Gillian Carleton (Vanderkitten) swooped around the attacking teams in the rainy final laps in Menomonie to win by several bike lengths. Leah Kirchmann (Team Optum p/b Kelly Benefits Strategies) took second with Lizzie Williams (Vanderkitten) close on her wheel for third. The eight second time bonus Kirchmann received for second place was enough to move her into second in the general classification, just 0.2 seconds ahead of Alison Powers (UnitedHealthcare). Carmen Small (Specialized-lululemon) retains her overall lead by seven seconds.
The rain-soaked 82.3 mile stage got off to a slow start as teams looked to each other to see who would begin the attacking.
The first several miles moved at this relaxed pace until finally Amy Cutler (FCS|Zngine p/b Mr. Restore) made her bold move on a solo break. Her gap swelled up to a minute and a half until a chase began. Cutler was brought back to within 10 seconds of the peloton. The chase died down before she was caught, and she fought on to again soar solo down the road.
The stage started overcast, but heavy rains started soon after Cutler’s break. “It was everything you’d think it would be – painful, wet, cold,” said Cutler. “I just kept going until they told me to stop.”
Cutler’s solo ride lasted nearly 30 miles, ballooning up to a gap of four minutes and twenty seconds. She was eventually brought back after the second Queen of the Mountains competition, when other teams contesting the Jelly Belly Queen of the Mountains competition started their fight for points. Cutler received the Penn Cycle Most Aggressive Rider jersey for her effort.
Tayler Wiles (Specialized-lululemon) widened her lead on the Jelly Belly Queen of the Mountains competition. Wiles used the second Queen of the Mountains competition to launch a break. Together she and Sharon Laws (UnitedHealthcare) stayed away for several rolling miles.
Once they were caught, a break of E “Scotti” Wilbourne (UnitedHealthcare) and Janel Holcomb (Team Optum) formed. They dangled between 10 to 25 seconds ahead of the peloton several miles. Carleton bridged up to the duo. Wilbourne was eventually dropped from this group. Carleton and Holcomb stuck together for about five miles until Carleton dropped off, leaving Holcomb to fight the crosswinds solo. She was caught about a mile away from entering the finishing circuits.
The rain lightened up in the middle of the race, but were again heavy as the riders raced the three-mile long finishing circuits.
“It was pretty slippery in the last few laps,” said Carleton. “There is so much cross walk paint on the ground that the first couple riders would lean into it really hard, then everyone else would slow and slid across the road a little bit.”
“It was really aggressive, single file, non-stop attacking from the time we entered the circuits,” said Williams. “There was no rest.”
Team Optum, TIBCO, and UnitedHealthcare were the primary aggressors in the final circuits. Different pairings of riders from the teams were seen each time they crossed the finish line.
“I figured I had about one dig left so I just sat on the back,” said Carleton. “I hit it from about three corners back. A TIBCO girl jumped onto the front and I jumped her in the corner. I had a lot of speed and kept it all the way through to the end.”
“I didn’t even know Gillian was in the group until she flew past us!” laughed Williams.
Coryn Rivera (UnitedHealthcare) remains in the Xcel Energy Best Sprinter jersey. Kirchmann widened her lead in the Tria Orthopedic Best Young Rider competition. Kelly Catlin (Kakookies Collegiate All Stars) remains in the North Star Best Amateur jersey.