Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies’ Janel Holcomb claimed her first victory of 2013 in impressive fashion at New Mexico’s SRAM Tour of the Gila today, launching a solo effort over the final climb of the day to secure a victory for her team.
“The team was dynamite today – everyone on this team, no matter how hard the race is, everyone is willing to give that extra bit to try and set things set us up for a win. Every one of our athlete’s contributed to this,” said Holcomb after her win.
Holcomb closed the deal after launching a late race attack alongside Chantaal Blaak of Team Tibco, and slowly left her final companion behind with a big effort up the final climb of the 75 mile stage, riding alone to the finish line in Fort Bayard.
Teammate Jade Wilcoxson won the sprint for third from the chasing group, joining Holcomb on the podium after 5,854 feet of climbing on the Inner Loop Road Race stage of Gila, a sprawling circuit beginning and ending in Fort Bayard.
Performance Director Rachel Heal appreciated the well deserved victory for her team.
“It was a hard course today and the athletes worked incredibly hard as a team to make this happen for Janel,” said Performance Director Rachel Heal. “After a near miss yesterday, it is nice to see the team come together and perform like this.”
The team has confidence rolling into tomorrow’s individual time trial in Tyrone. The men’s team was near a podium as well in the Ft. Bayard stage – sprinter Eric Young finished fifth after a team effort to deliver a fast man to the line.
Race Report from Performance Director Rachel Heal:
Awesome day at the office for the Optum p/b KBS girls today. Not to be put off by our aggressive racing style not panning out as we’d hoped yesterday, the team went into today’s stage gunning for the win.
Just 15 miles into the stage, Janel attacked, and soloed up the 2nd QOM and down the descent, and was then joined by a select group of around 15 riders including Jade and Lauren. Courteney and Denise joined the group in the next small group of riders to get back on, and all 5 helped keep the pace high and the race hard.
After not too many miles back in the group, Janel was on the attack again, this time with Tibco’s Chantal Blaak as company, and the two worked together for the next 30 miles, building up a lead of around 3 minutes, before Blaak fell off the pace on the long feed zone climb. Janel was left solo with around 15 miles left to race. Jade and Lauren did an awesome job keeping things together in the bunch while Janel dug very, very deep to hold onto her lead over a very tough and hilly 10-mile run-in to the finish.
She crossed the finish line alone with almost a minute’s lead to a very well deserved win. Back in the chase, in the closing kilometers, Jade escaped in a small group of 4 riders, and took 3rd on the stage, while Lauren brought home the chasing pack in 6th. Joelle unfortunately fell victim to one of the descents many sharp turns and hit the deck hard. She was able to fight back to finish the stage and will be back fighting for another stage win tomorrow.