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Lauren de Crescenzo (Cinch) overcame a loose aerobar and a veritable buffet of headwind to win The Mid South in an impressive solo effort.
Moriah Wilson (Specialized) and Savilia Blunk (Orange Seal Off-Road) sprinted to a 2-3 finish 12 minutes behind de Crescenzo in downtown Stillwater, Oklahoma.
Although snow blanketed the course on Friday, by Saturday morning almost all of the gravel and red-clay roads were dry.
Two technical pinch points played a major role in the race. At mile 25, a marshy two-track forced riders to dismount and run through mud. At then at mile 52, a dry creek crossing forced the front group into a singlefile on foot, and then a steep climb immediately following provided a springboard for strong riders to shed some competitors.
Coming into the muddy, cyclocross-style section at mile 25, De Crescenzo was a bit too far back in the field, she said.
As with at many gravel races, women and men start and race together at The Mid South.
“I was a little bit too far back there,” De Crescenzo said of the mud section, which saw her off the pace of the front group by the end. “I’m not great at running through mud I guess. I was with Ruth [Winder] and Moriah [Wilson] for a while.”
But while De Crescenzo was a bit off the pace for a while, she was undeterred. And, as she has done so many times in recent gravel races, she put her head down and started picking off group after group.
She caught Blunk and the two rode together for a bit.
“I was the only the only one pulling. So I knew that I had to get a gap,” De Crescenzo said. “But then we got to a little climb after the creek, and that as my sign.”
De Crescenzo motored away from Blunk, and soon after her right aerobar came loose, and the end of the extension started getting dangerously close to her front wheel. So, she flipped it up towards her torso, and rode the rest of the race like that.
“I was trying not to stab myself,” she said.
De Crescenzo passed several groups of men, who were riding in pacelines and echelons. She ultimately finished 14th overall, some 12 minutes ahead of Wilson and Blunk.
Blunk was riding alone in the final miles when Wilson caught here without about 10 miles to go.
Coming into town, Blunk attacked on the last rise before the gradual downhill to the finish.
“I knew that was the place to attack, but [Wilson] came back super strong and yeah, both my legs cramped up,” said the five-time national champion mountain biker. “It was a brutal day. I’m not used to a hundred miles, but it was a super fun hundred miles.”
Wilson said she debating going with De Crescenzo at when the Cinch rider came barreling through at about the race’s midpoint, just after a tricky drycreek crossing and a steep climb.
“She went for it and it just felt too soon,” Wilson said. “She was going really hard and alone in the wind. I just didn’t think it was smart. So I stayed with a group of guys that I was with and I ended up doing a lot of pulling anyways.”
“So I don’t know if it was the right choice, but I chose to be patient and it didn’t work to keep up with Lauren or catch her,” Wilson said. “I thought she was maybe going to fade at the end because she was going so hard, but she was strong. She stuck with it, and yeah, solid riding on her part.”
The Mid South 2022
- Lauren De Crescenzo, 5:08:40
- Moriah Wilson, 5:20:38
- Savilia Blunk, 5:20:38
- Holly Matthews, 5:33:25
- Paige Peters, 5:33:27
- Emily Newsom, 5:33:28
- Ruth Winder, 5:42:42
- Austin Killips, 5:44:05
- Jessica Cygan, 5:46:27
- Amity Rockwell, 5:48:41
Full results are here.