The week started with a 27 km individual time trial. The course was fairly hilly and there were strong winds on race day. 27 km is a long time to suffer, but I dug deep and pulled off a 5th place finish, only a minute off the winning time. Joelle won the race and claimed the first title for our team! I was pretty satisfied with the race, my training has focused a lot on time trialing this year and it’s nice when hard work pays off.
With little time to recover, next up was the 110 km road race. Denise, Joelle and I knew we were one of the strongest teams in the race and expected to do a lot of work. The day was off to an exciting start as we rode 6 km neutral which included a newly graveled section of road. Turns out that instead of patching the incredibly mangled piece of road, road maintenance decided that a fresh coat gravel was the best option. Maybe a good option for cars, not so great for bikes. Three flats later, we started the race.
It was fairly tame as we made our way out to the hilly circuit which we completed three times. We then raced aggressively through this section trying to bring back a small early break. On the second lap we took a new approach and rode the front through a cross wind section, quickly bringing down the gap and splitting the peloton. The group splintered even more the next time up the climb, but everything was back together with fewer numbers as we left the circuit.
A breakaway including Denise and Joelle formed as we rode the climb out of the circuits heading back to the finish. With some of the strongest riders represented I thought it would be the winning break. However, a few strong individuals missed it and chased hard, eventually killing that break.
Closing in on the finish, I made it into a group with Joelle, Veronique Fortin, Karol Ann and Lex. With two riders in the break, this was the ideal situation for our team. However, disaster struck as we hit the gravel section with 6 km to go and Joelle’s tire went flat. With the team car close by, I wished her good luck and started to think about how to win from the break. Two more riders bridged across as we came to the finish. I was shocked to look back and see an orange helmet barreling towards us as we closed in on the final kilometers. Denise bridging? I quickly realized it was Joelle in beastmode. She caught onto our group in the last kilometer. I saw she was on my wheel and sprinted into the final corner into the last uphill drag. I maintained enough speed from the lead out to still finish with the silver medal, while Joelle claimed another victory for Optum!
The road race gave me some confidence going into Sunday's criterium. Even with this confidence, I was still incredibly nervous going into the race as the only Optum rider. Ideally I wanted to force a breakaway, but despite being an aggressive race on a hard course, a break just wouldn't stick. On the final lap, Lex Albrecht attacked up the climb and opened a gap. Not wanting to leave Lex off the front, I attacked into the descent and final corner, catching Lex, then kept going all the way to the line. Longest sprint ever, but it did lead to victory!
|Crit victory Photo credit: Rob Jones|
Overall it was a highly successful nationals for Optum, I'm super excited to wear the maple leaf in criteriums for the next year!
|Best prizes ever! Apparently the race organizer also produces Maple syrup!|
Next up- BC Superweek & Cascade Cycling Classic