The Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies Women’s Team wrapped up a successful San Dimas Stage Race, capturing the Sprinters Jersey and Third Overall. Women’s race director Rachel Heal reports on Stage 2 and Stage 3 of the San Dimas Stage Race.
Stage 2 is a circuit race over 8 laps of a 7 mile circuit, with 3 hot spot sprints for time and points, and 3 KOM sprints for points.
Going into the stage, the goal for the team was clear and simple, we wanted the stage win, and with an awesome team effort by all 5 riders we pulled it off. The first lap was marred by a crash, which thankfully non of our riders were involved in, but with Exergy2016’s race leader Mara Abbott going down, the field somewhat neutralized itself to give her a fighting chance of getting back on. With 2 laps done, Abbott was back in the field, and the racing was on. Courteney took the first KOM, then a lap later Leah took out the first bonus sprint, then at half distance Katheryn Donovan took a flyer and within a few miles had built up a 40 second gap.
With Donovan sitting 1:40 back on GC, Exergy were content to let the gap go up and so we took responsibility for the chase. Over the next 3 laps we held the gap between 45 seconds and 1:20. Heading into the final lap Exergy2016 and Specialized Lululemon joined the chase, and with around 3 miles to go Donovan was caught. The girls kept the pace high heading into the final climb, and Brie drove hard over the top of the climb, forcing a small group clear. With 500m to go she launched her sprint and taking the others somewhat by surprise held on for the win.
The final stage was a 50 minute crit over a 1 mile circuit, with 2 intermediate sprints for both time and points. The race was aggressive from the start, and Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies was represented in every break, but nothing really stuck until around half distance when a break of 6 riders including 2nd placed rider Amber Neben started to pull clear. With Leah in there for us, we were happy with the break staying away, but equally happy if it came back, but obviously Exergy saw the danger and pulled it back within a couple of laps. Despite another late race attack getting a few seconds inside the last 3 laps, with 2 to go it was all together and looking like a bunch sprint. Leah and Lauren did a great job of keeping the pace high and keeping Brie well positioned near the front. Olympic Medallist Gillian Carleton (specialized Lululemon) jumped clear on the back straight taking the win by a couple of bike lengths, and Brie brought the bunch home for a well fought 2nd place
Another good day for the team, where we achieved 2 of the 3 goals we set going into the final stage, maintaining Brie’s Green Jersey and 3rd place overall. The stage win we were aiming for didn’t quite happen, but we came oh so close with Brie getting 2nd on the day, and with 3 of the 5 riders being new to the team this year, its proof that the team is already working really well together and bodes really well as we get the season underway.