Aeonian takes the crown and solidifies their spot in esports history.
The women’s teams that made the selection were Aeonian, Movistar Eteam, Socks-4-Watts, Wahoo le Col, and Virginia’s Blue Ridge Twenty24. The field was 22 riders, with Wahoo le Col, Twenty24, and Socks-4-Watts losing riders to a remote training camp and illness—each fielding only four.
It was clear from the onset that they had gone to school on the men’s final contested moments before. Wahoo le Col’s Rachel Brown animated the action early, but the group tightened the short leash.
“In the Grand Prix finals, I had many roles,” notes Virginia’s Blue Ridge Twenty24’s Kristen Kulchinsky, and “I was on breakaway duty and lead-out duty. The race started, and Wahoo le Col attacked with Rachel brown, so I chased it down. Then I led my teammate Naomi out for the sprint for Breakaway Brae.”
Breakaway Brae Reverse
The generous positioning proved perfect for Aeonian’s Polona Itkin, who took the close sprint and scored what proved to be the paramount point in the race. Itkin nipped Movistar’s Jessica Edqvist, and the effort was too much to overcome, and she couldn’t reconnect.
One point for Polona Itkin and Aeonian
Sgurr Summit—North Side
The group hit the lower slopes conservatively and wound up the wattage as the ascent pressed on. The scenario set the table for Movistar’s Marlene Bjarehed, launching a blistering 12 wkg attack rocketing her across the line—two points for Bjarehed.
The Pivotal Descent
The anvil reared its ugly head again, and twelve riders remained at the base of the descent, leaving several to chase and the selection made. The pace slowed as the group recovered and prepared for the next segment.
Breakaway Brae Forward
Kulchinsky initiated the lead-out to set up teammate Mairen Lawson, who came across in second. Aeonian’s Vicki Whitelaw sprung off Lawson’s wheel with a solid kick to take the segment—three points for Vicki Whitelaw.
Sgurr Summit—South Side
The teams measured each other up as they waged the tactical battle toward the ascent of the Sgurr. The elite eleven riders saw only one from Aeonian, three from Wahoo le Col, two from Movistar, three from Twenty24, and two from Socks-4-Watts.
Socks-4-Watts sent Nevin and Shier off the front, which made it clear that Kulchinsky had her eyes on the prize.
Kulchinsky explains: “Before the hill Sock-4-Watts formed a two-person breakaway that I chased down. On the climb, I pushed the pace at the bottom, but I saw I wasn’t getting away, so I backed off. At the top, WLC’s Lizzie Brooke attacked for the points. I jumped on her wheel and deployed my aero, which I had saved for this occasion. It made the difference between winning and losing the four points.” Four points for Kulchinsky.
Virginia's Blue Ridge Twenty24-4 Aeonian-4 Movistar-2
With the team’s hopes solely on her back, Arielle Verhaaren had a plan, explaining:
“From the beginning, we had a plan as a team of who would go for points where. I was to go for the Clyde or finish sprint to get maximum points for the team, and we had some flexibility based on specific scenarios. I felt confident in both options, but between the two, I liked the Clyde more. That choice was more challenging when Lizi Brooke was off the front, and we didn’t close the gap immediately. Still, I knew what my capabilities were and what I would need to do if we got within reach, so when we did, I committed to the segment and buried myself for it, and I was happy to be able to play my role for the team.” Five points for Verhaaren.
Aeonian-9 Virginia's Blue Ridge Twenty24-4 Movistar-2
The Finals Finale
Six riders remained in the attritional race, and Wahoo le Col had numbers—three riders—but no points as they staged for the run-in.
As they approached the line, Twenty24’s Ehrlich appeared prime for the win, but without a powerup, she was powerless against the charging Kathrin Fuhrer of Wahoo le Col.
“For me,” shares Fuhrer, “there were not too many options when discussing tactics. I wanted to go for the win as we were only four riders. I also love that course and wanted to race the whole race.”
Fuhrer took the victory, followed by teammate Laura Simenc, then Ehrlich, Soderstrom, and Nevin. Wahoo le Col’s Lizi Brooke finished out of the money and so did her team for the top prize.
Aeonian Itkin's point on the race's primary segment was the tie-breaker and solidified the team's place in Zwift Grand Prix history.
Fuhrer concludes: “To finish the finals like this is an absolute blast for me. Aeonion had well-planned tactics and delivered them without hesitation—so big congratulations to the whole team for the final win.”
Semi-retired as owner and director of his private Orthopedic Physical Therapy practice after over 20 years, Chris is blessed with the freedom to pursue his passion for virtual cycling and writing. On a continual quest to give back to his bike for all the rewarding experiences and relationships it has provided him, he created a non-profit. Chris is committed to helping others with his bike through its work and the pages of his site.
In the summer of 2022, he rode 3,900 miles from San Francisco to New York to support the charity he founded, TheDIRTDadFund. His “Gain Cave” resides on the North Fork of Long Island, where he lives with his beautiful wife and is proud of his two independent children.
You will read him promoting his passion on the pages of Cycling Weekly, Cycling News, road.cc, Zwift Insider, Endurance.biz, and Bicycling. Chris is co-host of The Virtual Velo Podcast, too!