June 12, 2005 (Stillwater, Minn.) — Twenty-six seconds is all that separated Webcor Builder’s Christine Thorburn from Quark Cycling Team’s Tina Pic.
That’s about as much time as it took to crest Chilkoot Hill, a short climb at a grade of 20-percent that the riders had to tackle 13 times in this final stage of the Great River Energy Bicycle Festival’s Nature Valley Grand Prix. With eight turns, the 1.5-mile course also provided ample spots for breaks to sneak away out of sight.
Thorburn’s team was determined not to let either of those affect who wore the general classification leader’s jersey at the end of the race. The jersey was Thorburn’s all week, and with only one sprint prime offered, the only way to get time on the leaders was to set a hard pace.
Webcor set the hardest. “We wanted to take the offensive from the start, but we also wanted to conserve,” Thorburn said.
Thorburn won the leader’s jersey after the Stillwater Criterium, keeping the 26 seconds she had on Pic and the 34 seconds she had on T-Mobile’s Kori Seehafer. With all the top contenders and the leader’s jersey present, little changed on the classification lists as Monex’s Lynn Gaggioli took the stage, called the “toughest criterium in North America.”
Climber Gaggioli agreed with the assessment. “It’s just awesome. It’s different. It’s challenging,” Gaggioli said.
From the gun, Thorburn came around again and again at the front with her teammates Erinne Willock and Katheryn Curi, plus Quark’s Pic and climber Annette Beutler, T-Mobile’s Kori Seehafer and Kim Baldwin, and Gaggioli.
“Last year, the attacks came after this (Chilkoot) hill,” said Beutler, who won this stage last year. “This year not. It’s better for me. It’s nice when the pace is the same.”
“We had to keep the race in control,” Willock said. A lead pack of GC contenders finally got two minutes on the rest of the field, but none of them could get away from each other. With three laps to go, Gaggioli attacked at the bottom of Chilkoot.
“From what I could see, it looked like I was the fastest on the hill,” Gaggioli said. “I thought I’d try, but then I saw that the few people with me were chasing for me. So, I sat in and saved some energy for going for the sprint.”
“Gaggioli attacked, Willock attacked, then I did,” Beutler said. She was wearing the best climber’s jersey and also towing her teammate Pic, who was also wearing the sprinter’s jersey.
“Annette is so talented,” Pic said, “I had to tell her don’t go so hard.” After Gaggioli sat up, Willock went for the stage win.
“She (Gaggioli) was chased down,” Willock said, “I was further down on GC. Initially, they hesitated when I attacked which is what we were hoping for.”
“I so wanted Erinne to get the win. She worked so hard for me all week,” Thorburn said disappointedly. “Lynn was hungry for a stage win.”
“I definitely like having those power hills,” Gaggioli said. She crossed the line with enough time to raise a fist in the air, but the time gap was slim enough to maintain Thorburn’s lead. The top 10 finished with the same time.
“It’s a great end to a great week,” Willock said. She took second and won the young rider’s jersey. Beutler held on to the climber’s jersey. Pic kept the Freewheel Bike sprinter’s points jersey. “I’m really hurting. It was a rough day. Yesterday was a rough day,” she added about Saturday’s 94-mile stage in Red Wing. “I’m definitely feeling it.”
A surprise on the podium to all except Minnesota cycling fans was Flanders/MBRC’s Teresa Moriarty. She placed third behind Gaggioli and Willock.
“I really focused for this race,” Moriarty said. “You know when you’re racing with riders of that caliber.” Moriarty got some help from the local crowds, many of which she’s passed in races over the years. “Every 100 meters it was “˜Teresa, Teresa!’ That was fun.”
The Nature Valley Grand Prix is the second race in the Women’s Prestige Series and it’s quickly becoming a favorite for returning riders.
“I didn’t focus for this race,” Gaggioli said, “but it’s been very different. The racing has been superb. The crowds have been attentive. I think this may be the best stage race in the country for women.”
Results Stage 5
1. Lynn Gaggioli Monex 52’45”
2. Erinne Willock Webcor Builder’ 52’45”
3. Teresa Moriarty Flanders/MBRC 52’45”
4. Annette Beutler Quark Cycling Team 52’45”
5. Kori Seehafer T-Mobile 52’45”
6. Chrissy Ruiter Ford-Basis 52’45”
7. Megan Elliott# Bianchi/Grand Performance 52’45”
8. Tina Pic Quark Cycling Team 52’45”
9. Laura Van Gilder Quark Cycling Team 52’45”
10. Christine Thorburn Webcor Builder’s 52’45”
Overall GC after Stage 5
1. Christine Thorburn Webcor Builder’s 10.10’17”
2. Tina Pic Quark Cycling Team, 26″
3. Kori Seehafer T-Mobile, 34″
4. Kimberly Baldwin T-Mobile, 44″
5. Lynn Gaggioli Monex, 53″
6. Annette Beutler Quark Cycling Team, 1’04”
7. Laura Van Gilder Quark Cycling Team, 1’51”
8. Chrissy Ruiter Ford-Basis, 2’19”
9. Erinne Willock Webcor Builder’s , 2’35”
10. Helen Kelly Quark Cycling Team, 2’35”
Overall: Christine Thorburn Webcor
Queen of the Mountain: Annette Beutler, Quark Cycling Team
Best Sprinter: Tina Pic, Quark Cycling Team
Best young rider (U26): Erinne Willock, Webcor Builders