Canadian champion third against world’s top sprinters
On a historic day of racing in the heart of Paris, Canadian national champion Leah Kirchmann rose to the occasion for Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies, sprinting to third on the Champs-Elysées at La Course by Le Tour de France. Kirchmann, who captured a trio of Canadian national titles earlier this summer, sprinted alongside world champion Marianne Vos (Rabo-liv) and the race’s favorite to win, Kirsten Wild (Giant-Shimano), to finish third with centimeters separating the three riders at the line.
Kirchmann, who has continued to build her powerful late-race kick in 2014, stayed tactically sharp on the cobblestones of the final kilometers, winding onto the final straightaway on the Champs-Elysées in prime position.
“In the last few corners, I was looking for the big sprinters in the race and wanted to play off of them,” said Kirchmann, “I saw Wild come by me very fast and I knew she was a favorite to win the race, so I hopped on her wheel and followed it all the way into the final straightaway to have a chance at the podium. It was our goal to get on the podium here and I am incredibly excited to be part of such a historic event for women’s cycling.”
After Kirchmann rounded the final turn through the Place de la Concorde in perfect position, all that was left was a touch of afterburner to help capture the team its biggest international podium ever. She provided an exclamation point for the Orange & Black after an aggressive day of racing on the 21st and final day of the Tour de France. Her teammates Brianna Walle, Denise Ramsden, Jade Wilcoxson, Janel Holcomb, and Lauren Hall worked together around a 13-lap circuit blanketed in stifling heat to keep their sprinter safe and keep opportunity alive in the finale. Performance Directors Kevin Field and Patrick McCarty and their six-rider La Course team spent a week in Western Europe racing and training to prepare for the historic event, and additional time discussing the possibilities for the technical Paris circuit.
Kirchmann and her teammates were relaxed and confident before the start of their biggest race ever.
“We started talking about how the race would unfold and planning tactically a few days ago, and were prepared for brutal, fast race with lots of attacks,” said Field, “We figured it would materialize into a sprint at the end, but not a “pure sprinter” kind of sprint – Rabo-liv and Orica-GreenEdge went fast over the closing kilometers and set up a long sprint, a horsepower sprint. We have talked with Leah this year about how to ride that kind of sprint, when to launch and how to maximize your resources at the finish line. She is a talented rider and finisher and the team’s performance to help her today was spectacular.”