There was a bit of pressure going into this race. Eleonore was infuriatingly close to a win at Red Hook Crit London, and RHC Brooklyn, while Raphaele Lemieux was so dominant in London that she was closing the gap in the points competition. While Eleonore still held the lead, she did so by a single point. Our men had some bad luck in London, with David crashing out, Olivier getting a flat, and 3 out of our 4 men hitting the deck at some point, that the men’s team was left without a meaningful result to speak of.
With only a single point lead, Eleonore had to pick up bonus points wherever she could. Lemieux won her qualifying heat picking up 3 points and putting extra pressure on Eleonore to do the same. In Eleonore’s qualifier, she would have to contend with Ainara Albusto, a winner of no less than 5 Red Hook Crits. Ainara was obviously in the heat to win it, as she launched repeated attacks until she finally opened a gap with another rider. But Eleonore, remained calm and cool as teammate Esther Walker made her way to the front and brought the breakaway back over a period of several laps. Eleonore could save her energy and handily won her qualifier gaining 3 bonus points with it.
The men’s qualifiers were mixed for us. Olivier beat some serious competition to win his qualifier, and Tristan was 5th in his heat. But Chris Tolley and David Santos missed the super pole by finishing 9th and 12th respectively. Santos crashed early on in his heat and did a Herculean effort to catch most of the riders that rode past him as he lay on the ground. He caught the front group on the last lap, and he simply didn’t have the juice to sprint so he finished 12th, at the tail end of that group.
The super pole was another chance for Eleonore to gain some points, but Lemieux showed excellent form to win hot lap and gain 3 points again on Eleonore. If you aren’t fighting for points, then winning the super pole isn’t important and can be a big use of energy. So, Olivier and Tristan saved their legs in the super pole and were happy to finish 13th and 17th.
The women’s final started off fast, as it always does, and Eleonore handily won the 1st lap prime, once again tying up the daily point total with Raphaele. But just a few laps later, Esther was out with a flat. This was a big blow for us, Esther was Eleonore’s primary helper in the race. Kymnonstop was in the race, and while Kym is an exceptional all-around athlete, the recent speed at the front of the races has caused her to struggle. Eleonore would have to monitor the front of the race and do any chasing all on her own.
A few laps later Lemieux was also out with a flat. I would prefer to flat out beat her, and I don’t wish that misfortune on any rider, but Lemieux’s retirement for the race was likely good for us. It means that Eleonore would have a much better shot at winning the race, as her primary rival was out. But having Raphaele out of the race might have hurt us in the end. Eleonore won the mid race prime and the points that come with it, but she burned a critical match.
Albusto and Ash Duban attacked shortly after and Eleonore was unable to chase. This is where some help from Esther would have been great, and if Rahpaele was still in the race, she surely would have worked to bring them back as well. In the end, the other riders were either unwilling or unable to chase. Eleonore worked as hard as she could to bring the 2 leaders back, but she simply couldn’t manage it. The work of sprinting for the primes and chasing the break left her with tired legs, and Eleonore would only manage 3rd in the field sprint, for a 5th overall.
The men’s race was tough from the start. Olivier and Tristan were in a good starting position, but Dave and Tolley were much farther back than I would like. By halfway through the 2nd lap, those two were already 500 meters behind the hard-charging front group. Olivier was attacking like a madman up front, while Tristan sat near the front, conserving his energy for a big move.
The first half of the race contained several small breakaways that looked dangerous, but none of them stuck. David was slowly and methodically working his way to the front of the race, and it took him over half the race to do it, but with 14 laps to go, Dave was at the front with Tristan and Olivier. At 8 to go, Dave was in a powerful move, with an Intelligentsia rider, a Specialized rider, and another. I thought for sure that one would go away, but they were soon sucked back up.
A few laps later, Tristan suffered misfortune when a rider crashed and slid out into him. Tristan didn’t hit the deck, but he nearly came to a stop and dropped back by 20 places. As the lap cards counted down, it became evident that the race would end in a field sprint. Dave, Olivier, and Tristan were all in a good position with 1 to go, and our chances were looking good. Unfortunately, that last lap was a crazy one and several riders hit the deck. Olivier was tangled up in one of the crashes, while Dave and Tristan finished up 4th and 6th (a Red Hook Crit best for Dave). Still, missing the podium by a single spot is tough.
Dave did massive amounts of work in both his qualifier and the main race. Without that crash at the start of his qualifying group, David may have had the energy to take third place or better. I know that Dave, Olivier, and Tristan all could win a Red Hook Crit. We just need a night with all good luck and none of the bad.
We didn’t get a win, but I’ll still call the race in Barcelona a success. Eleonore retains the series championship by a wide margin, and the team is easily winning the women’s team competition as well. We also took the lead in the men’s team competition, leading the Bahumer team by only 3 points, and the Intelligentsia team by 5. We go to Milan next month, where we’ll have a lot to defend.
Copyright 2017 Björn Lexius www.bjoernlexius.com