Canadian sprinter closes out stage with win in Sacramento, Guillaume Boivin sprints to fifth in men’s race
Leah Kirchmann sprinted to victory for the second time in two days, this time in front of the Sacramento state capitol building and across the final finish line of the Women’s Tour of California Empowered By SRAM. After two stages filled with climbing at altitude around Lake Tahoe, the final stage descended to sea level for a flat, fast paced six corner, 17-lap circuit race. With Kirchmann proving herself on Tahoe’s steeper terrain, Sacramento provided some familiar territory for the sprint specialist and Canadian criterium national champ.
“The team rode very well today, and Leah followed the right sprinter at the end. She placed herself well, and she used her incredible late speed burst to get the win.” said Performance Director Patrick McCarty. “She played things very smart tactically at the end of the race, and avoided being trapped after the final corner, so this win was well earned. It is fantastic to see the team take 2 out of 3 stages here at such an important event.”
McCarty was complimentary of the first-ever women’s stage race at the Tour of California.
“The race this week was the best one we have seen in North America so far. The level of competition, the support, the crowds and fans, the venues and the courses themselves were all as good as you could ask for. For it to be a new women’s race in the US is even better.”
After finding herself poorly positioned through the final corner and facing a long 800 meter drag race to the finish, Kirchmann used patience and tactical savvy to find the right wheel and catapult past the head of the race to claim victory by half a bike length. The 10-second time bonus for the win moved her up to 2nd overall and secured her the Visit California sprint classification jersey. The consistency of the entire team in supporting Kirchmann, placed them 3rd in the team classification with Lex Albrecht finishing in 9th and Amy Charity 11th overall.
The women’s field gave the crowd a thrilling look at the final circuit, where the men’s peloton would close out their race after nearly 200 kilometers of racing through California’s central countryside. The first stage was a hot, dusty loop beginning and ending in Sacramento, and the flattest and longest stage of the entire tour. The terrain guaranteed a hotly contested sprint, but three trips around the technical circuit loosened things up. Guillaume Boivin found himself in good position, sitting behind eventual winner Mark Cavendish’s wheel after the final corner. The Quebec native held on for a fifth place finish.
With the women flying home after two consecutive wins, the men continue continue on the California route with stage two, a 120.4 mile trip from Nevada City to Lodi.
We asked Kirchmann and Boivin a few questions about their finishes in downtown Sacramento.
Describe the last 800 meters after that corner.
“I found myself shuffled pretty far back coming out of the last corner. I sort of started to doubt my chances in the sprint, but then I saw Erica Allar in front of me and knew she hadn’t been going for any intermediate points, and is a fantastic sprinter. I got on her wheel and was able to accelerate when she went around the group. Erica and Hannah Barnes overtook most of the leadouts, and I was able to put in a stronger kick to the line. I couldn’t believe it that I came from that far back!”
It was a major fight for points in the intermediate sprints. What happened there?
“I was definitely going for the sprints, but I held back a bit because I knew I had to keep racing. I kind of messed up the first one, got boxed in against the fence, but I was able to score a few points on the other sprints. Velocio-SRAM had a really strong leadout train heading into every sprint, and it was hard to come around that. Credit goes to them for doing what they needed to do to win the overall.”
What are your final thoughts on the Women’s Tour of California?
“It was an incredible race, it’s one of the biggest US stage races I’ve taken part in. The venues were spectacular, the crowds were big every day, and we have been getting tons of media attention, which is exactly what we need to keep growing women’s cycling.”
What happened on the closing laps?
“We wanted to have a shot with Eric Young today. It was quite hectic out there, and we tried to move him up through the last lap. We had to make some big efforts. With 2K to go I went on the outside, through the third to last corner and got us into a pretty good position. With 1K to go I was on the back of the Etixx-Quickstep’s team’s train, but at that point Eric and I lost each other a bit and I was pretty gassed at that point. I still tried to sprint, but I didn’t really have the legs to do anything spectacular. We will be more prepared for the opportunities over the coming days.”
Photos © Sam Wiebe