Nineteen-year old Emilia Fahlin of Team High Road launched from her five-woman breakaway to take the sprint ahead of Rushlee Buchanan (Tibco), and her teammate US National Road Mara Abbott. With three High Road riders in the break, Fahlin was able to recover from her move to initiate the break before launching her winning attack.

"After my attack, I got a bit tired and had to hang on for a bit so I was really happy that Kim came up, she did a really great job today, she's so strong and I'm so impressed at such great team, and but after a while I went around with all the others to keep up the speed and to get everybody to work."



 

The Merco Credit Union Cycling Classic race has a long rich history and denotes the opening of the California road racing season. While this year the race is not part of the National Race Calendar (NRC), and with the Women's World Cup races being held in New Zealand, a smaller but powerful women's field took to the 32 miles Downtown Grand Prix held in Merced, California.


High Road, Value Act and Tibco teams getting ready before the start of the crit

The attacks started off early in the 40-lap races with Kim Anderson (High Road) launching solo off the front early on in the race. The solo move was not part of the original plan.



"I don't know how, I think I was just going for the sprint and then Kristy (Scrymgeour) said you have a gap, and I said allright. I was just getting the go, go, go, it just happened that I was out there for ever." said Anderson.

The field let Anderson dangle in front about half the race before reeling her in with 15 laps to go, and counter-attacks started immediately. Buchanan attacked and Fahlin followed her move to get a small gap, and Proman's Virginia Perkins with Anderson bridged to create a four-rider break.

The riders in the break cooperated together to try and escape from the field. "It was good, I raced with these girls last weekend and I kind of knew what to expect. I was just watching and tried to be patient, and then go when I needed to go. We formed a break and we all worked well together, everyone was pushing through." said Buchanan.



Having two High Road riders in the break gave a chance for Fahlin to rest before the final lap. "It was good because I told Emilia just to come and roll whenever she wanted but actually we were all working pretty strong so it worked well, it was good, it was a really fun crit." said Anderson.


Field chasing

High Road's Anke Wichman unsuccessfully tried to bridge to the break and when she was reabsorbed by the field, Abbott started chasing solo with 3 laps to go, and managed to catch the break with a bit less than two laps to go.

"Mara had attacked when she got to us so we had two laps to go, and then she kept on going, then I think I attacked again to keep it really fast with one lap to go, and then Mara attacked coming around this corner, and then Emilia went around for the sprint. It worked out perfect." said Anderson.



A smiling Abbott, known more for her climbing ability, was happy to have been able to help the team win. "I enjoyed the crit, crits are challenging for me, to be able to feel that I did something useful, and I did something right is a very good feeling. This is my first year on the team and I want to learn to work with everyone and I want to learn the ropes, you want to be there for everyone."

Buchanan was happy with her results, and looking forwards to the next day of racing. "With two laps to go I tried to put the pressure on because I knew that Mara was coming right behind us and then Mara caught us, I was just watching, just try to go with them. Kim went over here with lap to go and I chased her down. I was pretty much on the red line for the whole last lap and then only just got there."

High Road's plan of aggression payed off with 3 riders in the top 5. "We decided that we wanted to be there from the start but still we weren't sure about all the girls racing here. We try to have someone in the break if something goes and we want to be part of the whole race so we want to have a girl in every attack." said Fahlin.


Final podium (l-r): Mara Abbott (High Road), Emilia Fahlin (High Road), Rushlee Buchanan (Tibco)

Top 10 Results
  1. Emilia Fahlin (Team High Road - Women)
  2. Rushlee Buchanan (TEAM TIBCO)
  3. Mara Abbott (Team High Road - Women)
  4. Virginia Perkins (PROMAN Racing)
  5. Kim Anderson (Team High Road - Women)
  6. Anke Wichmann (Team High Road - Women)
  7. Flavia Oliveira (Vanderkitten)
  8. Mary Ellen Ash (Easton/SugarCRM/Specialized)
  9. Rachel Paul (Procyclery)
  10. Natasha Perry (Velo Bella-Kona)
All photos copyright Lyne Lamoureux.

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