TIBCO’s Brooke Miller is on a roll, winning back-to-back NRC criteriums this weekend, starting off with the Presbyterian Hospital Invitational Crit in Charlotte on Saturday followed by the Hanes Park Classic in Winston-Salem on Sunday.
Miller won the bunch sprint on a very hot Sunday afternoon barely edging out Theresa Cliff-Ryan of Verducci-Breakaway for the win. Mellow Mushroom’s Laura Van Gilder was third.
While Miller was posting her victory salute, Cliff-Ryan was throwing her bike on the line.
“I actually thought that the line was a little bit closer than it was. When I saw her under me after the line, I thought ‘oh oh that would have been bad’. I’ve seen it happen to other cyclists and I don’t want it to happen to me. She had a great sprint, she took off at the hill and I had to chase her so she actually jumped first so I had some ground to cover, I thought I had a good enough jump on her coming around that inside corner but apparently I didn’t. I still had to keep fighting a little bit harder.” said Miller.
Cliff-Ryan was the first rider to start her sprint in the finale. “I actually jumped first, probably I don’t know 600, 700 meters out but I had a slight moment of hesitation coming into this corner and Brooke just went for it and got a gap. I was able to get into her slipstream and have a run back at her and just missed but she’s an awesome sprinter.”
When asked if she would have won given a few more meters, Cliff-Ryan added with a laugh “It’s hard to tell but I want to say yes”.
With temperatures soaring into the high 90s and the late afternoon racing in Charlotte the day before seemed to take the sting out of many teams at the start of the 50-minute criterium. The organizers changed the direction of the course this year with a two rises including one past the start/finish line and then a downhill run back to the finish with another small rise just before the final sweeps back to the finish line.
“It was real aggressive, especially on the uphill sections but I think the downhill brought everything back together.” said Cliff-Ryan.
After a slow start, the Kenda team was the first to launch an attack but the rider was brought back almost immediately. After that, each lap a rider tried to instigate a break but nothing stuck. Alison Powers (Team Type 1), Robin Farina (ValueAct), Kacey Manderfield (Lip Smacker) and a few more tried their luck but were always quickly brought back.
With three laps to go, the speed ramped up as the three big teams, Colavita/Sutter Home, Team Type 1 and TIBCO came to the front to get ready for the finale.
“The three teams have been contributing to the lead out. I wouldn’t say one team had ultimate control but with three strong teams battling it out, it keeps the pace high, it keeps the sprinters in contention. ” said Van Gilder.
“We had to really bust our behinds out there, the girls did a really good job of improvising with the downhill into the finish, it was a very hard race to control and so we couldn’t do the kind of leadout that we wanted. Team Type 1 raced an awesome aggressive race out there and they were setting up for the finish which kept it fast, keep it safe because that can be a really dangerous finish if you didn’t take control. ” said Miller.
The plan for TIBCO was to start the train with only one lap to go but late attacks forced the team to improvise once again.
“We weren’t trying to get our leadout going with two laps to go but with one lap to go but things got a little bit hectic and I was following Lauren [Tamayo] around, she was going to be my final leadout rider today but she got onto the front so we changed plans, you come up with your playbook and then you have your plans B,C, D, E, we were probably on about K.” chuckled Miller.
The TIBCO team got swarmed on the rise just after the line on the final lap which brought Powers to the front of the pack ramping up the speed.
“Type 1 took over on the hill and did a great job of keeping it fast and then Jo got up there and moved me around, Emma, Kat, Meredith, it seems like my whole team was up there doing whatever they could to keep me in position, keep me safe through that park.” said Miller.
On the final sweeping turn to the finish, Cliff-Ryan went first as was the plan. “It’s hard for our team because we only have two girls here. Colavita and TIBCO they have a full team and they are all big name riders so we had to play our cards and pick and choose which break. Jesse [MacLean] is more of a breakaway or 1k to go type of rider and I’m more a sprinter. If it come down to a sprint I knew that I was going to go, try to go before this last corner and I did but I just hesitated. We’ve really got to be careful on how many breaks and attacks we go on.”
“Theresa went first and I was on her and Brooke came around us, I can’t really how far out because the course sweeps back in the shade and because there are blind corners, you don’t really have a sense of it” said Van Gilder.
Complete results here.
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