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Among the sea of riders at the 2017 Amgen Breakaway from Heart Disease Empowered by SRAM we spotted an unusual suspect – cyclocross and mountain bike star Katerina Nash.
Despite being clad in the sleek black get-up of Team Illuminate instead of her usual bright Clif Bar colours, her crankbrothers pedals, mountain bike shoes and CXFever socks were a dead giveaway.
What is this 39-year-old cyclocrosser doing in the midst of this WorldTour pack? How is she going to fare in a challenging four-day road race?
You’ll be able to find out right here as we’re following Nash throughout the tour and will provide you with a diary from each stage.
– Stage 1
– Stage 2
– Stage 4
Stage 3 Summary:
Day three at the Amgen Breakway of Heart Disease Empowered by SRAM Women’s WorldTour event started off with groggy riders piling into cars for an early morning, two-hour transfer to Elk Grove, California.
Many riders were happy to leave the cold mountains behind in exchange for plenty of sunshine and oxygen at sea level.
On the docket today was a flat, windy and fast 118-kilometre stage that was bound to end in a group sprint. But with just three seconds between the yellow jersey wearer, Katie Hall (United HealthCare), and Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) and plenty of teams going for a stage win, the racing would be anything but mundane.
Almost as soon as the natural roll-out was completed, American teams Colavita and DNA-Visit Dallas fired off the first attacks of the day into the headwind.
As the attackers were caught, Sunweb and Boels-Dolmans moved to the front and set a very high pace, causing the peloton to split into three distinct groups. Less than 20 kilometres into the race, some riders already found themselves dangling off the back. They would have a tough day riding into the winds today as the peloton split and merged several times. But with lots of mechanical throughout the day (due to road conditions) it was easy to find someone else in the same boat to ride with.
As the three groups were merging back together, Tibco’s Brianne Walle took off for a solo attack, setting up her teammate Ingrid Drexel for a counter attack. Scotti Lechuga (Hagens Berman Supermint) and Erica Allar (Rally Cycling) joined Drexel and the trio quickly gained some leeway.
Boels-Dolmans, controlling the peloton, was happy to let the trio dangle out in the wind with a one-minute gap. Nearing the feedzone, Boels-Dolmans decided it was time to reel the break back in and ramped up the pace. Again, the increase in speed caused the peloton to split and several riders found themselves off the back altogether.
With little diversity in terrain, the peloton motored on steadily until the next intermediate sprint. In search of time bonuses, Boels-Dolmans ramped up the pace again to set up Van der Breggen for the sprint. They successfully won a time bonus, earning two very valuable bonus seconds for the Olympic champion who now, was sitting just one second below the GC leader.
Every second counts in this tour, so as the race was heading toward a mass sprint, all eyes were on the orange and blue squads.
With 25 kilometres to go, the DNA-Visit Dallas squad once again decided to make things interesting, sending Mandy Heintz off on another attack. No threat to the GC, Heintz soloed until she was caught at 5 kilometres to go. Her brave attempt, however, did earn her the blue Most Courageous Rider jersey for the stage.
In the meantime, Wiggle-High5 sprinter Giorgia Bronzini suffered a puncture but managed to get back into the pack before the peloton crossed the iconic yellow bridge into the city of Sacramento.
As the race rolled into town, there was a big upset for the Cylance team when sprinter and stage favourite Kirsten Wild also suffered a puncture, and was unable to get a wheel change in time to make the high speed finale.
A mass sprint ensued with Team Sunweb’s Coryn Rivera taking the stage win ahead of breakout star Arlenis Sierra
(Astana) and Bronzini (Wiggle-High5).
As Hall and Van der Breggen were able to roll through the finish with the main pack, the yellow jersey remains on Hall’s shoulder as we go into the final stage tomorrow.
- Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb)
- Arlenis Sierra (Astana)
- Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle-High5
- Katie Hall (United Healthcare)
- Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans), 1 second down
- Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans), 29 seconds down
Nash’s Stage 3: ‘Flat road racing is hard!
“Flat road racing is hard!”said Katerina Nash as she rolled back to the cars after a fast, speedy but safe finale in downtown Sacramento.
“It was brutal today; it’s just so unpredictable. One minute you’re in there and you’re feeling good but then suddenly [the attack or pace] goes and you’re like ‘Oh F$%&!’. It just goes up to such a speed. That kind of instant acceleration is super impressive, and I guess I didn’t position myself very well as I was kind of dangling on the back.”
The constant accelerations, attacks and high tension racing made stage three tough, said Nash, who much prefers the hilly, climbers’ stages like yesterday.
“I definitely had the hardest day today. I got popped from the group like three times. I worked my way back eventually every time but ooofff those flats! Flat, windy and constant power – it’s something I definitely need to work on.”
“In mountain biking or cyclocross you go really hard … until you die. And here you can be dead one minute and back in the pack feeling OK a little while later. The mental battle is different.”
What she learned today was that road racing is a constant mental battle of fighting yourself back on. “I wasn’t dying, I just couldn’t get my legs to pedal as fast as the other girls. But I think this whole week is going to be amazing for my legs!”
With another solid finish – she was 54th and only six seconds behind the winner – Nash will be going into the fourth and final stage sitting in the top 15, something she’s quite proud of.
“I finished with the pack today so I was excited. I was terrified when I got popped from the group the last time because it would have been a long 20 miles into town on my own,” said Nash.
“I feel like my victory today was just getting back to the group and not losing any time of the GC.”
When asked how much her result here matters to her, Nash smiled. She’s a competitor through and through, and even out of her element, she can’t help herself.
“Today, I did have the GC on my mind, yes. I guess it doesn’t really matter at the end of the day but I kind of like the fact that I’m sitting in the top 15. So I didn’t want to lose it here,” she said.
Watch for Nash tomorrow in the final stage, though you may have a hard time spotting her.
“Considering I got popped while sitting on other people three times, I won’t be the one sprinting tomorrow,” she said. “I’m just going to try and stay out of trouble.”
Stage 4: Sacramento Circuit Race
Sunday, May 14
43.5 miles / 70 kilometers
The Capitol Circuit Race has quickly earned the reputation as one of the fastest and most technical courses in the country. This flat 2.2-mile course features six turns. It encompasses the Capitol building and passes by several other notable state government buildings. The 90-minute race will include 20 laps of the circuit, beginning shortly after the men depart the course to begin their seven-day event.
Check back tomorrow for Nash’s stage four report!