Meredith Miller, the consummate teammate, keyed off a perfect team effort to take solo glory in the U.S. road national championship race.
Bend, OR - The U.S. National Road Champion's jersey is staying in the Team TIBCO family, with Meredith Miller earning the jersey her teammate Brooke Miller wore for the past 12 months.
"Meredith is such an incredible teammate," Brooke Miller said. "She'll ride herself into the ground for any of us. She really deserved the win today."
Meredith Miller attacked her four break-mates on the final kicker just 2 km from the finish line, "and then I put my head down and never looked back," she said. "I wasn't sure I was going to win until I came around the roundabout and made the last right turn with 200 meters to go."
At that point, she not only knew she had the gap to win, but the time to celebrate it coming across the line.
Miller was part of a five rider break that formed late on the last of four laps around the hilly Aubrey Butte Circuit. The break was instigated when Kori Seehafer (Team Type 1) attacked solo ahead of the final climb. Miller was part of a four-rider group that bridged up to Seehafer.
"I sat back a bit leading up to the final climb because there were a couple good climbers in the group," Miller said of the approach to the last time up the most significant climb on the circuit, which comes with about 6 km to go. "But we went up the climb together, and then coming to the top, I punched it a bit to try to get rid of Kori because I thought she was the fastest of the bunch."
Seehafer got gapped but chased back on over the top. At that point, it became a tactical race, with Miller picking the right time, and proving correct in her prediction that the race would come down to a small group, and whomever could dig just a little bit deeper at the end would take the win.
Despite taking the solo victory, Miller was very quick to note that this was one of the finest team efforts TIBCO has had this year.
"Today was a perfect team race for everyone," she said. "Everybody played their card perfectly. With a national championship race, when everyone can understandably be a bit selfish and have ambitions for the jersey, there was none of that today."
It started with Amber Rais taking a solo flyer late in the first lap.
"Our plan today was to get me away early," Rais said. "Coming over the main climb on the first lap, the field let off the gas a bit to recover. I thought that if I went then, I might be able to catch everyone with their pants down."
Her attack succeeded, exceedingly well. Rais proceeded to spend the next two laps - nearly half the race - off the front by herself. "I tried to keep my effort even because I knew the peloton would surge over the climbs and then back off. I felt like if I was consistent, I could actually keep a higher average speed and hold the gap longer."
Rais at one point opened up a gap of 1:45 to the peloton. More importantly, her solo effort took a lot of pressure off her TIBCO teammates so they could conserve for later in the race.
The peloton finally caught up to her near the top of the main climb on lap three, after a more than 50 km solo effort which allowed Meredith Miller to head into the bell lap relatively fresh, and set her up for the decisive move.
"A lot of times, races like these can be a bit negative and we didn't want that to happen today," Rais said. "We tried to race similarly from a tactical perspective at Cascade last week, but things didn't quite work out. Today, we probably rode our best team race of the season. The result was perfect. All of us are so happy for Meredith."
Photo (c) Carson Blume