Lauren de Crescenzo (Cinch Rise) blew apart the women's Tour of the Gila on stage 2 from Fort Bayard, attacking in the first 12 kilometres of the 120.7km stage and storming away to win by minutes on a wildly-reduced chasing group and gaining enough time to take the race lead from stage 1 winner Krista Doebel-Hickok (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB).
The peloton stayed together as far as the first intermediate sprint, where Maggie Coles-Lyster (DNA Pro Cycling), Emma Langley (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB) and Daphne Karagianis (DNA Pro Cycling) took the top points on the road out of Fort Bayard.
Then, De Crescenzo made what few thought would be the winning move, launching a counter-attack with more than 100km still to race. Chased by Langley, the Cinch rider opened up 1:30 on the peloton by the first QOM sprint at Pinos Altos.
Behind, the peloton blew apart, allowing De Crescenzo to pile time onto her gap, with Langley and DNA's Anet Berrera chasing her ahead of a reduced bunch of around 10 riders. As De Crescenzo mopped up the QOM's, Berrera and Langley never managed to make contact and were later caught by the chasers.
It seemed that, with Doebel-Hickok enjoying a 2:58 advantage on De Crescenzo overnight, it would be enough to simply to reduce the gap to a more reasonable size. But the Cinch rider, winner of Unbound Gravel 200 and other ultra-endurance races, kept on resisting the chase.
"My strategy was just to gravel it and that’s what I basically did, so it worked," De Crescenzo said later. "I was able to get a gap on the climb and just keep going. The descent was OK, I’ve been doing this for a while. This is my third time racing Gila, but it’s been about 7 years since my last time. I almost prefer being solo off the front, it feels really safe up there. I like the safety factor. It’s good training for Unbound."
Once the major climb to Pinos Altos was behind them, Doebel-Hickok and teammates Sara Poidevin and Langley were able to make a small dent into the gap, reducing it from 3:30 to 3:10. Also in the group were Emily Marcolini (3T/Q+M Cycling), second at 21 seconds, Austin Killips (Amy D Foundation), third at 48 seconds, Diana Peñuela (DNA Pro Cycling) fourth at 1:41.
The climb out of San Lorenzo on the turn back toward Fort Bayard, De Crescenzo faced a brisk headwind and plenty of climbing, usually a massive disadvantage for a solo rider. But the gravel specialist, well acquainted with the pain cave, continued to open up her gap to 4:30 with 20km to go and kept powering until the finish line to secure the race lead.
"So of course we wanted to keep the jersey but we rode as smart and strong as we could so I’m not disappointed and I’m really grateful for the work of my teammates," Doebel-Hickok said after the stage, now 2:32 behind De Crescenzo on GC. "Congrats to Lauren, she rode really strong and well. I’m happy with the team and where we stand."
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Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in cycling from the community and grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all men's and women's races including Spring Classics, Grand Tours, World Championships and Olympic Games, and writes and edits news and features. As the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten also coordinates and oversees the global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.
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