The women of the Orange & Black brought home the Queen of the Mountains prize for Lex Albrecht and 2nd on team classification at Redlands Bicycle Classic, the NRC’s classic Southern California opener which saw the very best domestic women’s teams compete for the first time on US soil. The team finished in the top three in stages one (Brianna Walle, 3rd), two (Jasmin Glaesser, 2nd), four (Leah Kirchmann, 3rd), and five (Brianna Walle, 2nd), missing out on stage wins by a few feet, or a few seconds in the case of Glaesser’s TT runner-up finish in stage two, which saw her take her first yellow jersey and podium in NRC racing. The team stacked the top 15 in the overall classification with Walle in 5th, Glaesser in 6th, Amy Charity in 10th and triple Canadian champion Kirchmann coming home in 11th place.
Albrecht recovered from a nasty spill in the final day of racing on Sunset Loop, which shattered her fork and gave the bantam-weight Canadian climber a fair amount of road rash. She quickly hopped onto a spare Diamondback and pushed on to safely secure the red QOM jersey.
Brianna Walle demonstrated her versatility in the sprints on the Sunset Loop, contesting US criterium champion Coryn Rivera (UnitedHealthcare) at the final finish line to take second. The Orange & Black leadout had another battle with the UnitedHealthcare’s sprint train in the stage four criterium, delivering Kirchmann to a third place finish in the downtown Redlands race.
Performance Director Patrick McCarty, Lex Albrecht, and Brianna Walle share their thoughts on the team’s podium-heavy week in the L.A. Basin.
How would you rate the team’s performance in Redlands?
I am very satisfied with the team’s performance this week. Collectively we rode very strong, and I saw some good indicators that our riders are coming into form individually, if not already riding very well. I think we showed we have the strongest, most capable team in the US right now and this is an excellent sign going into TTT nationals.
What was the strategy going into the tough finale on Sunset Loop to help secure Lex the QOM jersey?
I was pretty confident Lex would be able to secure the climbers jersey. She had basically cleaned up any points she had a straight shot at all week, and assumed Sunset Loop would be more of the same. We made sure everyone was at the front entering the circuit, on the first climb, and let Lex loose at the right time. The rest of the team rode well. The plan was to look for opportunities for the overall, but the race just didn’t play out in that favor. Instead, we stayed patient and kept everyone together to ride the sprint for Brie. The team rode well, but we could not best Rivera, who is proving to be a very dangerous rider.
You suffered a crash on the last day… how bad did that hurt and how deep did you have to dig to finish things off?
I got a lot of road rash in the crash. I busted my bike’s fork, shredded some clothes and left some skin and blood on the road. Nothing more serious than that. By the time I was able to get back on my bike and ride to the feed zone where Ben handed me my first spare, the peloton was long gone. I swapped that Diamondback out 1/2 a lap later for a second spare bike with a better fit from Pat, who was waiting on the course.
After going down, there was one opportunity left to get more QOM points, but it was out of my reach. Luckily, my teammates and I had already collected enough points to keep us in the climber’s jersey to the end. I rode out the rest of the race as strong and steady as I could. I told myself, ‘It’s training, and good practice pushing hard after a crash.’ Hitting the pavement is practically inevitable at some point in racing, but that doesn’t always mean it’s game over. I was feeling good today, and in the mood to fight. That’s what motivated me to empty the tank even after I hit the ground. It felt good to do it. Otherwise, I might have felt a little bitter about my luck.
Was it a goal for the team to win the QOM or did that happen naturally as the race progressed?
The goal was for us to win the race from day one. The first stage’s QOM climbs suited me well – punchy, short, and steep. Going hard on them had the double purpose of putting pressure on the field and getting us in the jersey as a bonus. Once we got the red jersey, we just kept going with it. It took some good teamwork to keep the jersey and we’re proud to finish with it.
A nice finish on one of America’s toughest stages on Sunset Loop. What went down in the lead up towards contesting the win?
The ladies rode really strong on Sunset Loop, staying in good position throughout the race. Two solo attacks (Rushlee Buchanan, UnitedHealthcare and Anna Sanders, Visit Dalles) went off early in the race. I rode as calm as I could at that point to save energy for the time when they would inevitably get caught and be ready for a late counter attack and selection for a bunch sprint. Once they were caught, I jumped to keep the pace high and test the legs. I could see Coryn with her teammates, Katie and Scotti, followed by Amy and Jasmin. On the downhill I followed Coryn’s wheel up until the downtown circuit. Amy and Jasmin kept the pace high and positioned me for the last 1 km stretch. I attacked before the third-to-last corner and came out 1st in the second-to-last, but Coryn jumped me on the last corner.