The American women put on a show of defiance and strength in the face of the big favourites at the UCI elite women's road race championship, storming into Florence on the front of the peloton and hammering into the five 16km circuits. Even eventual winner Marianne Vos noted the display put on by the stars and stripes squad, but ultimately the team needed one more rider in the finale to have a chance.
Evelyn Stevens finished fifth after putting in two last-lap attacks despite being isolated in a group which contained three top-notch Italians: Tatiana Guderzo, Elisa Longo Borghini and bronze medalist Rosella Ratto - two Dutch riders Vos and Anna van der Breggen, and eventual silver medalist Sweden's Emma Johansson.
"It was hard. I was outnumbered," Stevens told Cyclingnews. "The Americans did a great job - Jade [Wilcoxson] and Carmen [Small] did brilliantly bringing us into the circuits and we set pace.
"Once I was outnumbered, I was trying to cover what I needed to and be smart," Stevens said, adding that after attacking on the steep climb with 5km to go, her legs cramped.
"I can't make excuses, that's just your body failing. On the long climb I was feeling it, then I went on that steep climb and it was just ... I've never cramped in my whole life."
Stevens regretted the absence of Mara Abbott, who climbed brilliantly in the Giro Donne this year en route to her overall victory, but was left behind on the second to last lap.
"You can't always have a great day. It's hard to time [form for] one days. I've definitely had days that didn't go as I wanted them to. That's bike racing. you can have a plan, but shit happens."
On how to beat Marianne Vos, who has dominated the women's peloton with such veracity in recent years that it was nearly a sure bet that she would win today, Stevens said, "She's human ... She makes you finish the season and go home and train harder, because you know ... I don't think anyone's game is up [to her level], and [you ask yourself] what do we have to do to get to that level? She's raising the bar for women's cycling. That was an exciting bike race. There was never a dull moment.
"It's disappointing, the US hasn't won a medal in years and I think this course was the one we could have done it on."