Tibco-To the Top went one-two in the final stage of the Nature Valley Grand Prix on Sunday and inherited the yellow jersey as Jade Wilcoxson (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) crashed out of the overall lead.
Meanwhile, Michael Friedman (Optum) finished second to stage winner J.J. Haedo (Jamis-Hagens Berman) in the Stillwater Criterium to clinch his overall title.
After bridging to a breakaway in the final lap of the women’s race, Tibco’s Claudia Haüsler sprinted to the win ahead of teammate Joanne Kiesanowski, with Tayler Wiles (Specialized-Lululemon) rounding out the podium in third.
“In the final I didn’t look around, I was just going full gas. I didn’t see anything any more, I was just full gas,” said Häusler. “You can’t hear anything, the people are so loud, and the atmosphere is amazing.”
The overall was less certain. With the race leader down in the final corner of this final stage, going wide and into the left-side barriers, race officials were still trying to sort out the standings as the men prepared to take the course.
In the end, they decided that the overall win would go to Shelley Olds (Tibco), who sat just one second behind Wilcoxson going into the final day. That demoted the Optum rider to second overall, at eight seconds, with Carmen Small (Specialized) third at 23 seconds.
Steve Epple, chief referee in the women’s race, referred to page 6 of the NVGP technical guide, which reads: “If the mishap occurs during the last lap, riders will be given the time of the group that they were with at the time of the mishap. The rider shall be given her actual place across the finish line, or last in the stage if she is unable to cross the line.”
That didn’t satisfy Optum director Rachel Heal.
“The decision was that Jade is not given the time of Shelley, who I believe was the rider she was with at the time of the incident. The commissaires have made their decision, that she’s farther back, and we have to accept it. We’ve put our argument forward, the commissaires have made their decision, and they are the ones that have the final say, unfortunately.”
Wilcoxson rued the lost opportunity, saying: “Before the crash it was incredible. I felt amazing today.”
As for Olds, she said she punched it after the crash, uncertain what the outcome would be.
“Jade was sitting pretty with her team. I think they had six in the lead group of 12 riders. They were just lined up with Jade maybe fourth wheel, and two riders behind her always trying to keep me off her wheel,” said Olds.
“The last lap I had one teammate with me, Lauren Stephens. I told her, ‘You have to take me to the base of the climb, you have to get me there first. That’s all we need to do is get me to the base of the climb first.’
“She was fighting the Optum train, trying to keep me in the front, and on the downhill we were like second and third wheel, Jade attacked and took the first right-hander and gapped me and Lauren. I went in front of Lauren, and Jade just went into the fence.
“I just went full gas to the line because I didn’t know what the rules would be, so I just wanted to get there.”
Haedo takes another, Friedman wins overall
The men’s race saw Haedo sprint to yet another victory in the Nature Valley Grand Prix ahead of race leader Friedman and Jesse Goodrich (California Giant-Specialized). U.S. road champion Freddie Rodriguez (Jelly Belly-Kenda) just missed the podium, finishing fourth.
“It’s nice to go into a break like that, with a few wins,” said Haedo. “Today was especially a nice one because it’s a hard course. I don’t know how many guys were in the front, but it’s a small group, so it was making the race harder. It’s good to know the legs are going good.”
As for Friedman, who claimed the final yellow jersey with a comfy 40-second-plus cushion over Elbowz Racing-Boneshaker Project teammates Andrews Diaz and Eric Marcotte, he was sporting a big smile before the awards presentation.
“We made it. We’re here,” he said. “It was unbelievable. The guys were incredible. Tom Zirbel was riding incredible. He was on and off the gas. Zwizanski, Jesse, Creed, the whole team, the staff, catered to me today.”
“A number of times I just had to tell myself to relax, breathe, trust your team. These are the thoughts that are going through your head, because I know if I don’t, I have this nervous energy, and it will get worse, and worse, and worse.
“So I started to think about other things, like my dog at home, I was looking at people’s faces on the wall [Chilkoot Hill], and just thinking about the guys and how hard they worked. I was just making sure I stayed relaxed and calm and just do the best I can.”