Old Pueblo Grand Prix
by Leah Kirchmann
I was very excited to get my first win of the season at the 2013 Optum/TMC Old Pueblo Grand Prix in Tucson, AZ! There was some pressure heading into the event, with Optum as a title sponsor and me racing as defending champion. Optum p/b KBS had a strong roster with Annie, Amber, Lauren and me. As a team, we knew we would benefit from a hard and aggressive race. If it came down to a bunch sprint, the plan was for the team to set up a leadout for me.
We were aggressive right from the start, taking turns countering each other’s moves. There wasn’t a break that got up the road without an Optum rider in it. I saw the perfect opportunity to launch a counterattack after my teammate Amber was reeled back in and riding on the front with the group strung out. After a few corners, I was surprised to see I had a decent gap on the field. I really committed to the effort and pretended the race was a time trial. There was still 30 min left, so I would need to pace my effort to stay away. If I got brought back, I was confident that we could set Lauren up for the sprint instead.
Cheering from the crowd and encouragement from my director Rachel kept me motivated. The gap hovered around 26 seconds for a while. My teammates did a great job covering moves back in the field. A disorganized chase allowed my gap to grow to 40 seconds. I could see the tail end of the field with 3 laps to go, and I held my gap all the way to the finish!
Overall, it was a very different experience from last year’s victory that came from a bunch sprint. Winning solo was a new experience for me. It was a nice break from the usual fight for position and elbow bumping that goes on in a sprint finish. It was crazy to win all of the available race jerseys. The race was definitely a confidence boost for the team going into the rest of the season.
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