Another race down for the count. Les Pruneaux D’Agen. Which, I don’t know what that is in English. Basically, it was a criterium, in the town of Agen, which is about a 2.5 hour drive from Limoux. Chris Georgas, once again our fearless leader, picked us up and took us to the race. I don’t have a lot of directional understanding here in Limoux, but since we are so south, I figure we went somewhat north to get there.
It was great race conditions, according to Chris. It was raining, and cold. It was a 70k crit. 40 laps. That was the longest crit I had ever done. It took us just 1 hour and 50 minutes. There is something that is a little defeating when you look at the lap cards and you still have 33 laps to go. With 6 girls in the race, our goal was to make it hard, fast and safe. The course contained a hill that was about 500m in length, and a big ring climb. A slight downhill, a hard turn over an old bridge, and then a 180 degree turn on the descent towards the start/finish.
At the beginning of the race, we received a call up! It was my first call up EVER (and I really hope it won’t be my last). The announcer tried to interview us, but he couldn’t speak English. I just told him I was happy to be there, excited, and very cold. We attacked from the gun, and by 5 laps in, we had already created a couple of breaks that were brought back. About 5 laps in, fellow American, Megan Guarnier and fellow USA National Development rider, Devon Haskell established a 3 women break. The chase started, leaving myself, Lindsey Myers, and Sinead Miller with 4 other girls. We just sat in and covered all the attacks. One thing I learned, these girls were relentless in attacking! We had 33 laps to go, and they attacked every lap. All we had to do was grab a wheel and take a ride. As the chase continued, we lapped the rest of the field—2 times! I was trying to stay on my teammates’ wheels on the technical turns, and it was hard. Sinead has some skills on the bike, especially since she was a pro BMX rider by 14 years old! Even though the French girls were attacking and very motivated, they refused to work together. Thus, the break was going to stick.
Devon and Megan ended up dropping the other rider. Chris told us we were racing for 3rd, and with 3 laps to go, gave us the green light to attack. I was chomping at the bit to attack, so I went as hard as I could and took off up the hill. Just under 2 laps to go, I got caught. I thought I could lead Sinead out, but the final corner was an extremely technical 180 degree corner, and it was getting very slippery out. I knew Sinead could win the bunch sprint, so with 1 lap to go, I attacked again. Hopefully just to draw out some of the other riders to shred their legs a little. I jumped over the top of the hill and hammered along…my wheel slipped on turn #3, and I cautiously took the 180… I saw the 500m to the finish, and just started pretending I was doing the pursuit again. I wanted to see how fast I could go with a high cadence. And, crossed the line solo for the 3rd place finish! Sinead took 4th, and Lindsey took 5th! Wow! Team USA Femme Deveoppmente dominated the race in true fashion and style! When the announcer said my name for the podium, it was Alison StarnES.
The race finish was full of flowers, trophies and kisses. Too bad it was freezing and raining. We took some quick pictures and then Chris whisked us away for some chocolat chaude, my new favorite recovery drink for all this rainy racing. It was a great experience, and a great race. I am very proud of Les Americans!