Three proved to be a lucky number for UnitedHealthcare in the women’s National Championship Road Race in Chattanooga, Tennessee as Alison Powers soloed to victory on the 104km course, adding the win to her national time trial and criterium titles.
The white and blue team started with three riders — Mara Abbott, Katie Hall and Powers — who all finished within the top 12. Hall finished fifth, 25 seconds down on Powers while Abbott came in 4:11 minutes later but claimed the Queen of the Mountains jersey having crested Lookout Mountain in first place on the first pass and then placed second the next time up the 1,842-foot mountain.
Powers win was a team effort with Abbot and Hall both playing vital roles in the race to set their teammate up for a late solo attack.
After Abbot claimed the mountain points, Hall launched a solo attack at 60km into the race and managed to stay away until Tayler Wiles (Specialized-lululemon) bridged up and joined her with 24km left.
Hall waited patiently knowing that Abbott and Powers were ready to pounce back in the bunch and with 10km left, Powers made her race winning move. Having won the time trial earlier in the week, Powers showed she was still in top form as she powered away to claim her first road race title.
"When you know you time trial better than everybody else, you have confidence [and know] it's a five-mile time trial," Powers said.
"You ride to your strengths, limit your weaknesses, and I had confidence that no one could catch because no one could catch me at time trials. When I came over the really steep little block hill [the final run up Kent Street] and the gap stayed, stayed, stayed with probably three kilometres to go. Then the gap went to 15 seconds, I thought, 'OK, now I've got it.'"
Powers becomes the first and only woman to simultaneously hold the US national championship jersey in all three disciplines having also won the 2013 national criterium title and will look to defend that title in September.
While motivated for the opportunity to wear the stars-and-stripes for a year, the team had the extra motivation of performing well for Jackie Crowell who was diagnosed with brain cancer earlier this year.
The winner of the race receives a 1-year lease of a brand new car from the event's sponsor, Volkswagen, and the team decided that if one of the three riders won, they would donate the car to Cromwell
"Today is amazing and really special," Powers said. "To make history and win a car for Jackie is a dream come true. It was a real team effort and I'm proud of Mara and Katie."
"This is Jackie Crowell's car because she's such an amazing teammate and she's not able to be here with us. Jackie, thanks for being awesome; we miss you.
For Sports Director Rachel Heal, the day was all about team effort and racing to a plan.
"This was another incredible team performance," Heal said. "We knew going into the race that we were outnumbered, but we were also confident that we had the strength and savvy to pull off something special. The riders raced to absolute perfection. They were patient at the start when it was needed.
"Mara made the call to have Katie attack on the climb, and then Katie rode with the strength that we knew she had, but also with the maturity and tactical savvy that shows just how far she's come in the past few months. "