Shaena Berlin’s Women’s A Crit Win at Columbia

Going into this crit, I held vague hopes of winning the green sprinter’s jersey but didn’t even consider that it might be possible to win the race; I’m a time-trialist, not a crit rider! I made the race hard from the start, trying to string out the field and learn the course. The group of A/B women felt a little sketchy at times, braking too much on the downhills and taking “interesting” lines through the corners. At the first prime lap, I moved up to the front and gave the current green jersey holder Rose a perfect leadout. Brilliant move, now the gap between my sprint points and hers was up to 10 points. She is a smart, tactical rider, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to make up for that, so I sat back for a while, making occasional half-hearted surges and saving energy on the rest of the primes.

With four laps to go, I felt disheartened; this race would amount to a mass sprint, and I would end up mid-pack at best. I decided to try another attack, just so I wouldn’t feel bad about myself for not trying everything I could to prevent that mass sprint. I came around the corner that turned onto the extended mild hill toward the finishing stretch around 6th wheel. Then, I up-shifted and moved far to the right-hand side of the road, riding pretty hard out of the saddle. Someone yelled to chase, but I was quite far away from the field laterally. Surprise, separation, speed, not attacking off the front – it worked! I looked back and was shocked to see no one there. I thought, “*expletive*, now I have to go really hard!!”, and I did. 3 laps to go, I rode across the line with a growing gap. Not having to worry about other riders, I could take the corners and downhills with my ideal lines. I wish I had heart rate data for those laps, because it would have probably been terrifying. ½ lap to go, and a strong Pitt rider Hayley Wickstrom flew past me. I thought, “Well, 2nd place in a crit is great for me!” and pushed hard enough to catch back on to her wheel. Around 100 meters to the finish line, I thought, “Actually, maybe I can sprint by her” and did. My first mass-start win since I raced Intro in 2010!

Shaena defeating the second place rider—with plenty of daylight in between
Shaena defeating the second place rider—with plenty of daylight in between (photo by Jan Valerie Polk)