Brooke Miller of Team TIBCO/To the Top put in another strong performance today in the Ronde van Drenthe World Cup, finishing 6th out of a lead group of 13 that began to take shape just past the half-way point of the 135km race.
The course featured three cobbled sections, all over 2 km long, as well as three trips over the Vamberg, a 380-meter climb with pitches reaching over 20%.
Heading into the first cobbled section, we had planned to all be up front, drive it over the cobbles and then attack when we got out of them," Miller said. "We figured that the race would break into a front group of around 30 or so, and we wanted to initiate it.
"I was up front, and Jo (Kiesanowski) and Devon (Haskell) were in pretty good position about 20 riders back," Miller continued.
However, the first bit of misfortune struck a little over a half a kilometer from the cobbles when someone went down right in front of Haskell, which forced her off the road and into a tree. While she wasn't seriously injured, her race was over at that point. Kiesanowski and Ruth Corset both got caught up behind the crash, however, Emma Mackie was still with Miller heading into the first section of cobbles.
"I hit the cobbles 4th wheel behind (World Cup leader Marianne) Vos (Nederland Bloeit) and a Cervelo rider," Miller said, "but my legs were crap and I was going backward. Mackie yelled at me to keep riding and so I hung on."
When Miller and Mackie exited the cobbles, they were part of a group of about 35 riders with all the main teams represented, and a gap of 0:30 on the main field. When they hit the second section of cobbles, Miller was still in good position near the front, with the pace super-fast.
"Then a girl in front of me hit the deck and I was forced off the road, but kept it upright," Miller explained. "That gapped off Mackie and a few other riders. By the time I got up to the front riders, they had backed of the pace on the cobbles, and so I was fine. No one drove it on the last cobbled section, so it was just a nice, bumpy ride."
This left a group of about 25 out front, with all the main teams still well-represented. With nearly full squads in the group, Cervelo and HTC-Columbia started attacking.
"I went with the first move and then realized that with no teammates, i was better off just being patient and sitting back with Vos, Ina (Teutenberg, HTC-Columbia), (Nicole) Cooke (British National Team), (Emma) Johannsen (Red Sun) and the other top riders. But then a group attacked and it stuck."
That group of seven riders included heavy hitters Giorgia Bronzini (Gauss RDZ) and Noemi Cantele (HTC-Columbia), as well as two riders from Cervelo. "So the rest of the bunch just let it go," Miller said. "There was nothing to be done. But then it looked like the group I was in was going to get caught by the big pack behind. And I really didn't like the idea of have a great race all day and then finishing with 50+ riders."
So Miller put in an attack to try to bridge up to the front group, which my that time had nearly a two-minute gap on Miller's group.
"I got nowhere," Miller said, "but then a few riders countered and we started riding again. My attack was countered and I went with it, but then we all sat up again. I tried another go and finally, a Cervelo rider attacked and (Andrie) Visser (HTC-Columbia) jumped. One of Vos' teammates covered it and it looked promising, so I hopped on. The rest let us go and we started hammering."
After a huge effort, with the small group working together, they closed in on the front group. When they finally integrated, the numbers in the front group favored Cervelo with three riders, while HTC-Columbia and Nederland Bloeit both had two. Miller was solo, as was Bronzini.
The second time over the Vamberg, about 88 km into the race, the group stayed together. But on the final time up, with just over 12 km to go, the attacks started. Cervelo and HTC-Columbia took turns attacking, but each time the move was shut down. Then, with 1 km to go, Vos' Nederland Bloeit teammate Loes Gunnewijk attacked and slipped off the front.
"The pack was chasing so many attacks, but the were all by Cervelo and Columbia," Miller said. "So when a non-Cervelo or Columbia rider attacked, they let her get a nice gap."
And just like that, it became a race for second place. Miller fought for position coming into the final turn, fighting to stay on Bronzini's wheel.
"I told myself to be patient, to wait until 200m to go to start my sprint," Miller said. "But I was about 325m out when I jumped. I can sometimes get away with jumping early in the States but not at a World Cup. I really think I should've been on the podium.
"It was a great day for the team, but also a frustrating one as we had more bad luck today," Miller said. "But everyone raced really well. With each race we're learning how to race smarter and be in good position. Today gave us a lot of confidence for the next couple races."
Team TIBCO/To the Top will be in action again in the Drenthe region at the Novilon EuroCup Ronde Van Drenthe tomorrow.