The final leg of the Red Hook Crit Championship Series is fast approaching. With the top 3 women separated by ten points, and the top 5 by 17, it’s going to be one hell of a race come this Saturday night.
Ash Duban is the series leader, and a fiercely competitive racer, though she starts the race with no teammates as she has done most of this year.
Keira McVitty is 7 points behind in second place, and she brings with her the biggest and most dominant women’s team in Red Hook history. With the team championship series wrapped up they’ll all be throwing punches for McVitty and trying to double by taking individual series win as well.
After the first race in Brooklyn, which she won, no one would have expected last year’s series winner, Ainara Elbusto, to be ten points adrift coming into Milan. And she probably wouldn’t have been, if not for a puncture in London that saw her exit the course with no points. She fought back in Barcelona, but the women’s field is getting stronger and smarter with each race. They constantly attacked and worked to put her under pressure, knowing she had all to lose after London. She finished in sixth after a grueling race, but ahead of Duban in 9th, which helped her stay in contention for the series lead.
Newcomer to the crit, Rachele Barbieri, showed the transition from the Women’s World Tour to the track bike criteriums was no problem for her. She played it smart and fairly safe for most of the race, only throwing in one attack before the final sprint. There was no one that looked like they could match her in a sprint, though Ainara might be able to if she is not worn out from containing the race. Barbieri took the win easily enough in Barcelona and lines up again in Milan. That throws another variable in the works as some contest the race victory while others are wholly focused on the series title.
In Barcelona I asked Ash Duban to carry a camera during the race and she kindly obliged. I hadn’t gotten around to reviewing the footage until a few days ago, but when I did I was seriously impressed. The racing was electric, and fast… really fast! Watching it as I did on race day, from the start/finish line, you don’t see all the tactics, communication, blocks and attacks that go on. There is a lot going on in the field.
I remember seeing the race two years ago in Barcelona where 19 women started. Elbusto won both primes, had the fastest qualifying time, and took the race victory. This year 42 women started, 25 finished on the lead lap of a much faster race. The first lap prime was won by Barbieri, the halfway prime by McVitty, fastest qualifying time by Elbusto, and Barbieri took the race win. There were more attacks flying off the front, and a lot more racers doing more than just trying to hang in there with the front runners.
Those stats only tell half the race though. In the video you can see the attacks, who likes to sit in, and who strikes out, who’s friendly with who, and who’s throwing elbows at their rivals. Teammates are playing more and more of a role in the race. You can hear Duban working together with Runnels though they are not on the same team.
For those women going into Milan with serious goals and tasks planned out, this is a good opportunity to study their last race as training on the bike winds down. There are again a few glitches with the tracker and speed through some of the tight corners. There’s nothing that can be done about that with the technology available to the average person. Overall though it’s fairly accurate, and most importantly the racing is great.