When they are not racing cyclocross, Sarah Sturm (Specialized + Ten Speed Hero) and Emily Schaldach (Ten Speed Hero p/b BitchStix) are good friends. On the course, they push each other to race better.
A few weeks ago, Schaldach finished second and Sturm third at Singlespeed Cyclocross Worlds in Utah, and on Saturday, the duo had a good shot at taking home a Stars-and-Stripes jersey. Of course, when a title is on the line, only one can take it home.
"We got to battle it out at Singlespeed Worlds and I knew that this was going to be a course for one of us," Sturm said during a joint interview after the race. "Honestly, I would have been just as happy if you took it."
Forty one-geared enthusiasts lined up in Saturday's penultimate race looking to crash the friends' party and capture some singlespeed glory of their own in front of a raucous crowd at Fort Steilacoom Park.
Carla Williams (Deschutes Brewery) helped get Saturday's festivities started when she joined Sturm in leading the field onto the grass and toward the first run-up.
Sturm, the defending champ, wasted little time in continuing on the front and leading down the first descent chute. At that early juncture, she already had a 5-second lead on Schaldach, who in turn led a chase that included Williams, Jessica Cutler (NWCX Project), Rachel Wood (Team Thrive), Melissa Barker (Feedback Sports Racing) and Taylor Snider (Team Coastal).
Following the second run-up and second descent, the front of the race took shape. Sturm led Schladach by 4 seconds, Cutler sat in third and Williams and Wood chased for fourth. At the end of Lap 1, Sturm's lead was 7 seconds.
"I was stoked from the beginning," Schaldach said. "When we were together I was like 'Yes, nothing could be better! This is amazing!' And this course was sweet for singlespeed because it’s either like flat-ish, which is perfect for singlespeed, or you’re running carrying a light bike, or sweet descents where you’re not going to drop a chain cause you don’t have any gears."
In the day's Junior races, the second descent chute had proven treacherous for top riders, and in the Women's Singlespeed race, it reared its ugly head in Lap 2. Sturm crashed on the slick descent, and by the time she ran to the bottom and remounted, Schaldach had bridged up to her.
Schaldach then went on the attack and took a small lead at the sand pit, but Sturm recovered, and the two crossed the start/finish straight together with an 8-second lead on Cutler. Williams sat another 11 seconds back in 3rd.
"I was not expecting to go over my bars, but I knew Emily was right there," Sturm said. "I could kind of just see out of the corner of my eye her flashy costume. When I went down, I knew I just had to get right back up and grab my bike. It’s always kind of disorienting and it's also never written in stone. You just never know. You have to keep trying."
In the third lap, Schaldach stuck with Sturm on the first run-up, and then the Bitch n' Grit rider put in a monster effort on the second run-up. Despite her efforts, Sturm opened up a small gap on the climb to the top of the orchard and ensuing drop back to the lower part of the course. Sturm's lead then swelled to 16 seconds at the bell.
In the last lap, Sturm safely navigated the second drop and held on to take the win and her second-straight one-gear National Championship.
"The singlespeed is like such a cool, different element to cyclocross," Sturm said. "In some ways, it’s a lot more simple and it kind of allows you to read the course in a different way. It was a super fun one out there. It’s cool to see so many women out there too. And dressed up!"
Schaldach finished second and Cutler third. Williams and Reno SSCX champ Meredith Miller (Rapha) rounded out the wide-angle podium.
For more from the Women's Singlespeed race, see the winner interview, photo gallery and results below.
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Sarah Sturm and Emily Schladach: Women's Singlespeed Interview