Rebecca Wiasak (Fearless Femme) claimed the opening stage at the women’s Colorado Classic on Thursday, getting out ahead of the other surviving sprint hopefuls with a kilometer to go and holding out to the line to beat Tibco-SVB riders Lex Albrecht and Kendall Ryan.
“I saw the 1k to go banner and one of the UHC girls was off the front, so I was like, ‘Okay, if I bridge to her and launch off her, UHC aren’t chasing because they have a rider off the front,'” Wiasak said after the stage. “I think some other teams must have been scrambling but obviously I was trying not to look back too often.”
Wiasak, a former world champion in the individual pursuit and Australia’s current criterium champion, spent the day trying to survive the main climb on four laps of the 14.2-kilometer circuit.
“I was out of position every time up the climb but was able to get in a group that always got back on,” she said. “The race panned out perfectly for me. I always had Flávia [Oliveira] in the front group. She always made the split, she climbs so well.”
With a few kilometers to go in the final lap, Wiasak was in position to strike, but no one was quite sure how the finish would play out.
“In the last 3k, it was chaotic,” said Rally’s Emma White, who finished seventh. “People were trying to attack, we weren’t sure if it was going to finish with a solo or a sprint finish.”
Things ultimately concluded somewhere in between the two ends of that spectrum — Wiasak bridged to a UnitedHealthcare rider with a small gap and then pushed on to take the win. Albrecht crossed the line for runner-up honors, although as Ryan pointed out after the stage, that wasn’t exactly the way her team had drawn it up.
“Racing at altitude, I’m from sea level so I knew I wasn’t going to have the capacity that I’ve been racing with all year,” Ryan said. “Lex Albrecht led me out, and she’s known for being a climber, but she absolutely smoked me in the sprint, I couldn’t even come around her, just everything cramping up.”
Tibco had to be content with putting two riders on the stage podium, with Wiasak taking the win with a convincing two-second gap to the field.
She’ll have her hands full, however, defending her race lead in Friday’s stage 2. An uphill time trial of 15.8 kilometers, it will favor the climbers.
“Once again it’s going to be about controlling yourself, riding to your power and not going to hard,” she said. “But I haven’t done a time trial in a little while so that’s just me.”