With a squad in Europe and another heading to Gila this week, reigning U23 criterium champion Samantha Schneider is the lone representative of Team TIBCO/To the Top in the Southeast criterium series, which started this weekend in Georgia.
But being on her own didn’t stop her from representing the team well to open the weekend. Schneider got things going with a strong 2nd place in alternately bad and horrendous conditions at the Terrapin Athens Twilight Criterium Saturday evening.
Though only 19, Schneider used a well-developed tactical sense to stay out of trouble during the bad conditions. “The first six or seven laps I stayed second wheel,” she said. “We dropped 15 or 20 riders in those first laps. From there I just tried to stay near the front and out of trouble. I liked the rain though. It really added to the race.”
Her good positioned proved critical on the final lap when a crash a couple wheels behind her took out much of the field and created a split of eight riders up front.
“Coming out of the last corner, we were four or five wide on the road and everyone just went for it,” she said.
Schneider came across the line second, and shortly thereafter was taken out by raced winner Theresa Clif-Ryan (Colavita-Baci), who may have lost control of her bike following her victory salute. Schneider remained on the tarmac for a few minutes but sustained only bruises and scrapes.
Schneider continues with 8th in Roswell. Schneider was well enough to take the start Sunday in the Historic Roswell Criterium, under significantly better conditions, with sunshine and warm temperatures bathing the racers instead of rain.
“I felt good today despite the crash,” she said. “But it was kind of a strange race. It was a slow race and really hard to maintain position.”
Despite several teams have fairly full squads there, no team took control of the race. “I’d move up to the front and then things would slow a bit and we’d get swarmed and I’d be mid-pack again.”
The bunch sprint for the win as a bit chaotic as a result. “I made up a lot of places in the sprint,” she said.
The effort got her to 8th place. “I’m feeling good after the first weekend,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to the rest of the series.”
The series will keep her busy, with races on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. She’ll have just a couple days off after that before heading to Arkansas for the Joe Martin Stage Race the following week.