I’ve raced Brentwood Grand Prix since 2010, and the promoters have used the current course for the past 2 years. This is one of my favorite venues of the season. We raced Manhattan Beach Grand Prix last month; I am always so nervous weeks leading up to the race. I think it’s mostly the nature of the course that frightens me, but that is not the case with Brentwood; I love the course! While nervous, I was equally excited to race.
There was a great turnout of local fast girls for this event, which was also the SCNCA Elite State Crit Championships. SCVelo/Empower Coaching, Revolution, Helens Cycles and LaGrange were all well represented. The line-up included Laura Van Gilder’s strong lead out girl Kirsten LaSasso and Tibco’s young and very talented Alexis Ryan, who is preparing to race the Junior World Championships in Austria. Alexis is both the road race and criterium 17-18 year old National Champion.
I was nervous on the start line, but as soon as the whistle blew I was confident in my teams’ ability to win the race. We are always committed to riding for each other. The race started aggressively, with numerous riders attacking or going for the many primes offered by the announcer. We were not going to go for anything but the win, so we followed these moves waiting for the final lap. I tried to get in a couple of moves while teammate Joy McCulloch was attacking, making sure I wasn’t spending too many matches. We knew it would come down to a field sprint; there were solo riders dragging the field up to every move that had any potential of sticking.
Kristin LaSasso (Wheel Builder) made the race fast, and the speed just kept cranking up until it was strung out with 3 laps to go. Bonnie Breese (SCVelo) , Kristen LaSasso (Wheel Builder) and Emily Georgeson (Helen’s) were up the road in a move going into the last lap. The trio dangled for a bit, but the peloton wouldn’t let them gain any traction. On the backside of the 6-turn lap our team went into “let’s get it done” mode.
I was following Joy to the front, hoping that Shelby Reynolds was on my wheel or near me. Our plan was to have Michelle Ignash wind up the lead out, followed by NRC-alum Brenda Lyons. Joy would bring Shelby and me up the kicker-hill on the last turn, and onto the finishing straight away. Here, I would open up my sprint and bring Shelby with me so she could come around to go for it.
As we caught the last lap break, Joy rolled up to Emily, guiding her to a steady pace and slowly starting to ramp it up. Then BOOM, SCVelo came up on our left to over take us, ‘stay Calm Suzanne’, is what I was thinking, ‘Trust the team!!!’ Then came Brenda, dropping Shelby on my wheel and going straight in front of Joy. She started drilling it into the right hand turn on the backside; we all took the turn on the inside of SCVelo as they moved left and gave us a clean path. All four of us squeaked through, then Brenda took off and got Joy through the left hand turn; it was Joy’s turn. I yelled at Joy to GO! Coming into the last turn I could see the finish line (barely), and decided I needed to bust a move NOW, hoping I could hold on. I felt the chasers closing in and just kept telling myself to go and not give up. I grabbed my last gear and kept going, throwing my bike at the line. When I looked to my right and saw Shelby I was so excited I could not believe we went 1-2! We talked about that before the race but it’s not easy to do at a Championship race!
To say the least, I was overjoyed with how our team performed. Being able to pull it off after an awesome display of teamwork, I was relieved to hold on for the win!!!
Winning any championship event is really special because there are many people who never win even one. I’ve been very fortunate to have won my fair share. I am extremely grateful for my teammates and sponsors who have made it possible for me to race my bike all these years, and for all of the awesome past and present teammates from whom I’ve learned so much.
I would like to dedicate this win to my former teammate Nicole Reinhart who died in a bicycle race September 17th 2000 in Boston. She was only 24 years old and an amazing person.