Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) sat quietly as the host of the team presentation at the Amgen Breakaway from Heart Disease Women's Race empowered with SRAM (Amgen Women's Race) ran through questions with other riders on the stage. For a moment it appeared the three-time national champion and defending Tour of California winner might be overlooked. Guarnier's 2017 season has been remarkably quiet, a fact she chalks up to an early season injury.
"It's personally been a very difficult spring for me having had a concussion in my second race," Guarnier said. "It took me off the bike for six weeks, and just getting back on the bike the past three weeks, I was able to participate and contribute to the team tactics in the Ardennes Classics, which was very satisfying. I'm continuing to see improvements in my fitness, and I'm just hoping to continue that progression."
Guarnier's crash at the Omloop Het van Hageland meant she had to rebuild her program without the kind of precision she executed in the past. By nature, Guarnier is a meticulous and detail-oriented personality. Her success has come from hard work, persistence and conviction in a plan. The mercurial nature of head injuries has presented an uncertainty into her preparation, and it is an uncomfortable position for Guarnier.
"This is the first year I've really had to work with what I've been given," Guarnier said. "I've never had too serious of an injury, and I'm lucky in that way, so this is a new experience for me. I'm learning on the fly and being comfortable with my fitness and where I'm at is a new state for me to be in."
Guarnier restarted her season in the Ardennes Classics, which were dominated by her Boels-Dolmans team. The experience and success helped her reconnect with what drives her to succeed.
"It was a great restart to be part of that success," Guarnier said. "Anna and Lizzie were super strong, and it is really easy to get behind those types of riders in those races.
"I was happy to be there and really happy to be back racing on the bike. It made me realise what I love about the sport. It's the team, the team tactics, being in the race and being around the team on a daily basis."
By the end of the Ardennes Classics, Guarnier had begun to find her footing. Teammate Anna van der Breggen won the Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and the Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes. Guarnier finished 12th at Liège, showing signs of the form that carried her to the overall Women's WorldTour victory last year.
Though Guarnier's first WorldTour win last year came at the Tour of California, she is trying to manage internal and external expectations. Guarnier finds strength in her team and quickly points to the team's depth and talent when asked about her personal ambitions for the race.
"If I have some success in this race I will be really happy, but I think with the challenges I've faced this year, I think that might be an unrealistic expectation to put a lot of pressure on myself," Guarnier said. "I'm excited to be back. I'm excited to have my team here in California and show them a little bit about what American racing is about."