little lane markers bumps were the only annoying part, but apparently you can hit them repeatedly and not crash, so it was all good. This race was game on from the beginning. I don’t think there was even a second where there wasn’t an attack or breakaway during this race. It was awesome. The crit finished with a group sprint with sprint machine Ina Teutenberg (Specialized/Lululemon) in first, Joelle in second and I placed third! This moved Joelle up to second behind Kristen Armstrong (Exergy) and I moved into 4th overall.
The road race was equally as exciting as the crit. Lots of attacking and action. Had a laugh with Clara Hughes that one road reminded us a lot of rural Manitoba.. it was quite bumpy. Despite the constant action, the race came down to a sprint finish. I started off the sprint early, and Joelle finished 2nd to Ina. Armstrong finished third on the day, tying her for overall points with Joelle. Since points were the same it went to number of wins, so in this case Armstrong because of her time trial win. It was close, but this did give us motivation for future races!
Despite the close shot at the overall, the team had a great debut to the season. Joelle placed second and I was third overall. We also swept the young riders competition with Joelle, me, then Denise. Despite a few minor mistakes here and there, we demonstrated great team cohesion and will only get stronger as the season goes on!
I'm in Argentina now for the Pan American Championships road race, and will post about this experience soon!