“Following a mediocre warm-up, I rode around the course for a while and made it to the start line fifteen minutes early to claim a coveted spot in the fourth row. It sucked, but I chose a place on the side that corresponded with the outside of the upcoming corner, which also happened to be behind riders I trusted to get into a good position quickly. It worked out well. As soon as we rolled, I followed rock star Jade Wilcoxson’s (Optum) wheel and cruised up near the front without much effort.
After a few fast laps as everybody settled in, a series of attacks began that led to the formation of a 13-rider break. It was a strong mix, with riders from Optum, Exergy, and NOW, as well as Katie Compton, but I suspected it was too big for anybody to want it to stay away.
It stuck for a while, though, long enough to make the legs burn. We weren’t so much working together as attacking, regrouping, attacking, separating, regrouping, and so on. When smaller splits would form, I’d haul ass to not miss potentially dangerous combinations, but the cumulative effort started to hurt a lot. It was kind of awesome – nobody was sitting in and coasting around. Instead, the second one rider let off the gas, another would seize the moment and throw down. While I wanted to barf up a lung, I also was thrilled to be riding in the red, railing the corners, and sitting in very good company. Crit racing at its finest!
Once the field caught the break, the attacks kept coming. There were three interim sprint points as well as primes that added to the intensity and kept the field going hard. Jade cleaned up on the sprint competition, while riders from all of the teams worked aggressively to launch or shut down escape attempts. I sat near the front, bridging when I could to promising moves while also trying to not burn out before the end. Somewhere around 40 minutes in, I remembered to drink. It might have been the leg cramps that reminded me.
Nothing stuck and then it was the down to the final laps. I was expecting a clear leadout train to form from one of the teams, but it was an even mix at the front driving the pace. On the back stretch of the final lap, Alison Powers (NOW) and Jade jumped hard and got a gap from the front of the field. I rounded the final corner sitting behind the diesel engine that is KFC and sprinted down the home stretch to land 5th place. Jade won, Alison grabbed 2nd, Leah Kirchmann (Optum) came in 3rd, and Carmen Small (Optum) finished 4th.
It was a great race. The weather cooperated with only a few sprinkles of rain, the crowds in downtown Aspen were enthusiastic, the pace was high, and there was only one crash of a single rider that overcooked a turn and apparently walked away unscathed from a brush with a parked car.”