Lauren De Crescenzo rides for the DNA Cycling p/b K4 Women’s Elite Team. The team recently raced at the inaugural USA Pro Challenge Women’s Stage Race. The race has historically been a men’s only stage race; and this was the first year for women. In this blog, she shares the highs (altitude included) and lows of this fiercely competitive stage race. (Photos courtesy of Catherine Fegan-Kim/Cotton Sox Photography)

Race reports can be boring. That’s why I’m going to skip over the minutia of each stage and focus on what you really need to know.

I’m from Broomfield, Colorado. It fits the American suburb archetype. We have good sidewalks- good secondary education- lots of tire shops. Being from Broomfield, I’ve watched the USA Pro Challenge every single year since its inception in 2011. This time last year, I actually worked for the race as an “inflatable arch technician.” This is a fancy way of saying, I inflated the Clif Bar arch in the feed zones of the men’s race. I remember being so angry standing in the pouring rain, holding on tightly to the arch in the wind and watching the men’s race go by thinking “I should be in this race.” This year, the race responded and the Women’s USA Pro Cycling Challenge was born. The inaugural edition of our race happened to line up with the 95th anniversary of women’s suffrage. We’re making progress! It’s a good time to be a woman!

STAGE 1: Breckenridge Time Trial– 8.5 miles starting at 9,000 ft and topping out at 10,088 ft
Keys to success: Osmo Women’s PreLoad and Hydration to ward off the effects of altitude sickness.

In spite of heeding warnings of altitude sickness and properly hydrating, the race still hurt badly. My teammate Breanne took 6th on the day and was awarded the most courageous jersey (the only rider in the top 10 on a road bike). Our guest rider Tayler Wiles placed 5th.

Photo credit: Catherine Fegan-Kim/Cotton Sox Photography

Smiling at the TT start?? Photo credit: Catherine Fegan-Kim/Cotton Sox Photography

 

Bre Nalder in the Most Courageous Jersey! Photo credit: Catherine Fegan-Kim/Cotton Sox Photography

Bre Nalder in the Most Courageous Jersey! Photo credit: Catherine Fegan-Kim/Cotton Sox Photography

STAGE 2: Loveland- Fort Collins– 58 miles including LOTS of climbing

Also insanely hard. The crosswinds were so intense during the first 10K of the race was marked by several splits in the peloton. Several of our team was caught out in these splits, but managed to come back together after the sprint in Loveland. We were able to come back together just before the pace slowed. Our super-domestique Joanie took advantage of this lull in the action to go back to the team car and get 8 bottles of Osmo Hydration (or just “mix” as we call it). She placed bottles everywhere in her jersey and sports bra enabling her to get fresh cold bottles of mix to each of us after the single trip back to the team car. Getting bottles from the team car also allowed our team to stay safe and watch for attacks once we passed the hectic feed zone.  The field really started to splinter on the first big climb. In following with our race plan, teammate Bre Nalder attacked on one of the steepest sections and put pressure on Twenty16 to chase. I sat back and drank more Osmo and chillaxed with Tayler (keeping an eye on our GC). Bre’s solo off the front of the climb was successful – once she was caught just before the QOM, the field had been diminished to 15 riders. Mara Abbott attacked over the QOM, creating a 4-woman break, which included Tayler (this would be the podium). Bre and I rode in with the chase group keeping tabs in the unlikely event that the four of the front were caught; they weren’t. Tayler was able to win in a sprint against Kristin Armstrong, Mara Abbott and Lauren Komasnski. Tay moved up to 2nd in GC, AND took the Lexus Sprinters Jersey. I came in 9th and Bre 15th.

Tayler takes the win! Photo credit: Catherine Fegan-Kim/Cotton Sox Photography

Tayler takes the win! Photo credit: Catherine Fegan-Kim/Cotton Sox Photography

STAGE 3: Golden Criterium– 60 minutes around a 1.5 mile circuit in downtown Golden

I got a call-up for being the Best Broomfield rider, which was one of the best moments of my life. I’m #broomfieldproud

From our team perspective, not much to say except the S*** hit the fan within the first 2 laps. Tayler made the selection, and rest of our team (including myself) didn’t have the legs to hold on to that first group. We found ourselves badly positioned and chasing in the second split. When things like this happen, all a delusional racer can do is crack it up to a learning experience. So, it was a GREAT learning experience. The lesson being, train harder. Our team finished 4th in Team GC and Tayler 2nd overall.

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Tough climb every lap! Photo credit: Catherine Fegan-Kim/Cotton Sox Photography

News came out the week after that the future of the USA Pro Challenge is being threatened. Despite the fantastic successes of the men’s and women’s race, they still do not have a title sponsor for next year. It’s important for races like US Pro Challenge, Tour of California and Tour of Utah to continue, even more so now that they are including women’s professional cycling along side the men’s race. This is the best race I’ve been to in terms of media coverage. The fans were amazing; I’ve never been asked by so many young girls (and boys) for my autograph. More than anything I’m proud to think I may have inspired these young kids. I’m really thankful that these girls that can watch a professional race in their home state and decide they want to be bike racers; not just inflatable arch technicians.

Photo credit: Catherine Fegan-Kim/Cotton Sox Photography

Photo credit: Catherine Fegan-Kim/Cotton Sox Photography