With fitness and teamwork built at their first team time trial mini-camp, the women’s team stormed into the San Dimas Stage Race this weekend, winning two stages, placing second on general classification, and taking home the queen of the mountain, sprint, and under-25 competitions after three days of racing in Southern California. The opening uphill time trial proved decisive to the general classification battle, with former world time trial champion Amber Neben winning the race of truth by 29.7 seconds over Optum p/b KBS’ time trial specialist Brianna Walle. Over the rest of the weekend, the team continued to dominate the racing – the 8-woman squad delivered Lex Albrecht, Walle, and Leah Kirchmann to a podium sweep in Satuday’s road race, and controlled Sunday’s criterium, taking all time bonuses and a stage win for Walle. Their efforts whittled down Neben’s lead in the yellow jersey competition to .7 seconds by the race’s finale.
The final podium was nearly all Orange & Black, mixed with other colors – Albrecht donned the polkadot QOM jersey, Walle the green sprint classification jersey, and Jasmin Glaesser the white U25.
Performance Director Patrick McCarty, Albrecht, and Walle give some insight into their dominant weekend of racing in SoCal.
Patrick McCarty on the team’s tactical thinking during the race:
“We wanted to work on being aggressive, and timing our moves in a way to maximize our individual and cumulative strengths. With the quality of riders we have, if we can work together and time our efforts, the probability of success is high. It’s difficult to say “go sweep the podium” with no direction at all or, inversely, to overthink and obsess about every inch of the road we’re going to cover. You have to leave it up to the riders to adapt a general plan to the goal, which is, naturally, winning. I think the riders did pretty well with that in the road race and criterium.
Lex Albrecht on the teamwork that earned them a podium sweep in Saturday’s road race and victory in Sunday’s criterium:
“My job along with Maura and Annie was to be active early, keep it aggressive and make it hard. The place I could have the biggest impact with my attacks was on a steep hill we raced over on each of the 8 laps. My teammates launched me into the hill after a fast downhill and two tight corners. These attacks ultimately led to us securing the queen of the mountains jersey.
The teamwork that we did in leading Brie out to score intermediate sprint bonuses was also exceptional. It feels great to be a part of a smooth, strong lead out. I think that the team time trial work we did last week helped with that – working together at high speeds and intensity in an organized and calm manner. Brie won practically all of the sprint points, which put her in the green jersey for us. It was impressive.”
Albrecht on the team’s shifting tactics during their road race victory:
“At moments during the race, we had to reevaluate and discuss tactics. Our plan and strategy was always clear, our communication was solid out there on the course. I covered several attacks and rode in the resulting breakaways during the day, and the last one I covered (which went on the ultimate climb) stayed away. I knew I could out-sprint the two girls that I was ahead of the field with. I was also confident that my teammates would be lining up their lead-out train for Brie or Leah behind me. If my breakaway was to get caught before the finish line, Optum would still win. If I out-sprinted my breakaway companions, we would win too. It turned out to be a combination of both.
650 meters from the line, I felt like it was the right moment to go. I launched an attack, which was essentially the longest sprint “ever”. As I sprinted, the field drew nearer and nearer, but there was a safe distance to throw my hands up in victory as I crossed the line. Going 1-2-3 is the best feeling ever, especially after a day of great teamwork.”
Brianna Walle on how the early season camps have set the team up for success:
Our team training camp in Borrego Springs and our TTT camp in Thousand Oaks were outstanding preparation for the season. Team training camp in Borrego Springs was very challenging and we bonded well as a team over the 10 days. The TTT camp helped strengthen our team dynamics. The beauty of TTT training together is that we’re not only training together for a specific discipline but the skills gained also transfer well across the board.
Walle on her new Diamondback Serios TT bike:
I LOVE my Diamondback Serios TT bike! I find it stiffer and more responsive than any TT bike I’ve ever had. During my training sessions I find it to be equally comfortable and powerful which is the perfect balance to help crank out the watts.
Walle on team’s near-miss at winning the overall:
I’m really proud of the team and our efforts this entire weekend with the direction of Patrick and support of our mechanic Ben. It was all hands on deck each stage, and we raced the criterium with the intention of winning the stage and the overall with time bonuses. We knew we had to sweep all of the time bonuses via lead-outs (which we did), and also put more time into Neben at the finish. The goal of winning the overall was in sight and we played our cards the best we could based on the situation. It’s very tough to build time gaps in a criterium, and we did absolutely everything we could. This weekend was great preparation for the Redlands Cycling Classic and hopefully a preview of the success to come this season.
Photos © Brian Hodes