The Cynisca Cycling team continues to meet its first half of the season objectives which included: winning a race ✓, getting on the podium at the Joe Martin Classic ✓ and gaining valuable race experience in Europe ✓. Despite managing some injuries and illnesses, the team is well-positioned to continue its progression. Most recently, the team raced in the US, the Spanish Pyrénées and the French Alpes. Here are some recent race highlights.
Alpes Grésivaudan Classic – 4 June
The Alpes Grésivaudan Classic is a one-day UCI 1.1 race and one of the eight races in the French Cup competition. It takes place in the south-east of France in the French Alps, near to Grenoble.
This 2nd edition of the race was 128 km with more than 3,200 m of climbing. It is one of the most ‘mountainous’ races of the women’s elite calendar, featuring 5 categorized climbs: 3 category 3 climbs, 1 category 2 climb, and 1 category 3 climb. What’s more, the first of the three 1st category climbs started less than 5 km into the race. In short, this race is a brutal test of fitness for riders who excel at climbing and descending.
The competition was a mix of Continental teams, the French national team, and French club and regional teams.
The race started at a tough pace and riders were immediately distanced on the climb up the Col de Ayes. Within the first fifteen kilometres of the race, the peloton was stretched across the length of this climb. By the time the peloton reached the summit of this first categorized climb, only twenty to thirty riders remained together in the front peloton. Amongst them was Émilie. Chloé was close behind, followed by Pauline, Ashley and Greta.
On the second categorised climb, Col du Barioz, the pace continued up the climbs and riders continued to be distanced. By the time the peloton reached this summit, the bunch had been halved. Émilie continued to stay with this group, which was dominated by the French national team, Cofidis, and St Michel – Mavic – Auber93. An attack with one rider from each of these three teams went off the front in the early part of this race. It stayed away for much of the race. The peloton allowed for a gap but eventually started to chase it down, causing further damage to the peloton.
By the time the race reached the bottom of the 4th categorised climb, there had been a further split in the peloton, which now only had 9 riders. Émilie was riding in the second group with around seven other riders. On the last climb, she and Anna Keinsenhofer from Israel Premier Tech Roland Development worked together to escape from their second group and move ahead towards the eleven riders ahead of them. Émilie finished in an impressive 12th position.
Team Results in GC: Emilie: 12th, Ashley: 24th, Chloe: 27th
52 riders finished out of 84 starters.
The 25th Armed Forces Cycling Classic – 3 & 4 June
The Armed Forces Cycling Classic is a two-day, two criterium race challenge. The races take place in the Arlington, Virginia suburbs of Crystal City and Clarendon with a hunt for the weekend overall Omnium Prize of the most consistent finisher over the two days. Day one was a 60-minute criterium in Crystal City and day two was a 50km criterium in Clarendon. Some of the top racers in the US compete each year in these races.
Cynisca’s Claire Windsor summed up her experience at the race: “Zooming around corners just outside the U.S. capital at the Armed Forces Cycling Classic was a fantastic experience! First time at this race and the courses and competition each day made for a fun and difficult weekend! Excited that our strong Cynisca trio (Claire, Cara and Katherine) finished in the top 20 each day and Katherine finished 9th overall! I’m proud to see my own improvements with technical skills and confidence being more a part of the race!”
Team Results: Katherine 9th, Claire 11th and Cara 19th
Premio Ciudad de Eibar – 28 May
GP Ciudad de Eibar is a one-day UCI 1.1 race in Spain’s Basque Country, the home of Spanish cycling. The 113 km parcours was a mix of flatter main roads in the valleys, rolling terrain along the coast, and some sustained climbs of 3 to 5 km in the mountains with 1,541 m of climbing over three categorized climbs. The competition was a mix of World Tour, Continental and Spanish club teams.
During the race, Cynisca riders were dominant and present in the front of the race. After some initial attempts at attacks, a sustained break of nine riders went off the front, including Pauline Allin. This stayed away for some kilometres but riders in the bunch made sure that the gap didn’t grow beyond 30 seconds. As the race progressed, there were further attacks, but it became clear that the fight for GC would commence on the final climb.
The final climb, which started less than 20 km from the finish, was almost 5.5 km long and 250 m of climbing. As riders started the ascent, the pace went up and the peloton started to stretch out and break up. Chloé and Greta rode together in one group; Pauline and Ashley held strong in another group slightly further ahead. Émilie made it into the final selection of eight strong climbers. This group rode hard and rode together up the climb, over the descent, and held the gap all the way to the finish line back in Eibar.
Émilie finished 8th in the race. Pauline, Ashley, Greta and Chloé all held their positions until the end of the race, finishing together with their respective groups. As ever, riders were pleased with what they accomplished, but were also eager to take lessons from the day and apply them in the next race.
Team Results in GC: Emilie: 8th , Pauline: 26th, Ashley: 27th, Greta: 40th, Chloe: 41st
Walmart Joe Martin Classic – 18-21 May
The Joe Martin Stage Race is the oldest running stage race in the US and the only UCI-sanctioned women’s stage race in the country. The four stages consisted of 1) 70 mile Mount Gaylor & Devils Den Road Race, 2) 65 mile Fayetteville Mount Sequoyah Road Race, 3) three-mile uphill 5% grade Devil’s Den Time Trial and 4) the Fayetteville Criterium. The race started with over 120 riders in the field including one World Tour Team – EF TIBCO – and seven other UCI Women Continental Teams.
