Director’s Race Report from Redlands, Sea Otter and Gila
The young and brand new Cynisca squad had a busy three weeks in California and New Mexico. The team competed in its first stage race at the Annual Redlands Bicycle Classic, followed by the Sea Otter Classic and the Tour of the Gila in New Mexico. These challenging races allowed our young squad to get their feet wet in stage racing. Our objectives for the US races were to introduce our new team to hard stage racing in the US and build strong fitness for our mid-season goal of US Nationals.
Redlands Bicycle Classic
Redlands Bicycle Classic is notorious for being the first race of the year where riders show up fit and ready to display their early season fitness. Cynisca on the other hand has already spent time racing in Spain and Belgium so we used Redlands as more of a regrouping and reset from our early Euro racing block. Due to some illness and injuries, we started the stage race with only four riders. Ashley Fyre, Katherine Sarkisov, Cara O’Neill and Kyleigh Spearing fought tough battles in every stage due to our lack of entering with a full squad. The riders learned quickly about stage racing and how to race conservatively when outnumbered.
Ashley showed that she is a climber to contend with when the road goes up. By the end of the race, she showed great determination by fighting her way back on the Sunset Loop Road Race to finish in the lead group and took 11th in the overall General Classification.
Sea Otter Classic
The team then headed up to Monterey, Calif., for the widely popular festival/trade show Sea Otter Classic. It was a full week for the team to meet all our supporters and sponsors, get to know industry players and race in the difficult Fort Ord Road Race. The road race at Sea Otter has plenty of hills, descents and rough roads to test the racers skills.
With some strong teamwork from Cara O’Neill, Kyleigh Spearing and Claire “the Duchess” Windsor, they launched Ashley Frye in a move on one of the more difficult climbs in the race. Ashley then found herself in a break with one other rider, Alia Shafi (FOUNT Cycling Guild), who was also a good climber. Ashley and her breakaway partner worked seamlessly to build a large gap on the shattered field. On the last climb, Ashley made several attacks to break away from her opponent but at the end of the day Alia had better legs. Ashley snagged 2nd, and the team worked tirelessly to secure the podium spot.
Tour of Gila
After Sea Otter, we hurried over to Silver City, New Mexico, home of the Tour of Gila and the Gila Monster. Tour of Gila is considered the hardest stage race in America. The long climbs at altitude in the desert push riders to their limits and test their fitness and skills.
Cynisca brought a full squad of six riders including our two new riders Jess Cygan and Anna Hicks. The squad also included Ashley Frye, Katherine Sarkisov, Cara O’Neill and Claire Windsor, fresh off her racing block in Europe.
The team executed perfect tactics on stage 1 keeping Ashley safe in the pack and launching her into the last climb, the infamous Mogollon. This climb is six-plus miles long, has steep pitches and climbs to 7,000 feet in elevation. This is a stage for the best climbers and Ashley grabbed a 4th on this ridiculously hard stage.
With Cynisca sitting 4th overall in GC, stage 2 was straight forward. Our goals were to get two riders in the front group over the first two climbs. The team worked relentlessly to put Jess and Ashley in the move of the day. In the end, we had Ashley and Jess in the top 10 with Ashley getting 6th and Jess 10th. This helped our podium campaign.
Stage 3, the time trial (TT) of Tour of Gila, is always a decisive stage that reveals the best all-around riders at the race. With our team being so young and inexperienced, the TT hurt our overall standings. This particular TT is one of the longest and hardest in the country with hills, wind and distance making it always a challenge. After this stage our GC contention was unlikely. Our focus moved to maintaining in Saturday’s criterium and the last stage on Sunday, the Gila Monster.
The last day of the Tour of Gila is always the hardest on the riders. With tired legs they contend a hard road race with a long climb at the end of the stage which is always decisive. Our climber, Ashley suffered a crash in Saturday’s criterium and was 11th in the GC. She was still shaken up a bit from the crash, but her determination to make up on the GC was strong. The last stage was a solid team race for our four riders that remained in the race. Anna fought hard to get into the mid-race break which allowed her to get some time on the last big climb and help Ashley stay in better position once she made it up to Anna. Katherine and Jess provided great teamwork keeping Ashley safe in the pack and moving her into good position for the final climb. In the final, Ashley climbed to a strong 11th on the stage which moved her into 8th in GC for day.
The team leaves Tour of Gila feeling hungry and enthusiastic about our upcoming races. We understand that there is always more to learn in this sport but are hopeful with the guidance and support of our experienced staff that we can take it to the next level. The Walmart Joe Martin Stage Race is our next race on the schedule in the USA while the Cynisca Euro contingency will battle in the Classique Morbihan and GP Morbihan on May 5 & 6th and then head to the Tour of Bretagne May 9-13th.
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- May 6, 2023