By: Sara Giovannetti
USA CRITS’ Speedweek came to an end last weekend, but the races are still fresh in my mind. As I am new to this ‘big time’ criterium racing, I did my best to soak in as much as I could from each race, and then apply it to the next one. The week culminated in two very exciting races that took place in the state of Georgia.
The Athens Twilight Criterium was held on Saturday April 29, and to call it exciting is actually an understatement. The race website describes it as “the most insane criterium in the world”. A massive party surrounded the entire race course – the sidewalks were jam-packed with university students and families that were taking in the action. Despite the party vibes, the Cyclery-4iiii girls stayed focused on preparing for the race. We knew that the race would be aggressive from the start, as it is the highlight event of Speedweek. There were also some riders with fresh legs who had not raced the entire series. After a shortened warm-up on the rollers due to the extreme heat, we headed to the staging area with ice cubes stuffed in our jerseys.
As expected, the race went off fast and furious with nearly 70 riders at the start. The course was a rectangular block; there was an incline on one side and a descent on the other side through the start/finish line. My Cyclery-4iiii teammates got up to the front early. I did my best to join them, but I had difficulty closing the gap from the back and I ended up losing the group. My teammates fought hard throughout the remainder of the race, and the intensity did not let up. Kinley scooped up a prime with 3 laps to go, and was the first Cyclery-4iiii girl to come across the line in 17th. Peta Mullins took home the gold, followed by Rebecca Wiasak (dual world champion in the Individual Pursuit on the track) in 2nd, and Tina Pic in 3rd.
The following afternoon we raced the Roswell Criterium, which was the Speedweek Finale. The course at Roswell consisted of 5 corners, and it was a 1.5 km circuit. Despite feeling the fatigue from the week of racing, the Cyclery-4iiii girls went into the race with high spirits. I in particular wanted to finish off the week strong, as I was disappointed with my recent performances. I focused on making my way to the front of the group from the start in order to conserve energy and avoid the accordion effect. Eventually I settled in with the group, and found myself beside my teammates at various points during the race. We were proud of our communication throughout the race, and we focused on working together to set each other up for primes. Emily led Ariane to a prime about halfway through the race and they worked super well together! As the race came to an end, all of the Cyclery-4iiii girls were in the main bunch, and positioning was key. Kinley was the first Cyclery-4iiii rider to cross the line, and she cracked the top 10 in a stellar 9th place.
USA CRITS’ Speedweek was really a week of learning for me. I was inspired by my teammates’ aggressive racing, and grateful for Jenny and Chris’ support throughout what Chris coined “a baptism of fire”. After taking some time for recovery upon returning home, I headed to London, Ontario for the 49th annual Springbank Road Race on May 7th. The race was 40km long on a 2.2km circuit, and it was my first opportunity to apply what I learned at Speedweek. Although preparation was a little different (rather than stuffing ice cubes in my jersey, I donned my arm warmers and leg warmers), I felt excited to race again. Speedweek pushed me out of my comfort zone, and I decided to embrace that mentality and take (safe) risks at Springbank. Because I did A LOT of chasing at Speedweek, I endeavoured stay at the front of the pack at Springbank. When the first prime was announced with over half of the race remaining, I went for it and then continued onward to make a break. It was risky in that I was uncertain if I could ride off the front by myself for that long and hold on to the lead, but I surprised myself and finished with a win, 52 seconds ahead of the group. It was a solid day, but I cannot wait to race again with my Cyclery-4iiii teammates!