2 years ago by Oskar Scarsbrook

A 2021 American finale

World’s best crit racers head Into the Lion’s Den

Rally Cycling is heading to Sacramento for the much anticipated Into the Lion’s Den criterium. The women will take on the 70-minute race on October 30 to bring a close to the 2021 season. 

L39ION of Los Angeles founded the race that offers an eye-watering $100,000 prize purse split evenly between the women’s and men’s fields, which will include $20,000 in cash primes.

New Zealand criterium champion Olivia Ray will be lining up alongside some of the most talented riders in the world to finish a successful season that includes five criterium victories.

“It’s just over a kilometer long and it’s super fast so it will suit me,” said Ray. “When you bring the women together at an event like this when there’s big money on the line, people are willing to work harder and make a more exciting race out of it.” 

With the day-long celebration of cycling taking place on Halloween Eve, the riders will have to pull out all the tricks to be treated with the chance to come away with a share of the prizes.

America’s largest prize purse

The whopping prize total is the biggest the country has seen in years. Atlanta’s Grant Park Criterium offered a total purse of $20,00 earlier this season – a race Ray won. For comparison, the total prize money for a Women’s WorldTour one-day race is currently €7,005 ($8,132).

So, what’s it like going elbow to elbow for such a large prize list?

“I sort of feel two ways about it,” said Ray. “It’s amazing that they’re able to bring that much money and that being a huge factor as to why people would race but at the same time, it’s a little sad that it took that money to entice people to race when there have been those opportunities before.” 

Regardless of the feelings towards the sum of money, there’s no denying that it was a motivating factor in enticing some of the best criterium racers from home and abroad.

“I think it’s very cool having international pros coming over as it’s going to make for a monumental event,” Ray added.

Ray previously won a large prize purse at the Grant Park Criterium.

The competition 

The field is one of the best that’s ever assembled at a US criterium and includes a host of national champions, world champions and Olympians. Coryn Labecki (Team DSM), Alison Jackson (Liv Racing), Amy Pieters, Demi Vollering (SD Worx), Kendall Ryan, Skylar Schneider (L39ION of Los Angeles) and Rally Cycling’s very own Lily Williams are just some of the esteemed names on the start list.

Labecki, a past junior, under-23 and elite national criterium champion, may well be any would-be challenger’s main rival in a bunch sprint but as Ray explains, with fast-paced criteriums, anything could happen. 

“I know the style of Coryn, she grew up with the Williams brothers so we know she’s got some fight to give which is exciting and then Amy and Demi’s level is so high so this might be a walk in the park for them or it might be a kick in the teeth.” 

Olympic bronze medalist Lily Williams will be back in orange.

The course 

The race will be held on a 1km long circuit around the State Capitol with a 485-meter long finishing straight on L Street. The palm tree-lined spacious course is a perfect rectangle and as Ray explains, “with that amount of space, it’s going to be a drag race.”

With the likes of Ryan, Pieters, Labecki, Williams and Ray all being accomplished track cyclists, it’s these skills as well as the assistance of teammates that will help to decide who takes the win. 

Into the Lion’s Den roster
Holly Breck
Krista Doebel-Hickok
Heidi Franz
Olivia Ray
Lily Williams

Head over to our Instagram page for behind-the-scenes coverage starting Friday afternoon and through the race on Saturday at 3:45 pm PT.