The women’s team finished off a month-long block of European racing with a highlight, winning the best overall team prize at La Route de France by an 8-second margin over Slovenian team BTC City Ljubljana. The race concluded with a final shot for the sprinters after a grueling summit finish in stage five on La Planche des Belles Filles, a mountain used in this year’s Tour de France. Leah Kirchmann finished fourth in the final sprint, her second fourth place finish of the week. She was left wanting more, but happy with the experience gained at one of Europe’s top women’s stage races.
“I’m a little disappointed to not make it onto the podium this week, but the team gained experience and learned some valuable lessons here, especially regarding positioning and leadouts in mass sprint scenarios,” said Kirchmann. “I felt well suited to most of the courses at La Route de France this year, and I was relieved to have a decent race overall after coming in with some injuries from crashes earlier in the trip.”
The team classification prize was largely due to consistent riding done by Kirchmann, Brianna Walle, and Pan-Am Games gold medalist Jasmin Glaesser. On the flat stages and in the mountains, the trio hovered near the top ten finishers, with two podiums and two top fives. In the queen stage on La Planche des Belles Filles they finished in 11th, 12th, and 14th place. On general classification, they finished 9th (Walle, 3:38 back), 11th (Kirchmann, 4:15 back) and 13th (Glaesser, 4:51 back).
Performance Director Patrick McCarty came to the race with an eye on stage wins, but as the race developed and consistent performances added up, he modified the team’s tactics to help secure the overall team prize. The high-intensity brand of racing found in Western Europe gave the team a wealth of experience.
“The competition was great this week. All of the teams were strong, but most importantly for us, some of the best sprinters in the world were present,” said McCarty. “It was easy to do ‘well’ this past week, but not easy to win. The biggest takeaways are that we do better in Europe the more we race in Europe, and that our crew can go blow-for-blow with the best riders on the continent. Races like this build our confidence – results are never a given, but we improve our odds every time we take a start.”
Brianna Walle finished the week with two podium finishes in the opening time trial and a field sprint in stage three. After donning the queen of the mountain jersey after stage one, the sprinter found herself in an unusual position – fighting for points on categorized climbs. She finished third in the competition, 15 points behind winner Tetiana Riabchenko (Inpa Sottoli Giusfredi).
“I surprised myself and the team by performing so well on the climbs this week, especially since we have been training and racing on flat roads in Belgium,” said Walle. “The team time trial training we’ve done this month was good preparation for the intensity of the climbs. I felt well suited to the earlier climbs of the race, but much more challenged by the 5th stage with two category one climbs. I enjoyed racing on such historic roads, surrounded by enthusiastic fans and was impressed with how organized the race was, especially the variety of terrain and course layouts.”
The finishers of La Route de France now return home for a much needed rest, while their teammates rev up for the inaugural Women’s USA Pro Challenge in Colorado.