Race: Wilmington Grand Prix
Date: May 20th
Location: Wilmington, DE
Rider(s): Deborah Leedale-Brown, Shaina Kravitz, & Emily Smith
Wilmington Grand Prix is a one of the most challenging courses on the race Calendar and even though other big races were taking place on the same weekend it still attracted a lot of top riders and tough competition, by the time the entries closed there were close to 50 women pre registered. The course is hilly for a standard crit but what makes it more challenging is the 8 turns that twist you both left and right, with some of the tightest turns happening at the bottom of steep descents.
It was a cloudy and somewhat cool day which was actually perfect for racing after the spring 90deg temps we'd had a few days earlier, it was however pretty windy and the narrow streets and tall downtown buildings make for wind tunnel effects. The success in this race is a lot down to positioning, it goes out hard and fast and therefore gets strung out very quickly and if you are too far back in the back then its becomes almost impossible to move up. With a front row call up I had a good start as we headed up market street, the race started at a very aggressive pace with many riders fighting for position in the top third as we headed into the technical section of the course. There were attacks from the gun and so you constantly had to be on looking to ensure that no gaps opened up. With one team fielding a full squad of riders they were very much dictating the attacks and moves. A lot of surges in pace seemed to happen through the short technical uphill and also going back up the finish section of Market St where there was a significant headwind.
For the first 8 laps of the race I was for the most part comfortable, although the pace was high enough that I was still not able to move to the front end of the race so did feel like it was a constant effort of surge and brake. Riders were dropping off the back early in the race and unfortunately Emily was one of them. On one big surge in pace around lap 9 or 10 the group started to fracture and unfortunately I realized a little too late that a large gap was appearing with more riders popping off. I put in a huge effort to come around and bridge back to the front end of the group but it was to no avail. For a lap or two I and a couple of other riders were in no-mans-land riding hard to catch back on. It helped when more riders joined our group and it was nice to see that Shaina was among them. She had apparently been by herself for a couple of laps and was then joined by some more riders. So even though we'd both lost connection with the front end of the race were were now able to drive our 8-10 rider group along for a couple more laps. At lap 16 they rang a bell lap for us as we must have been close to getting caught by the lead riders, it was nice that they gave us a bell lap so then we could race it out for placings. As we rounded the final corner I was sitting in 3rd wheel with Shaina somewhere behind, its a long uphill drag to the finish and I waited until one rider made her move and then jumped on her wheel, with a head wind I stayed in her slipstream till the very last minute then pulled through and did a bike throw to take her on the line. Once again the tough Wilmington course did not disappoint, and lining up to race some of the top riders in the USA on a course like that is an amazing experience, even if the outcome fell a little short.
Deborah Leedale-Brown 25th
Shaina Kravitz 29th