Just as she did 12-months ago, US champion Megan Gaurnier took control of the Amgen Women's Tour with solo victory on stage 1 to Heavenly Mountain Resort in South Lake Tahoe. Coming into the race with 'low expectations' for her title defence, the 32-year-old was set up by her Boels Dolmans teammates for her first win of the season.
Olympic champion Anna van der Breggen made it a one-two for Boels Dolmans to ensure the team started in the best manner possible.
"The team set me up perfectly. It was hectic coming into the base of the final climb. Amy [Pieters] attacked from the bottom and strung things out," Gaurnier said of the finale. "When we made the left-hand turn, Karol Ann [Canuel] went and had a small gap. That was brought back. And then Anna [van der Breggen] made a strong attack, and I got on her wheel. From there I attacked in the final 300 metres.
"Racing at home is always special. This result means a lot."
In 2016, Guarnier took the win and held the yellow jersey all the way through to the Sacramento finale. Guarnier came into last year's race off the back of a strong spring while in 2017 a concussion sustained at Omloop het Hageland saw her sit out eight weeks of racing. 12th place at Liege-Bastogne-Liege and seventh overall at Festival Elsy Jacobs late last month the suggested Guarnier was approaching the race in form. With her team backing her in for a result, Guarnier explained the emotion of her victory.
"I definitely had more of a question this year around my fitness and how I would perform today," said Guarnier. "Last year I knew where I stood. This year, I was a little bit more uncertain. My teammates believed in me, and they set me up perfectly just like last year. I could take a lot of confidence from them."
Having won all three of the Ardennes classics last month, van der Breggen turned domestique for Guarnier with the Dutchwoman happy to see her teammate on top step of the podium.
"I think it's great that Megan has shown she's back again," Van der Breggen said. "My personal ambition here is to be the best teammate I can for her this week. That's the best part of the team -- so many of us can win and we’re all happy to support the leader for that day."
Stage 2 of the Amgen Women's Tour is a hilly 108km loop in South Lake Tahoe with Guarnier leading van der Breggen by eight seconds and Arlenis Sierra (Astana) bu 11 seconds.