By Cynthia Lou for Nature Valley Grand Prix
It was a big day for Team TIBCO as Shelley Olds captured the overall victory, Claudia Hausler and Joanne Kiesanowski took first and second on the Stillwater Criterium stage, Hausler won the SportBeans Queen of the Hills competition, and Team TIBCO won the team classification.
Jade Wilcoxson (Optum p/b Kelly Benefits Strategies) started the final race with a one second lead ahead of Olds but crashed in the last corner of the last lap before what would have been her last trip up Chilkoot Hill. Wilcoxson was unable to finish the race.
“I’m just so proud of my team,” said Olds. “We stuck together the whole stage race, we were composed, we had a plan the whole time and we executed on the final day.”
With Team TIBCO’s strategy to slowly chip away seconds from Olds’ overall time on each stage, today’s move was to set the pace at the front and control the race, which split the peloton early.
Specialized-lulelemon continued yesterday’s trend of aggressive solo attacks, sending Ally Stacher out with seven laps to go out of 13 total laps of the 2.2k, 12-corner course featuring the 18% average grade of Chilkoot Hill.
Perhaps channeling the energy of the Carly Swart jersey which was awarded earlier in the day to Amber Gaffney (Optum p/b Kelly Benefits Strategies), the rider who is voted by the peloton to have sacrificed the most for her team, Stacher stayed away for several laps alone.
She was eventually joined by teammate Tayler Wiles and Team TIBCO’s Kiesanowski. Behind them Optum p/b Kelly Benefits Strategies and Team TIBCO relaxed just a bit, watching each other and resting, waiting until the final few laps to strike again.
At two laps to go Hausler went on the attack and bridged up to the lead group.
“I felt like I could close the gap,” said Hausler about her bridge to the front group. “The people are amazing here, the crowd was amazing, it’s very easy to go full gas up the climb.”
With Wiles and Stacher working together, and Team TIBCO setting up for an overall win, Kiesanowski had been able to sit in on the three-woman breakaway, giving her an opportunity to rest.
Once Hausler made contact with the group, Hausler and Kiesanowski took off ahead of Wiles and Stacher in the final lap, finishing first, second, third and fourth on the stage.
Behind them, the aggressive hunt for yellow saw the Optum train setting up along the outer fence on the downhill before the final turn as Team TIBCO’s Lauren Stephens and Olds set up on the inside. Wilcoxson took the turn wide, hitting a groove on the outside of the asphalt and street gutter and crashed, while Olds sprinted to the finish line for a fifth-place finish on the stage and the overall win.
“Optum was lined up on the left side on the downhill and I had one teammate Lauren Stephens in front of me trying to get me through that corner first,” said Olds. “Jade jumped ahead of us and took that last corner first. I told my teammate to move out of the way, and I took the inside corner. Jade had a huge lead out from me already, but when she went through the corner on the outside she crashed into the gate.”
This is Olds’ second overall victory at the Nature Valley Grand Prix.
“In 2010 when I won this race I was so happy leaving here, I kept so many friends from the area that followed me through the Olympics, that supported me on Facebook,” said Olds. “It’s just an amazing community of people here, I’ve made a lot of good friends and have so many great fans from the area.”
Stacher’s efforts earned her the Freewheel Bike Most Aggressive Rider jersey. Hausler won the SportBeans Queen of the Hill jersey, Wiles the TRIA Orthopaedic Center Best Young Rider jersey, Anna Christiansen (Nature Valley Cycling Team) the Nature Valley Best Amateur jersey, and Katharine Wells the Xcel Energy Sprint jersey.
For complete results from the women's race events, visit www.naturevalleybicyclefestival.com/Grand-Prix/Results/StillwaterCrit-Women