Being There: Thompson Bucks County Classic 2016 Women’s Race
Cover photo is courtesy of Mike Maney Photography. Be sure to check out his work; he is a fellow cyclist in the Bucks cycling community.
(2016) I have a friend who recounted his hilarious first cyclocross race experience. He was a professional road rider who had raced the Bucks County Classic many years ago. He thought to give 'cross a try based on his criterium racing experience. He thought, “It’s just an hour.” He further thought that it wouldn’t be so bad; he would ride as hard as he could from the gun and red line the entire time. Surely he would win with such strategy.
He stated he threw up for a solid hour after the race after implementing that plan.
I thought of the one-hour mark because the women’s professional race at the Bucks County Classic was to be forty miles or one hour, whichever came first. I continued to think of my friend’s effort when one rider, Josie Talbot of ISCorp p/b Smart Choice MRI exploded out of the field and hung out off the front for much of the race. Could she hang on for sixty minutes at that effort?
Each lap she came through alone except for a television motorcycle, often to her left. Each lap I looked at my wristwatch and counted the gap. Her lead would grow as large as thirty seconds with a group behind her seemingly reluctant to chase. Out of the twenty-eight riders, six of them were for ISCorp p/b Smart Choice MRI. Those were pretty good odds to have five other riders not expected to do any work to pull her back. The only team with similar firepower was Fearless Femme Racing with five riders. Naturally all eyes turned to them to bring her back.
But lap after lap, she continued to ride strong. So strong we commented on her face giving nothing away to suffering. Each time around she looked fresh and possibly able to go the distance alone. I thought of the one-hour mark and how it had dwindled to only three laps. She would pass by our location before the start/ finish line and we would crane our necks to watch her progress on the JumboTron. The hour was nearly up, it was within the window Bradley Wiggins had stated was so awful during his Hour Record Attempt. I wanted to shout, "Only fifteen more minutes!" But the word only bothered me as a spectator.
With only a couple laps remaining the field reeled her in. This was brutal to watch. We were pulling for her to stay away after making all that effort. However, the next best scenario happened as one of her teammates, Yusse Soto, went to the front to take over the pace making. It looked like a done deal again for ISCorp p/b Smart Choice MRI. However, on the last lap the group was back together with another vicious attack coming from two riders this time. Skylar Schneider, another ISCorp p/b Smart Choice MRI, claimed the lead taking Gretchen Stumhofer of Colavita/ Bianchi with her. Stumhofer played the game, seeing her chance at victory considering she had no teammates in the race.
As the two leaders came up the straightaway for the final time, a well-executed sprint was opened by Schneider who immediately put distance between herself and Stumhofer. There was no response as Schneider opened up a nine second gap for the victory. The remaining group came across twelve seconds back. Samantha Schneider, Skylar's sister, would win the field sprint to give first and third to ISCorp p/b Smart Choice MRI and to the sisters, respectively. Josie Talbot, who had done the masterful effort of work, was relegated to a P&P on the score sheet meaning ‘pulled and placed.’ If there was a secondary reward for all her effort, a teammate's victory - and another teammate's third - was surely it.
The women’s race was extremely entertaining to watch. What’s remarkable to add is the fact that Bucks County Classic pays out the same purse to the women’s race as they do to the men’s. This is one of the few races to do that, and perhaps it’s what motivated Talbot to hang in there or Schneider at the outset of her sprint.
Hopefully each year will see more and more riders for the women’s race. It is hoped that their race can be expanded in time and distance as well. While I did not see anyone puking at the finish, the riders who lit up the first half of the race were greeted with approving applause as they rolled by at the finish, significantly off the back but still crossing the line.