Neben, Stevens on the attack in London
Just as they had in the men's Olympic road race, Team USA executed their plan of action perfectly in the women's event, but only luck was not on their side. Sprinter Shelley Olds gave the country its top result in seventh, but had been in the winning move with gold medalist Marianne Vos, second placed Lizzie Armitstead and bronze medal winner Olga Zabelinskaya before she punctured, en route to a much better finish had luck not been against her.
Amber Neben and Evelyn Stevens, together with time trial gold medal prospect Kristin Armstrong, were some of the main animators of the race, counter-attacking the numerous moves from the Dutch team and Britain's Emma Pooley.
Stevens was proud of how the team rode: "We raced really aggressively. I thought the US was a big part of the race today. I attacked after the second time up Box Hill. Emma [Pooley] and I were off the front and [Marianne] Vos and Shelley were in the move. For me, I thought, 'This is perfect. Shelley's there, this is what we want.' Unfortunately, she got a flat tire, so she dropped out of the break. So, we had to start attacking and chasing."
Neben was also attentive at the front, marking moves and then chasing for Olds after she flatted out of the breakaway.
"I was trying to be on everything in the first two thirds of the race, and help set something up for Evie or Shelley to go late. I thought we rode smart. We were on everything in the beginning of the race, and Shelley was with Vos when she went and that was the winning move, but she flatted."
It took a bit too long for the team to figure out that Olds was no longer up front, and in fact it wasn't until Neben saw Olds on the side of the road having already gotten a wheel change that they knew.
"We were coming up and I waited for her, but she already had the change at that point. It's unfortunate it happens at the Olympic Games."
Stevens was sure that the US had a high chance of a medal. "There's four of them in the move and Shelley is one of the best sprinters in the world. For us, that was the move we wanted. We had Germany chasing, so if it was caught, we were going to go again. Unfortunately, I looked up and saw Shelley on the right and that changed the plan. If you watch it, we get back to the front and by that point we had to start chasing that down.
"Unfortunately, I think if we knew that a little sooner, I would've jumped or gotten to the front and set the pace. For us, the three of them up there without the US, is no good. They were incredible. All three up there are incredible athletes. Everyone who stepped on the line today are incredible athletes, so you can't underestimate anyone."
Eventually Olds got back into the mix and finished in the sprint in seventh place, and while the team and especially Olds were disappointed that only luck stopped them from a chance at a medal, the experience for Stevens was exciting.
"For me, for my first Olympics, it was surreal. I couldn't get over the amount of crowds. It took about 15-20 kilometers to kind of stop and chill out and stop staring at everything going on. Four years ago, I never thought I would be at the Olympics."
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