So Saturday was a criterium in Milwaukee on Downer's Avenue. This race has a long history in the state and has been part of the Superweek race series for years. It had always been a course that only the Pro men got to race. It's in a hip neighborhood just north of the city and always draws in huge numbers of specators. Four corners but kind of shaped like a big triangle there's one turn which is greater than 90 degrees and if riders aren't paying attention they might swing wide and hit the curb. Fun course though! When the promoters of America's Dairyland secured the course they graciously allowed all the categories to race and I was super excited for the chance to race in front of a big crowd on this legendary course.
Just three KENDA riders (Ashley, Jackie, and myself) on the line with Krystal heading home to get a few days rest before Fitchburg. A few more riders showing up for the weekend and we had 30 on the line. Lots of friends and family watching including my parents, my brother Jason, and his girlfriend Jesse. Monique also made the drive over from Madison to be our superfan and take pictures and be on the radios.
I knew I wanted to race aggressively and made sure the girls were prepared to be watching wheels and going with promising moves. It seemed that in most of the crits breaks were sticking and I expected something to work out in this race too. There were some attacks early on and both Ashley and Jackie were involved in some short lived breaks. Things were pretty strung out and about 15 minutes in a $100 prime was called and I attacked hard. I got a good gap and crossed the line solo for the cash and continued to ride tempo. I soon see two riders working their way up to me with a big gap back to the field. Toni from Lipsmackers and Davina from Verducci were soon rolled up and we began to work together.
This was a great break for me. Before the race I was 5 points behind Theresa for 3rd in the overall classification. If this break stuck I had the possibility of gaining some points on her. I also liked riding with Toni and Davina - both strong riders and with all of us having teammates back in the field we were likely to stay away. I figured Verducci might not be super happy with the break since I was relatively close to Theresa for points and I made sure to take strong pulls in our rotation.
As the minutes ticked by and our gap grew I knew this was the race and it was time to start thinking about how I was going to try to win this race. By this point in the series I knew Toni liked to race aggressively and that Davina is a great sprinter. I figured my odds were better by attacking in the last two laps. I was planning on attacking with 1.5 to go but with our rotation my position wasn't right so instead as we came through the finish stretch and heard the bell I went for it.
Figured I'd at least make it exciting for all the spectators watching by the announcing stand! I had a gap through the first corner and made it through the wide corner alone but saw Davina charging up behind me. I knew I was caught and slowed up to try to recover as much as possible. Toni, who had been on Davina's wheel, saw her chance and attacked on the other side of the road. I had been ready for this and quickly got on her wheel. We slowed up again and Toni began to ramp up the speed and essentially lead us out. I knew I wanted to be on the outside on the last corner as I felt there was some wind advantage and as we swung around it was Davina and I drag racing to the line.
As we got closer she was pulling just ahead of me but I continued to push remembering that the line was beyond the banner. We were right next to each other and as the line approached I threw the bike in hopes that I might pip her.
As we crossed I heard the announcer (the very talented Brad Sohner!) call out Davina as the winner and I was bummed at how close the win had been! I congratulated Davina and Toni and I chatted on our cool down lap. There were lots of friends out on the course and many were asking what happened and I smiled and held up two fingers. As we came around the final corner a buddy of mine shouted out to me that I had won! I was shocked and didn't believe him. As I rolled up to the finish more and more people were congratulating me and Brad was in the road on the mic telling me that it was a photo finish and that I had won by millimeters!
I was ecstatic! I had so badly wanted Team KENDA to take a win in this series and now I had done it and had won at Downers in front of so many family and friends. What a great feeling. I found my parents and hugged them and then found my screaming teenager teammates and hugged them. After calling Dave to tell him the news I headed back to the podium to see the photo finish.
This picture of me and Davina checking out the finish is pretty classic!
It was a real honor to take the top step of the podium and the chocolate milk tasted very sweet!
By getting first I had also moved closer to Theresa in the overall. She had taken 5th so I was now one point out of 3rd place! It was all going to come down to the final race in Waukesha (race report to come Tuesday!)
Thanks so much to all of my cheering family and friends out there on the course - getting a win in front of people who are important to me is an unbelievable feeling! Thanks also to my fabulous teammates Jackie and Ashley who were blocking and sticking to wheels back in the pack!
All of the photos are thanks to the fantastic John Wilkes of Peloton Pix. John did such an amazing job throughout the series. He was there every day taking photos and his race recaps were always up so quickly! He has a great eye and I really appreciate being able to purchase some shots to remember the race and the series by!
Thanks for reading :)