Lauren Hall had a lot of reason to celebrate after the final stage of the Colorado Classic on Sunday. The 39-year-old UnitedHealthcare rider helped teammate Katie Hall secure her win streak of US stage races with the overall win, Leah Thomas take the mountains jersey and the team take the top GC prize.
But the moment took on added significance for Hall, who rode her last race as a professional after announcing her retirement earlier this week.
"I knew this was my last year," Hall told Cyclingnews before the start of stage 4 in Denver. "We were initially going to do Gateway Cup as our last race as a team, and [the team's participation] got cancelled, so I got the call a couple of weeks ago with that information, and then it was suddenly real and right here in my face. But it's been great."
A powerful sprinter with a knack for criteriums, Hall started her professional career in 2011 with Colavita-Forno d'Asolo before moving to Tibco in 2012. She rode with Optum for two years in 2013 and 2014, then switched to Nicola Cramner's Twenty16 team for two years through 2016. She made the leap to UnitedHealthcare in 2017.
Although she won three national titles on the track, Hall just missed earning a stars-and-stripes jersey on the road multiple times.
"I was second to my teammates two years in a row in the road race," Hall said, recounting her near misses at nationals. "I was second to Theresa Cliff-Ryan in the crit one year, but it's been a glorious run, and I'm so thankful."
Hall's biggest result came in 2014 at Gent-Wevelgem with the US National Team. Hall and her teammates covered attacks in the Belgian Classic and pushed the pace over the famed Kemmelberg. The team's efforts enabled Hall to make the final selection and then out-sprint the surviving riders to take the biggest win of her career.
But Hall told Cyclingnews that her greatest memories over her eight-year pro career have less to do with races and more to do with the 'family' she built among the racing community.
"There are just so many good ones, and it's not really the wins or the losses or the races, it's more of the off-the-bike friendships, those behind-the-scenes stories that people may not know, but when I see Janel [Holcomb] or Rachel [Heal], or some of these girls in the peloton, and we say, 'Do you remember that one time.' To me, that's where the special memories are, for sure," Hall said.
"There are definitely special races. Gent-Wevelgem was really special. I had no idea what that race was until after the fact. Winning the Giro Rosa with Mara [Abbott], the TTT at Worlds when we were fourth on Optum. That was such a battle. So a couple of those definitely stand out."
This season has been a stand-out one for Hall's team as well. Katie Hall had swept all the major stage races in the US this year and came into Colorado ready to finish off her streak. She took the lead in the stage 2 Vail time trial and then relied on her teammates like Lauren Hall to protect her lead.
The consummate domestique, Hall performed flawlessly to help her teammate add the Colorado race to her palmares. It was a heady way to close out the season and Lauren Hall's career, and she did it while swimming through a wave of emotions in her final race.
"This whole race it's hit me," Hall said. "I'm so emotional because we just did our last team huddle. I've been able to see a lot of people, like [former Optum teammate] Janel Holcomb has been announcing, so it's seeing these people and everybody giving me advice, it's really nice. And some of the messages I got on the internet have just been overwhelming."
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Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake before studying English and journalism at the University of Oregon. He has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon.
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