The consummate teammate TIBCO’s Meredith Miller, who said at the beginning of 2008, “I have always been involved in team sports all my life. So for me, team will always come before my individual goal”, claimed her very first national title in the elite women’s contest after eleven years of racing. ValueAct’s Chrissy Ruiter was second and Mellow Mushroom’s Kristen LaSasso was third. Amy Dombroski (Webcor Builders Cycling Team) crossed the line in fourth to take the U23 women’s crown.
“Today was a perfect team race for everyone,” Miller said. “Everybody played their card perfectly. With a national championship race, when everyone can understandably be a bit selfish and have ambitions for the jersey, there was none of that today.”
A total of 87 elite and U23 women lined up for a combined race consisting of the four laps of the 27-kilometer course. The race was aggressive from the start with attacks coming in the first few kilometers, with Amber Rais (TIBCO) taking a solo flyer in the first lap and immediately got a 30 second back.
““Our plan today was to get me away early,” Rais said. “Coming over the main climb on the first lap, the field let off the gas a bit to recover. I thought that if I went then, I might be able to catch everyone with their pants down.”
Pants down. Rais proceeded to spend the next two laps – nearly half the race – off the front by herself.
The peloton seemed content to let her stay out there, but when her gap grew to 1:30, the ValueAct women put in some vicious attacks to narrow the gap. “It was way too early for Amber to stay away,” stated Ruiter. “So we weren’t too worried about it, but we wanted to make the race aggressive and wear people out. Ruiter got a gap on the third lap and bridged up to Rais, but the two were reeled in on the third time up the steep Archie Briggs climb.
It was the second breakaway at the beginning of the fourth and final lap, initiated by Kori Seehafer (Team Type 1), that proved to be the decisive move of the day. Ruiter, Miller, Dombrowski and LaSasso bridged up and the break began working well together and increased their gap to 40 seconds on the feed zone climb.
Seehafer said she did what she could to hang on after attacking with 15 miles to go and building a 35-second gap that forced a reaction from the field and the formation of the eventual four-rider chase group.
“I got caught at the right turn at the base of the last climb,” Seehafer said after her best finish at road nationals since a sixth-place in 2007. “I stayed with them until you take the right turn – about five kilometers from the finish. At that point, I was hurting and got dropped on the little climb. Then I caught up with them, only to watch Meredith attack and get off solo. Then I got dropped again.”
“Meredith was sitting on a lot, but the others were working,” said Ruiter. “I knew we had Kristin McGrath in the field and she had really good legs today, so if we had gotten caught, she’d be ready to go.”
“I sat back a bit leading up to the final climb because there were a couple good climbers in the group,” Miller said of the approach to the last time up the most significant climb on the circuit, which comes with about 6 km to go. “But we went up the climb together, and then coming to the top, I punched it a bit to try to get rid of Kori because I thought she was the fastest of the bunch.”
The gap grew to over a minute before the final ascent up Archie Briggs. As the peloton began the climb, McGrath hit something in the road and flatted. “When I heard that KMac flatted, I knew I had to dig deep and make this break work,” stated Ruiter. “But Meredith attacked hard on the final roller, and no one could go with her. She did the same move that KMac did on this circuit race for Cascade, and it worked. I was really happy to hold on for 2nd. The team rode a great race.”
Miller attacked on the final kicker just 2 km from the finish line. “Going over the last little rise before the descent to the roundabout, I just put in an attack and put my head down and took it all the way to the line,” she said.
A goal of mine was to take the U23 jersey for sure but I’ve been racing at an elite level this whole year and last year, so the elite jersey is definitely a goal of mine too. But I guess you have to take one thing at a time,” Dombroski explained after winning the U23 crown and proving herself to be a serious contender for an elite national title.
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The 122-rider junior men’s field was the first to toe the line on Thursday. The group left the start bright and early for four laps of the 27-kilometer course in morning temperatures which were much cooler than they were in Wednesday’s 100-degree U23 contest. Although the field stayed together for the most part, a lead group was able to gain a minute and 20 seconds on the rest of the pack by the time they entered the final lap. Max Durtschi (Hammer CMG) was in that group, and in the final kilometer he made the winning attack to solo over the finish line for the national title. Nathan Wilson (Kelly Benefits Strategies) beat out Steven Black (National Capital Velo Club) in the sprint for the silver medal, and Ty Magner (Hincapie) and Kit Recca (Front Rangers Cycling Club) were the fourth- and fifth-place finishers.
And to conclude, the elite men went off last, with late afternoon cloud cover that provided a bit of relief from the heat as the men set out for a total of 162 kilometers.
On lap three, a good-sized group went off the front to form a breakaway that ended up being the winning move. Among others, riders like Mike Olheiser (warp9bikes.com-TriStar), Matthew Busche (Nova Cycle Sport Foundation), Justin England (California Giant Berry Farms), Peter Horn (John Bruyneel Cycling Academy), David Clinger (Cole Sport), Erik Slack (Team Bobs-Bicycles.com), and two-time Cyclo-cross national champ Ryan Trebon (Kona) were in that break.
As the leaders came down the final descent and rode into the finishing straight, about eight riders were in contention to take the crown. An all-out battle ensued and it was Olheiser who sprinted in the strongest, claiming the Stars-and-Stripes jersey about a second faster than Clinger and Slack who took the silver and bronze medals. Horn and Busche then rounded out the elite men’s podium in fourth and fifth.