After a third-place finish at the SRAM Tour of the Gila TT. Janel Holcomb (Colavita/Forno d’Asolo) was the fastest at the opener of the Joe Martin Stage Race in Northwest Arkansas. Gunning for the riders in front of her, she clocked 9:41.77 and held an average speed of 15.49 mph (24.93 km/h) on the 2.5-mile uphill and undulating course in Devil’s Den State Park.
Both second and third are at 9 seconds from the winner, separated by 5 hundredths of a second. Tamer of the Gila Monster, Kathryn Donovan (SC Velo-Empower Coaching) took second while Megan Guarnier (TIBCO/To The Top), who returned from racing in Europe two weeks ago, is third.
Finishing 6th at 23 seconds down, puts Courteney Lowe (FCS Cycling Team) in the best young rider’s jersey while Colavita/Forno d’Asolo leads the team classification after one stage.
With conflicting races such as USA Crits Speedweek, the Pan Am Games and some racers in Europe, it’s a small field, only 38 riders at the Joe Martin Stage Race, with most fielding between 3 and 5 riders only. Holcomb has only 2 teammates to held defend her lead, ace sprinter Modesta Vzesniauskaite who won two stages last year and Kristin Sanders. The battle will be with TIBCO who has 5 riders in the race, including Guarnier, Meredith Miller and Jo Kiesanowski. Primal/MapMyRide will be gunning for stage wins and we’ll have to see what Donovan can do with only one teammate. It will be interesting to see if the smaller teams race aggressively in such a small field.
Three more stages with time bonuses of a maximum of 10 seconds at the finish line. Tomorrow is the 64 miles (103 km) road stage with 3,500 feet of climbing including a 9.2 mile section with an average grade of 2.7%, and the finishing straight has a 6% uphill grade over the last 350 meters. Last year, the stage ended in a bunch sprint won by Vzesniauskaite. At stake tomorrow will also be the points jersey with one intermediate sprint and points at the finish line.
Janel Holcomb (Colavita/Forno d’Asolo). “I pre-rode the course with Kristin Sanders beforehand and immediately I was in love with it. Kristin had all these great pointers and we had talked about it before hand and as we’re riding it, she had all these great pointers and so when I was going to be racing I felt that I was really prepared even though I’d never done this one before. It was good, I took off and I wanted to get up to speed but I needed to be somewhat smart at the bottom, and hold speed when I could but then climb really hard when the road went up, and so it was going really well. I was anxious to catch people in front of me but in front of me was Megan Guarnier and I wasn’t catching her so I kept on throwing it because I was thinking ‘I have to catch Megan, I have to pass Megan’, and I only caught one person but I just kept on telling myself, ‘you have to keep going, you may not be catching a lot of people but you just keep on going’. ”
“Between the advice my coach gave me, between Kristin’s voice in my head and also I knew that Rachel had confidence in me because an hour before the start, she looked at me and said ‘Janel, you know you have a good shot here’, or something very simple like that. And I looked at her, and said ‘yep, yep, I’m on it, I like the course’. (laughs) I think just having my coach, Kristin and Rachel, behind me, I felt good, I felt happy, I was excited, I was ready so it was good. Finished up and also find out that we’re all in the top 10, we’re winning team GC, that’s pretty rad too.”
About defending the lead with only 3 riders. “We’re excited and we’re ready to race. Three more hard days but we’re ready. We don’t have our strategy worked out yet, we’re ready to race, we know that we’ll get great guidance from Rachel and we know that we’re up against strong teams who outnumber us but we’ll be racing our bikes, there’s no doubt.”
Megan Guarnier (TIBCO/To The Top). “I think I was a little bit over geared at the beginning because I was a little over ambitious but that’s how all time trials are, it’s kind of reining it back in the beginning half or so for me, and then being able to push through at the end. It didn’t start to hurt until you were a K(ilometer) into it so that’s when things start to hit you, ‘ow oh okay’. It was a beautiful day, perfect weather for this kind of stuff, it wasn’t too hot, it wasn’t too cold. It sets TIBCO up for a good week.”
About the wind condition. “I was so focused, I didn’t really notice and I don’t know if that’s being focused on the right thing or the wrong things, some of the girls said that it changed to a headwind since the pre-ride but I didn’t notice it as a tailwind. I was more focused on what was going on in my body and on my bike. ”
Return from Europe? “Two weeks ago. I went to Speedweek for a couple of days and then I came here. I had a nice few days of recovery at our lovely host house in Fayetteville so I’m pretty stoked for that. Rest and recovery for this.”
Top 10 Stage Results
1. Janel Holcomb (Colavita/Forno d’Asolo) 09:41.77
2. Kathryn Donovan (SC Velo – Empower Coaching) 0:09.4
3. Megan Guarnier (TIBCO/To The Top) 0:09.9
4. Ruth Clemence (SC Velo – Empower Coaching) 0:12.3
5. Lex Albrecht (Team Juvederm-Specialized) 0:14.9
6. Courteney Lowe (FCS Cycling Team) 0:23.4
7. Kristen LaSasso (Primal/MapMyRide Womens Racing) 0:28.2
8. Kristin Sanders (Colavita/Forno d’Asolo) 0:28.5
9. Modesta Vzesniauskaite (Colavita/Forno d’Asolo) 0:31.8
10. Kasey Clark (Primal/MapMyRide Womens Racing) 0:34.4