It’s a big week for Lauren De Crescenzo (Cinch Elite) – in the span of six days she got married and she won Unbound Gravel 200. The ceremony with Jim Snitzer in Colorado followed by a stop in Emporia for a “honeymoon” was expected, but a redemptive ride in the 200-mile gravel race to finish solo as the queen of gravel was not.
“This is my honeymoon. What else would I want to do this weekend? Covid makes it hard to go anywhere, so I think this is a good spot right now,” De Crescenzo said after the race.
“I broke my collarbone the last time I raced here, so this is much better. It’s so fun. I like how hard gravel is. I just like it to be purely very difficult for everyone around me, and it’s a test of how good you are, not how fit you are.”
In 2019 at Unbound Gravel, De Crescenzo went down in a technical section of the course when someone crashed in front of her only 35 miles into the race. She continued to the first checkpoint, where the doctor for DNA Cycling, her team at the time, told her to withdraw because of a broken collarbone.
She and Snitzer spend the next morning at the emergency room in Emporia, but not for De Crescenzo’s shoulder, but for Snitzer and treatment for hyponatremia. He wasn’t hydrating properly and only made it to the second checkpoint.
“We were very ill-prepared that time. The amount of preparation that has gone in the event this time is like staying in a mansion rather than a dorm,” she said.
This year the newlyweds drive back to their home in Atlanta, Georgia after the race with a new branding iron, the top prize for winners at Unbound Gravel. De Crescenzo works as an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and a research fellow on transportation safety. Snitzer just completed medical school at Emory University, her alma mater as well, and starts his residency in Atlanta.
“It’s so fun. I like how hard gravel is. I just like it to be purely very difficult for everyone around me, and it’s a test of how good you are, not how fit you are. That’s why I did Hogpen 24 and a half times, because I said ‘no one else is going to do this.’ That’s the kind of racing I like, too.”
During the COVID-19 coronavirus shutdown, and cancellation of races, summer, De Crescenzo found time to set an Everesting women's record by climbing Hogpen Gap in the north Georgia mountains a total of 24 times in 9 hours and 57 minutes.
This year, she is back to more road racing with some gravel, but as a second job to her CDC responsibilities. She’s part of the new Cinch Elite racing team, founded and coached by former WorldTour pro Tom Danielson. There are 14 men and women on the team, with 10 key races, half of them gravel.
“We just had a training camp and did some races in Colorado, so every weekend I was at a race this spring. It was pretty cool,” said De Crescenzo, who won three of her four races. “I just couldn’t win the crit. I won the other ones. I don’t like crits.
“We’re going to be in Knoxville in two weeks for Nationals, Tour of the Gila and Joe Martin, road races like that. We are also doing Crushar in the Tushar, SBT GRL, and a few others. So five big road races and five big gravel races. I’ll do the TT and road race for nationals, I will not be in the crit. I’ll take that day off.”
De Crescenzo has a good reason not to race criteriums or circuit races. She used to race a full schedule of road races for Visit Dallas DNA Pro Cycling women’s team, until a serious crash in the final 100 metres of a circuit race at San Dimas Stage Race in spring of 2016. She was air lifted to USC Medical Center and put in a medically-induced coma, suffering a T1 vertebra fracture, broken bones in one hand and facial trauma, among the most serious injuries. She woke up three weeks later at another hospital, with no memory of the crash or change of medical facilities and spent five more weeks there.
But her love for cycling found her racing again in February 2018 at the Old Man Winter Bike Rally in her home state of Colorado, and she won. She entered Crushar in the Tushar in Utah that year also, and she won. And she returned to Unbound Gravel to try her luck, and struck gold.
“It’s so hard. The finish line is like at 11,000 feet, which is right up my alley. That’s why I loved it so much. That’s my kind of race – the harder the better.”
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