Samantha Schnieder (Tibco-To the Top) won her first National Racing Calendar (NRC) race at the series-ending Chris Thater Memorial Criterium in Binghamton, New York. The youngster outpaced her breakaway companion and series leader Cath Cheatley (Colavita-Baci p/b Cookinglight). Her teammate Joanne Kiesanowski won the bunch sprint for third place.
"I'm pretty stoked right now, being the last race of the year," said Schneider. "I'm on cloud nine right now. It is my first win in the NRC so it's a bit surreal. It was awesome being in a race with Cath because she is such a classy rider. I would have been happy getting first or second but I really had to play my cards right just to make sure we got the win."
Cheatley solidified her overall title as the 2010 NRC Champion. She took over the series lead at the Nature Valley Grand Prix and maintained her rank through the final five events. Her team, Colavita-Baci p/b Cookinglight, also ended the season with the team title.
"I think winning the NRC individual and team shows that we were very consistent this year," Cheatley said. "Personally, I think I've improved in a lot of areas and have turned into a pretty good all rounder.
"I think we've gone into every race with a strength of our team overall and a number of riders on the podium all season. We raced really well all season and gelled on and off the bike really well."
The criterium is also a valuable stop in the USA Crits Series, which is currently led by Erica Allar (Vera Bradley Foundation). She maintained her top spot in the standings heading into the final round at the TX Tough Grand Prix held on September 16 in Dallas, Texas.
The nation's best line up in late summer
The Chris Thater Memorial's starting line up boasted champions such as current National Racing Calendar Series leader Cath Chealtey (Colavita-Baci p/b Cookinglight), sprint legend Laura van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom) and defending champion Brooke Miller (Tibco-To the Top), who will retire from professional bike racing at the end of the season.
"Today we just wanted to go in there hard and win a bike race," said Schneider, whose team sat in second place in the NRC classification. "The NRC was in the back of our minds but it would have been very hard to pull that off."
The peloton rolled to the line prepared for the 60-minute criterium that included a significant hill just after the start-finish line followed by a sweeping downhill and chicane before the final straight to the finish.
The race started off with a $100 prime that resulted in a series of high-speed opening laps. Janel Holcomb (BMW-Bianchi) scooped the first prime and went on to create the day's first breakaway.
The power of Colavita-Baci's five-woman team held the field at bay for much of the first half of the race. Cheatley locked up her NRC series title prior to the criterium so her teammates shifted its focus to ride in protection of their top spot in the team classification, a title that was decided upon the conclusion of the criterium.
Attacks from Robin Farina (Vera Bradley Foundation) and Brooke Miller gained small amounts of time respectively but both were chased back by Cheatley who assumed a domestique and breakaway role.
"We went into this race trying to gain NRC points for the team," said Cheatley. "We knew that we needed someone on the podium and if that happened then it would wrap up the team points for us. That was our best option because we didn't come with our fastest sprinter, Theresa Cliff-Ryan, who is in Europe at the moment. So we tried to force a break."
Other strong sprinters in the mix included Miller and her teammate Joanne Kiesanowski and Megan Gaurnier. Also among the women vying for a bunch kick included Van Gilder, Lauren Tamayo (Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12), Erica Allar (Vera Bradley Foundation), Tiffany Pezzulo (Treads.com-DFT), Kacey Manderfield (Cycle Loft), Nicole Freedman (Wheelworks Racing) and Laura McCaughey.
BMW-Bianchi riders Holcomb and Kathleen Billington plus sweveral Vera Bradley Foundation riders were very aggressive throughout the second half of the race. Other aggressors were Van Gilder and Tamayo - both are versatile enough to be strong breakaway riders and bunch sprinters and both lacked teammates.
Van Gilder got a small group to work together that included Cheatley and Schneider, although the move was brought back by the speeding peloton, giving Cheatley an opportunity to counterattack her own move and take Schneider with her.
The pair gained roughly 15 seconds with 10 laps to go and there was little effort from the peloton to chase because both riders represented the two strongest and fullest teams. The gap exploded to 40 seconds in the closing laps and turned into a tactical battle for the race win. Schneider's young career has yielded several strong sprint performances amongst the professional women's field
"I definitely knew that Sam was fast and that it would likely be our team and Tibco in the breakaway," Cheatley said. "But that break was a good option."
Schneider outpaced her companion to the line to take the Chris Thater Memorial Criterium victory, her first NRC win of the season. "Cath was really driving that break and if it wasn't for her there is no way that break would have stuck," said Schneider.
"I didn't want to screw up that sprint because we have Brooke and Jo here and they are awesome. I really wanted to pull through for the team and it worked out well with Jo getting third and Brooke placing high up too. It was a great team effort today."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team|
|1||Samantha Schneider (TIBCO)|
|3||Joanne Kiesanowski (TIBCO)|
|4||Modesta Vzesniauskaite (Colavita/Baci)|
|5||Brooke Miller (TIBCO)|
|6||Lauren Tamayo (Peanut Butter Twenty12)|
|7||Kaytee Boyd (Bike NZ)|
|8||Laura Van Gilder|
|10||Kacey Manderfield (Cycle Loft)|
|11||Robin Farina (Vera Bradley Foundation)|
|12||Carrie Cash Wootten (Vera Bradley Foundation)|
|13||Tiffany Pezzulo (Treads.com/DFT)|
|14||Jane Evely (SummaCare)|
|15||Jennifer Rasmusson (Team Kenda)|
|16||Lenore Pipes (Fruit66/Artemis)|
|17||Janel Holcomb (BMW Bianchi)|
|18||Kathleen Billington (BMW Bianchi)|
|19||Amy McGuire (Wheelworks Racing)|
|20||Lisa Jellett (Verducci)|
|21||Toni Bradshaw (Team VBF)|
|22||Lindsey Myers (BMW Bianchi)|
|25||Anna McLoon (Team Kenda)|
|26||Danielle Ruane (Sunapee Racing)|
|27||Kristin Sanders (Colavita/Baci)|
|29||Meredith Miller (TIBCO)|
|30||Christy Blakely (Team Card)|
|31||Kristen LaSasso (TIBCO)|
|32||Megan Guarnier (TIBCO)|
|33||Rushlee Buchanan (Colavita/Baci)|
|34||Lauren Ellis (Bike NZ)|
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