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The American came into the race as the defending champion and one of the main favorites for the title but she was quickly distanced by eventual winner Sofia Gomez Villafañe (Specialized) who dominated the women’s race.
At one point De Crescenzo found herself in third place on the course behind Villafañe and Heather Jackson but she doubled her efforts in the second half of the race to close within just 90 seconds of Villafañe. At one point the gap had been as vast as 15 minutes.
“In the very, very beginning I was riding for position,” De Crescenzo told VeloNews at the finish in Emporia, Kansas.
“It was hard, because it’s a big group, and there are a lot of things going on. At the first aid station, it was me and Heather Jackson together, and Sofia was seven minutes ahead. Then we got back onto the gravel at the first aid station. I was able to drill it on the aero bars because it was smooth.”
Crashes effectively ended De Crescenzo’s momentum. Villafañe comes from a mountain biking background and was more familiar with the technical aspects of the course, and the mud that stemmed from recent heavy showers.
Villafañe did crash at one point in the race but De Crescenzo had three separate falls and could be seen with marks from a fall on her left-hand side when camera crews caught up with her late on in the race.
“I was able to get going and I got within 90 seconds of Sofia at one point. I got to mile 125 and I took it a little too hot, and I crashed. I got back going, then I crashed again, and then I did it one more time. I lost a lot of time crashing so many times in the mud. I think that I was 15 minutes back after the three crashes.”
“After that, I tried clawing back again, and I was making up ground, and then we got to that crazy mud section and that was insane.”
De Crescenzo was asked about the differences between her 2021 ride and her second place this time around. The course changed for this edition of the race, and the conditions were a complete contrast to last year when riders faced sun and warm temperatures.
“Despite the mud sections, the gravel was a lot smoother. There wasn’t as much climbing and I think that the gravel on the south side is always faster, with smoother roads. Last year was really hot, too hot, probably. It was much cooler this year with the rain,” she said.
“It was just different. Maybe it was easier because I didn’t have to ride for as long. I felt fitter going into this year, being able to focus entirely on training and not getting married six days before like I did this year.”