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De Crescenzo, 30, won the 200-mile race after suffering a duo of flat tires in the opening hours of the race. At one point she trailed the women’s leader, her CINCH cycling teammate Flavia Oliveira, by 25 minutes.
But De Crescenzo steadily picked her way through the field, making steady headway through the winds and heat. She took the lead in the women’s race with 50 miles to go, powering to the line ahead of defending champion Amity Rockwell.
“Holy god, it was an emotional rollercoaster,” De Crescenzo told VeloNews. “But I felt so much better than I have ever felt in a gravel race. I’m being coached by Tom Danielson now, and I talk to him like 10 times a day, so I was very prepared today. My legs have never felt that good in a gravel race.”
Indeed, De Crescenzo is the star rider on Danielson’s squad, and earlier this year CINCH cycling launched a dedicated gravel program, with De Crescenzo at its helm. De Crescenzo is a former professional road racer who briefly held the Everesting world record in 2020. She also won the 2018 edition of Crusher in the Tushar.
De Crescenzo said that Saturday’s effort marked the highest point of her cycling career.
“This is a huge comeback,” she said. “It’s not even a comeback because I’m past where I used to be. I’m like 150 percent where I used to be and now I’m back and I’m better.”
The comeback De Crescenzo is referring to involves one of the most terrifying recent moments in U.S. women’s domestic road racing. In 2016 De Crescenzo was a budding pro on the Visit Dallas-DNA pro cycling career. During the San Dimas Stage Race she crashed in a high-speed pileup near the finish line of the 56-mile stage race and suffered life-threatening injuries.
De Crescenzo required emergency medical attention to save her life, and she was airlifted to the USC Medical Center, where she was placed in a medically induced coma. Doctors saved her life, but she suffered a traumatic brain injury, and spent two months in a rehabilitation center at Denver’s Craig Hospital.
De Crescenzo faced a long and trying period of recovery, and her comeback story was chronicled in the cycling press and in local Colorado media. In the years after the crash she finished her undergraduate degree and then earned a Master’s Degree in public health in 2019. She also returned to cycling and became one of the strongest riders in the budding gravel scene.
In 2020 De Crescenzo moved from her home in Colorado to Atlanta to take a job with the Centers for Disease Control. And last week De Crescenzo got married to partner Jim Snitzer.
The win at Unbound Gravel marks yet another chapter in De Crescenzo’s amazing story.
And, according to De Crescenzo, no amount of flat tires, or wind, or heat can compare to what she’s already been through just to get to the starting line.
“I’ve been through way harder [stuff] than that,” De Crescenzo told VeloNews. “I overcame a traumatic brain injury, and a stay in a rehab center. Nothing that’s hard will ever compare to that.”
Unbound Gravel 200
- Lauren De Crescenzo, CINCH cycling, 12:06:49
- Amity Rockwell, Scuderia Pinarello, 12:22:15
- Emily Newsom, Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank, 12:30:52
- Whitney Allison, 12:34:19
- Shayna Powless, Twenty20, 12:37:50
- Angela Naeth, 12:43:16
- Lisa Worner, 12:51:18
- Isabel King, 13:04:17
- Moriah Wilson, 13:09:03
- Jessica Cerra, 13:09:04
- Alison Tetrick, 13:20:20
- Hannah Shell, 13:20:57
- Natalia Franco Villegas, 13:34:40
- Kate Coward, 13:48:20
- Caroline Dezendorf, 13:55:48
- Olivia Dillon, 13:56:40
- Sarah Mennow, 14:05:05
- Rebecca Fahringer, 14:07:12
- Jen Luebke, 14:07:13
- Ivy Pedersen, 14:11:40