Race: 74th Annual Tour of Somerville
Date: May 29th
Location: Somerville, NJ
Riders: Deborah Leedale-Brown, Shaina Kravitz, Emily Underwood, Cheryl Clarke, Gabby Longchamp, Danielle Ferland, Sarah Hauze
This iconic race in its 74th year is always a big gathering of both local and international talent. This year did not disappoint with National Champion riders from Canada, New Zealand, Great Britain, and Norway all vying for the top step. Since we are a NJ based domestic elite women's team, this was a targeted team race and we arrived with our near to full roster. There were many heavy hitters within the race, Laura Van Gilder had her strong team mates around her, Pickle Juice came with a strong contingent and the Canadian national team were there in force to pull off the win in memory of their team mate and last years winner Ellen Watters who was tragically killed last December.
The slightly shortened course and the relocation of the finish line meant for a fast spectator friendly race and even more importance on positioning going down the back straight and into the final two left hand corners. With the Canadian team having the most team mates they animated the race from the gun, keeping the pace high and attacks to secure a breakaway pretty constant. Our team tactics for the day were to ride for a high placing for me, with the caliber of field then a top ten finish would have been a great goal to aim for. We decided upon everyone's role during our team warm up, it was decided that our powerhouse Cheryl who loves to be on or near the front of a pack will be patrolling the breakaway attempts and will use her significant power to bridge and bring things back, Emily was assigned to look after me and make sure I did not do too much work within the race. Our lesser experienced riders were looking to position themselves well and move around the peleton so they too could react if needed.
With such a large field and a non technical fast course a breakaway is always harder, as too is stringing the field out. So a number of times it was tough going as you were cornering with a large pack of riders 6-8 wide. This unfortunately resulted in some crashes occurring. Cheryl was our first casualty, not of a crash but a mechanical, so she had to take to the pit and get a free lap to continue the race on a neutral bike. The intensity of the race to keep focused and stay out of trouble was pretty high throughout the entire race and with 4 laps to go there was that horrid sound of crunching metal and squealing brakes and our second crash, unfortunately Cheryl was a casualty of this and so her race ended with a trip to the hospital to have stitches. Shaina and Gabby who were towards the back of the group were also then caught behind the melee of the crash and so effectively out of the main race. That left Emily to help position me in our final few laps.
Now the pace was significantly ramping up and everyone was making use of the tailwind down the back straight to make a move up towards the front in the final two laps I was positioned onto Emily's wheel and also close to Laura Van Gilder so I felt happy to stay just where I was. The bell lap rang and as we rounded the top two corners onto the back straight I saw that Pickle Juice were forming a lead out train, Emily and I had separated a little and she had the left side line going down the back straight and I chose to jump onto the Pickle Juice train on the right side. Perfect positioning now behind Pickle Juice and Laura Van Gilder as we rounded the final two turns, the headwind meant I wanted to stay tucked for as long as possible, but knowing I need a longer sprint I had to choose to launch and go for it. I picked the left line to sneak up, I ended up getting slightly impeded and pushed closer to the barriers than I would like but continued on and with a bike throw on the line, I initially was not sure what position I had finished but knew it was good and definitely in the top 10. It was quickly confirmed that I had secured a podium position, 3rd place, Wow I could not quite believe it and I was so happy and proud of our huge team effort.
In fact our team and all that it represents is exactly why this result occurred. I could not be happier for all our amazing sponsors, who without their generosity and equipment we could not compete at this level. I'm happy that our team owner Teresa DiSessa-Johnson was there supporting us and was able to witness what her tireless efforts to keep this team running as a happy unit can really do. It was not just me standing on that podium it was all my team mates who dug deep within that race and rode selflessly, and it was a culmination of all the racing we do together as a team, the respect we have for each other and the willingness to ride for each other.
Amazing day and it will not be the last, thank you Team EPS/CSS p/b Shebell & Shebell
Results: Deborah Leedale-Brown 3rd / Emily Underwood 29th / 33rd Shaina Kravitz / 43rd Gabby Longchamp / Cheryl Clarke DNF (caught in crash), Daneille Ferland 15th Cat 4 race.