STAGE 1 Mount Gaylor & Devils Den Road Race: The first stage of the race was a 70 mile road race with one significant climb of a little over 3 miles in the middle of the race. As we have seen in the past with the other two stage races we have raced the first day was rather quiet till the climb. Our objectives for the day were to 1) have Emilie and Ashley go for the QOM points and 2) Have Anna go for the sprint points at the intermediate sprint and the finale.
Since we have the two strong French riders Greta and Pauline, we knew we could execute better team tactics than in the past races. Greta is a fantastic road captain that remains calm and helps our newer USA riders navigate the pack and the race. Pauline is showing that her race fitness is improving and able to also assist the US riders in constant moving through the field and learning to race at the front of the race.
Emilie was feeling good so she went for the QOM and got 2nd on the day for the climb and found herself in the lead group over the top of the climb with Ashley not too far behind. The climbing group stayed away for a bit but as the miles ran out the chasing pack brought everything back together for a field sprint at the finale. Since we had all our riders present our goal was too successfully lead out Anna for the sprint. In the last two kilometers unfortunately there was some bumping and someone took Anna’s front wheel out and she went down pretty hard. (Note: Anna has recovered and even won a gravel race last weekend! She’ll be ready for Tulsa Tough.) With the field sprint revving up, Greta did a great job placing top 10 with our other riders not far behind. Mostly everyone got the same time for the day.
Stage 1 Results: Greta 8th; Plus Emilie QOM!
Stage 2 – The Mt. Sequoyah Road Race – 67 miles 4,339 feet of climbing
The stage basically was very similar to the first stage as they ran it backwards from the day before. We woke up to hard rain and knew that today could be difficult to get everyone safely down the treacherous decent leading into the biggest climb of the day. The race started out aggressive with several attacks but nothing was sticking so the team settled into the sprint. After the sprint it was about 16 miles until the race hit the sketchy decent. Cynisca attempted several times for a breakaway again but nothing was going so Claire went to the front and kept the pace high leading into the decent and set Emilie, Greta and Pauline up perfectly for the climb.
Emile was 2nd again today in the QOM but this time a very small group of four riders, including Emilie, were able to keep their lead from the climb and pull away from the pack settling in with gap of over 3 minutes. The big teams except Legion were content to let these 4 go up the road. We were obviously very happy Emile made the split and encouraged her to ride the break but be smart. The main field settled in and the break got over 3:30 minutes one the field. With about 5 kilometers to go in the race, the course became more selective. Several left and right turns and the last 3k were basically uphill with some steep pitches. Emilie rode very well but Lauren Stephens is a savvy veteran rider who knew how to win this race. With about 2k to go Lauren Stephens from EF launched a brutal attack that neither Emilie nor the other breakaway rider could hold. Emilie fought very hard to bring it back and eventually got 3rd on the stage in a very close finish with the other rider left in the breakaway. It was a great day for the team and Emilie moved into 2nd overall in the General Classification.
Stage 2 results: Emile 3rd; Greta 7th; Ashley 11th; Pauline 17th.
Stage 3 The ITT or the Individual Time Trial or race against the clock: All riders are sent on the course in reverse GC order meaning the last placed rider in GC goes off first. With Emilie sitting 2nd in GC, we knew today seconds mattered. The course was a 3 mile uphill TT that the team had previously raced on the first day.
As the race shook out, we ended up with Ashley in 5th on the day which was a strong result, Emilie finished 10th overall and Greta came in with a solid 13th. It was not Emilie’s best day and she did slip a spot in GC, but it was still strong enough to keep her on the overall podium.
Stage 3 Results: Ashely 5th; Emile 10th; Greta 13th; Pauline 25th
Stage 4 The Criterium: The course is about a mile long with several left and right turns, a screaming decent and a challenging uphill to the start/finish line every lap. This criterium has shaken up the GC in years past so we knew we needed to take it seriously and watch the danger riders. The top 3 in GC including Emilie had a nice buffer so it was going to take a serious breakaway or something catastrophic to shake the top 3 off the podium. Criteriums have been very challenging for Cynisca so far. The technicality and the tactics have been a struggle for our young and inexperienced team but we were hopeful for this race because we had our fast and fit French riders along with Emilie who has been present at the front of the race the entire week.
The race started very spicy as we knew it would. Team 24 went to the front and started launching attacks to get Emily Erlich off the front and put pressure on the leading team, EF Education. After the first few laps at high speed, several of our riders were already falling off the pack. In the front group we had representation from Emilie, Pauline and Claire. Ashley and Greta were hanging off the back and Jess was quickly in a group chasing. Due to the technical course and speed this was not ideal for Cynisca. We were outnumbered early on in the race but luckily Pauline and Emilie were able to hold position in the front pack and be ready for the speed surges. The mid to last part of the race we were very lucky to maintain our position. Claire dropped back to the chase group leaving only Pauline and Emilie to defend. By the last lap the front group settled into a field sprint and Emilie and Pauline finished a few seconds back from the winners. This race did shake the GC up but not the top 3. Ashley dropped out of the top 10 on GC due to being in the 2nd group in the race and Greta moved out of 11th due to getting dropped and being pulled from the race.
OVERALL RESULTS: Emilie 3rd; Pauline 14th; Ashley 19th; Claire 43rd; Greta 49th; Jess 53rd out of 120 starters