Bradshaw, Farina, Hall and Swart Add to Team VBF Podium Count
Lauren Hall won her first leader’s jersey on Labor Day at the THF Realty Gateway Cup presented by Residence Inn.
“When we came across the start/finish line, someone told me that I had gotten the jersey. Until my team confirmed it, I didn’t feel like I could be sure,” said Hall. “I just couldn’t believe it. Finally! It’s an awesome feeling. Having a teammate here to celebrate with -- enjoying the achievement with her -- makes it even better.
Hall and St. Louis local, Carrie Cash, competed in the four-day Gateway Cup series over Labor Day weekend. Hall finished third on days one and four in the Lafayette Square and Benton Park neighborhoods. She was second on day two in St. Louis Hills and fifth on day three on the Hill. Hall won the bunch sprint in both St. Louis Hills and on the Hill.
“It’s my second year racing the series,” explained Hall. “It seems like everyone in St. Louis rallies around these races and enjoys having us come into their neighborhoods. I had the opportunity to meet residents, volunteers and business owners each day. They see the races as a celebration of their piece of St. Louis. It’s really neat.”
Hall went into Gateway Cup knowing that she had good form. “I’m a late bloomer,” she joked. Still, her success -- beating Laura Van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom) and Modesta Vzesniauskaite (Colavita-Baci) -- came as a surprise to her. “This is for everyone who believed in me all season -- for everyone who told me I could do it. I’m so happy to finally prove them right,” Hall said.
Cash was happy to support her teammate’s efforts in front of a hometown crowd. “We worked for this. With just the two of us, we had to be constantly aware,” explained Cash. “We discussed various scenarios, and in the end, Lauren accomplished what she set out to achieve.”
While Hall chased the leader’s jersey in Missouri, Toni Bradshaw went head-to-head with Jeannie Longo (Vital Plus) in Steamboat, CO. The Steamboat Stage Race served as Bradshaw’s final race on U.S. soil before returning home to New Zealand to prepare for the Road Cycling World Championships.
“It was a good race,” said Bradshaw. “It was hard! The circuit race on Saturday was essentially up and then down and then repeat. The terrain made it pretty fun. Jeannie went away on a move that I had instigated, but when we got to the bottom of the hill no one wanted to chase properly. I decided it didn’t make sense to bust my guts dragging the field around in her pursuit.”
Bradshaw sought redemption on Sunday, and she got it.
“On Sunday, we had the road race in the afternoon. It was super windy by then, and the course was hard! We rode into a headwind out, up and down the whole time,” explained Bradshaw. “Jeannie and I got away pretty early on. Megan Hottman (Treads.com/DFT) and Kasey Clark got away with us, but Megan they didn’t want to work, so Jeannie knocked them off. We carried on together until 15K to go when Jeannie dropped me. Jeannie won the stage race by nearly seven minutes, but I ended up with another seven minutes over third.”
Bradshaw considers the weekend a success. “I’m pretty happy with second overall,” she explains. “Plus, it was a beautiful weekend. It’s so pretty in Steamboat, and the field was fun. It was definitely a good way to wrap up the season.”
While their teammates chased overall podiums, Carla Swart and Robin Farina contested single day races in the Southeast.
On Saturday, the duo raced the Sugar Mountain criterium. The criterium, part of the Mile High Race Weekend, was held in Banner Elk, NC on a course that featured 120 feet of climbing each lap. Farina and Swart separated themselves from the rest of the field from the outset of the race. The duo lapped the field and Swart took the win. “Robin and I just drilled it from the gun,” said Swart. “We did a team time trial and went for it and lapped the field.”
On Sunday, Swart was on her own for the Banner Elk to Beech Mountain Road Race. The 44 mile road race featured 4 laps of a 10 mile circuit with 1,250 feet of climbing per lap. The final lap finished on the 3.5 mile climb to the summit of Beech Mountain.
Swart, who recently returned from a month-long racing stint in Europe, used the race as training in preparation for the World Championships and Commonwealth Games. Attacking on first climb on the first lap, she immediately got a gap. A lone rider, Rachel Warner (BMW-Bianchi), managed to bridge up to Swart on the final lap. Swart made an acceleration on the final climb up Beech Mountain that Warner could not match. The effort allowed Swart to solo in for the win. “When I attacked on the first lap, I actually caught up to some of the Cat 3 men,” commented Swart. “I wanted to race hard and it was great training.”
Robin Farina missed out on Sunday’s road race as she traveled to Atlanta for the US 10K. The race, formerly on the NRC calendar, is a 10K “sprint,” on a rolling course. Farina attacked early in the race with Debbie Milne (Absolute Racing) going with her. Milne, a former national champion, tried to shed Farina on the rolling hills, but Farina kept the pace high on the downhill sections. “She was drilling it on the climbs,” said Farina. “I didn’t want the field to catch us, so I kept rolling through and keeping the pace high on the descents.” The two came to the finish line neck and neck with Milne nipping Farina at the line.
Photo: © JBeauvais Photography