By Bryan Jew, VeloNews Senior Writer
At Saturday’s national road race championships, Saturn’s Kimberly Bruckner demonstrated again that she was the strongest woman on the roads of Redding. Two days after winning the national time trial championship, Bruckner broke away with Harbour Lights’ Amber Neben 27 miles into the 69-mile championship road race and eventually soloed in for her second national title in three days.
Saturday’s women’s race consisted of four laps of a hilly, 14-mile circuit west of Redding, with a six-mile starting and finishing tail from town to the circuit.
The 64-woman field was content to stay together at a moderate pace on the rolling rural roads of the main circuit until the first major obstacle, a 1.3-mile climb to the feed zone, about halfway into the circuit.
800.com’s Andrea Ratkovic was the first to make a serious acceleration, followed by favorites such as Bruckner, Mari Holden (Alfa Lum) and Pam Schuster (AutoTrader.com). Nothing came about on that first lap, despite more attacks by Bruckner and 800.com.
However, on lap 2, the winning move came suddenly, and decisively. Again, Bruckner was one of the first to accelerate on the feed zone climb, with Holden right on her wheel. But halfway up the climb, Neben, a mountain-biker for SoBe-HeadShok, went to the front, and under her pressure, top riders like Schuster and Holden began to fall off the pace. Only Bruckner could hang, and by the time they reached the crest of the hill, the had a 10-second advantage.
That gap grew quickly over the continuously up-and-down course, with the duo extending the lead to 43 seconds by the start of the third circuit.
Behind, Holden, who was without teammates, tried to organize a chase within the main field, but despite some chasing by 800.com, Jane and AutoTrader, the gap hovered at about one minute.
Up front, Bruckner and Neben were working smoothly together, sharing the workload until the fourth and final lap. At that point, Bruckner sensed a bit of weakness and fatigue from Neben, and when a gap opened up on the feed zone climb, Bruckner pushed her advantage and began pulling away on the descent.
She still had 13 miles remaining, but that was no problem for the powerful Saturn rider, who didn’t show any signs of letting up over those closing miles, cruising into the finish almost four minutes ahead of Neben, who hung on for second.
Behind, Bruckner’s lone teammate Suzanne Sonye led in the field sprint to capture third for Saturn, followed by Dotsie Cowden (Team Earthlink) and Kori Kelly (Procter & Gamble).
“This is huge,” said Bruckner of her win. “Saturn has been great. They never put much pressure on us because there were only two of out here … I think we performed better because of that.”
1. Kimberly Bruckner, Saturn, 69 mi in 3:06:07; 2. Amber Neben, Harbour Lights, at 3:54; 3. Suzanne Sonye, Saturn, at 4:35; 4. Dotsie Cowden, Team Earthlink; 5. Kori Kelly, Procter & Gamble; 6. Laura Charameda, SC Michela Fanini; 7. Krystyna Kras, WEBCOR-Alto Velo; 8. Lauren Smith, Santa Cruz Spokesman; 9. Tina Mayolo, AutoTrader.com; 10. Pam Schuster, AutoTrader.com; 11. Elizabeth Emery, Intersports; 12. Jessica Phillips, Intersports; 13. Sarah Konrad, Boise Cascade Office Products; 14. Mari Holden, Alfa Lum; 15. Lysle Wilhelmi, 800.com; 16. Kerry Hellmuth, Carpe Diem Itera; 17. Catherine Cardwell, Jane Cosmetics; 18. Rhonda Quick, Jane Cosmetics, all s.t.; 19. Kim Morrow, TalgoAmerica.com, at 5:46; 20. Caren Spore, Jane Cosmetics, at 8:47.