Team Vera Bradley Foundation experienced the highs and the lows of bike racing today at the Roadrunner Classic Omnium. The highs being a victory in the morning time trial; and the lows being losing the yellow jersey due to bad luck with a flat tire at the wrong moment. But despite a bit of misfortune, the women demonstrated incredible teamwork, sacrificing everything to try to capture the win.
The Roadrunner Classic made its debut this year, positioning itself as a “tune-up” race for the SRAM Tour of the Gila. The race was an omnium format, meaning that it is based on points, rather than cumulative time, with a 6.3 mile time trial in the morning and a 38 mile circuit race in the afternoon. Both the TT and road race were held on the same course, a 3.1 mile “snake” loop with three challenging climbs and fast descents.
The course proved to be suited to VBF’s Alison Powers, as she blazed the 6.3 mile route in 15:26, which was :40 seconds faster than Colavita/Baci’s Carmen Small. Robin Farina took 3rd place, with VBF’s Carla Swart taking 5th, Kristin Sanders 7th and Alison Testroete 11th.
“We rode the course yesterday in some very windy conditions,” stated Powers. “It’s a hard course and the wind makes it even tougher.” The wind did not let up today, and it blew a lot of debris and the infamous “goatheads” onto the course. “I was lucky I didn’t get a flat out on the course with all of the goatheads,” Powers said. “But after I was done, my tire went flat immediately.”
Since cumulative time was not a factor in the race, the team needed to go for top placings in the road race.
“Ideally, we wanted to set up Alison for a high placing in the circuit race,” commented team director, Lisa Hunt. “We needed to keep the top 5 riders in check throughout the race and we needed to cover all breakaway attempts.”
Everything went according to plan, with the VBF women in every move throughout the day. But bad luck began to strike early on in the race, with Swart getting her first of two flat tires during the race.
“I commented that girls were getting flat tires even before the race started and I hoped it wouldn’t happen to me in the race,” said Swart. “I had to work hard to chase back on.”
On the final lap, it was Powers that suffered an untimely flat tire, but Testroete was quick to offer her a wheel and Swart dropped back to help bring her back to the group. But Swart then got a second flat, and that’s when Sanders stepped in to help bring Powers back to the group. Meanwhile 2nd placed rider Carmen Small attacked and Webcor’s Katheryn Mattis was there to cover it with Farina on her wheel. The trio got a sizeable gap on a chasing field that included Powers, who had just regained contact. And then Colavita’s Cath Cheatley bridged up to the break of three and then launched a move which Farina had to cover. It gave Small the opportunity to rest and then launch her sprint for the win. With her victory in the road race, she earned enough points to take over first place. Powers came in 5th in the road race, and but dropped down to 2nd overall, with Mattis taking 3rd.
“We had some bad luck today,” commented Hunt. “The team rode an incredible race and the girls sacrificed themselves to get the win. This sets the stage for a great race at Gila.”
The team will travel down to Silver City, NM, when the SRAM Tour of the Gila begins on Wednesday. They will be joined by Alexis Rhodes, who returns to the U.S., after racing the spring classics in Europe with the Australian National Team.