Womens Downtown St. Paul Criterium By A Bike Throw

By Cynthia Lou.

UnitedHealthcare kept the fast, crash-filled race controlled, allowing Rivera to maintain her position in the last few turns until she and Carmen Small (Specialized-lululemon) dueled down the finishing straight to Rivera’s photo finish victory. Lizzie Williams (Vanderkitten) captured third on the stage ahead of many of the dominant teams, leveraging her years of experience to position herself at the front of the race with tenacity. Williams is making her comeback to cycling after taking 10 years off the bike.

With such close time gaps heading into the stage, and this year’s shorter, more angular course, the women lined up to start as much as 40 minutes before race start to secure their place at the front of the peloton.

In spite of the early line up, there were no early attacks and the first several laps of the 28 lap race were fast but controlled. Optum p/b Kelly Benefits Strategies, Specialized-lululemon, and UnitedHealthcare were notable at the front.

Once the race started it ebbed and flowed predictably, surging at the time bonus or sprint points competitions and staying steady in between. Olivia Dillon (Colavita-Fine Cooking) took a solo flyer at the first sprint points competition ten laps into the race to claim the maximum points, staying away for five laps until being brought back as teams vied for the time bonuses. Several laps later, Dillon again broke away from the pack for the next sprint points competition with 8 laps to go, securing her place as the day’s Penn Cycle Most Aggressive Rider.

Rivera tied Dillon for top sprint points by winning the stage, tipping the tie to her favor.

“I saw Carmen attack wide into the last corner,” said Williams. “Coryn followed her, and I was maybe a bike wheel behind those two so I took their line and stayed the same distance for the sprint. ”

Williams, who is from Melbourne, Australia and riding as a guest rider for Vanderkitten, is on her eighth month back on the bike, with the North Star Grand Prix being her third international race.

“I raced with [UnitedHealthcare] at Tulsa so I know how they work. I know that I have to be up there in the top 10, preferably on their wheel. It’s just about holding your line and holding your wheel without being bullied off it.”

Powers holds the North Star Leader’s Jersey heading into Stage 3, the 95-mile Cannon Falls Road Race. Also holding their jerseys are Tayler Wiles (Specialized-lululemon) in the Tria Orthopedic Best Young Rider jersey and Jelly Belly Queen of the Mountain jersey, and Kelly Catlin (Kakookie’s Collegiate All Stars) in the North Star Best Amateur Jersey.