During the past few weeks I have had the best racing experiences of my life!! I got to race with my Peanut Butter and Co./Team Twenty12 teammates at Nationals and I also just finished racing the Giro with the US National Team. This year was my first year racing Nationals in the Elite/U23 road race and criterium. Also, racing the Giro was my first time competing in a ten-day stage race. Both events, Nationals and the Giro, were a lot of fun and great learning experiences for me.
Nationals took place in Bend, Oregon this year. This was the first time I have ever been to Bend and let me tell you that it is now one of my favorite places. The whole team stayed together in a host house in Bend, near the road course, and the Mansour family that housed us were the best. The entire family really took care of our team and made our stay in Bend wonderful. It makes a huge difference when you receive support like that at a race, especially one as important as nationals.
The first race there was the time trial. The team did great in this event, with Mara getting bronze and I took the U23 gold but things really started to get fun when we were able to race together as a team in the criterium and road race.
This was only my second time racing with my teammates so far this season and I was very motivated to support them in whatever way possible. In the criterium I was able to cover attacks and help bring breakaway attempts back. The race ended up staying together. In the end Kat and Lauren gave Shelley one of the best lead-outs I have ever witnessed and this helped propel Shelley to take the victory in the criterium, while Lauren finished third to round out the podium! It was a great race to be a part of and I was so glad to be able to help the team secure a criterium national championship win.
The next day we raced the road race bright and early in the morning, which was nice because we started and finished before it got really hot outside. We did four laps of the road course circuit. The first lap was relaxed and not much happened, but during the second and third lap my teammates and I went to the front and set a good pace. This helped shrink the field and we also pulled back the breaks up the road.
Each lap there was a climb near the end of the circuit. On the finial lap when the peloton came into the climb the field shattered and Mara and Shelley were in the lead group at the top of the climb heading into the finish. Mara attacked the break before the finish and was able to stay away to take the win! Shelley finished second in the road race by winning the sprint out of the first group behind Mara.
I was in the next group with 2 of my teammates, Kat and Lauren, Lauren encouraged me to sprint at the finish and I got 6th in the elites and took gold in the U23, this was a bonus as we only had one goal for the race and that was to win the elite gold.
It was so great to have Peanut Butter and Co. take the top two steps on the podium. We couldn't have asked for anything more. Everyone from the team was so excited. It was the best way to finish up nationals. Kristin Armstrong is an amazing director who has built this team into a team in the true sense of the word.
After Nationals, Shelley, Mara, and I flew to Italy with the other members of the US National Team to race the Giro. This was a very new experience for me and I was nervous. I never raced a ten-day stage race before, let alone a race as prestigious as the Giro.
Shelley, Mara, and the rest of my teammates really helped me though and gave me some great advice so I could race my best for the team. It is great to have these women around me who have so much experience and knowledge about racing. I can feed off of what they have already learned, which allows me to progress as a rider. With women such as Amber Neben on the team any question I had about the racing was answered and I was able to get so much guidance from all the girls.
Stages one, two, and four all came down to a sprint finish and the team improved in figuring out the best way to lead Shelley out each day. Stage three was an individual time trail. Stage five was when things started to get hilly. Each race after stage five seemed to get hillier and hillier, which was great for our team.
By stage eight we got into the big mountains and this is where Mara was able to really shine. The first 30 Km of stage eight was uphill and Mara attacked during this climb to separate the field. She ended up winning the stage from a solo breakaway and she took the pink jersey!!
It was such a great feeling to see Mara wearing the pink and to know that the entire team was there to support her one hundred percent. We were all motivated to give our very best to keep Mara in the leaders jersey for the remainder of the race.
Stage nine was the most difficult stage of the race. This stage finished up the famous Stelvio climb, which was 18 km long with thirty-six switchbacks. I have never seen anything like it. Mara rode so strong up the Stelvio and was able to breakaway again by herself to take the win on stage nine and also increase her lead to over two minutes.
Next was the final stage and the team's first priority was to protect Mara and keep her in the pink jersey. Once we knew this was secure we began to set Shelley up for the sprint finish. During the final kilometers of the stage ten things began to get hectic because everyone knew this was their last shot at a stage win. People were attacking left and right, but the race ended up coming down to a field sprint. Shelley was given a perfect lead-out by Theresa Clif-Ryan which set her up to take the victory on the final stage!!
There couldn't have been a better way to finish the Giro. The US National Team walked away with the pink jersey, as well as a stage win on the final day. This was the first time in the history of the Giro that an American won the overall and we couldn't have been more ecstatic about accomplishing this feat.
Now I am headed back home to Pennsylvania to recover a bit. Soon I will be back in school at Marian University where I will begin my junior year this fall. I look forward to my next race with Peanut Butter and Co./Team Twenty12 will be, but I am sure it will be soon. For now I am just going to put my legs up and relax.
It is great to just reflect back on all that has happened in my past month of racing. Everything occurred so fast. I am part of a national championship winning team, as well as a team that just won the Giro d'Italia. I couldn't ask for more and I am so thankful for all of the help and support I have received along the way.
Remember to stay up to date with Peanut Butter and Co./Team Twenty12 become a Facebook fan http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/pages/Peanut-Butter-Co-TWENTY12-Professional-Cycling-Team/443060650470?ref=ts
www.teamtwenty12.com. You can also support the team by purchasing a team kit from www.jlvelo.com and grab some peanut butter as well from Peanut Butter and Co. at www.ilovepeanutbutter.com
Stay tuned for more!!!
At just 19 years of age, Sinead Miller is a future star. She also won the U23 competition at TD Bank Liberty Classic. Sinead will continue riding with Peanut Butter & Co.TWENTY12 in 2011.