Ruth Winder (Trek-Segafredo) soloed to victory Sunday at the USA Cycling Pro Road Championships elite women's road race in Knoxville, Tennessee, going solo from a two-rider move on the penultimate lap and just holding off the reduced peloton led in by defending champion Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb) ahead of Emma White (Rally UHC) on a hot and humid day in the American Southeast.
Winder attacked with more than 32km to go, bridging up to a breakaway and then distancing sole companion Lily Williams (Hagens Berman-Supermint) on the final steep 1km climb up Sherrod Road, then held off a charging peloton that nearly made contact on the final turn.
The Yorkshire-born American was thrilled to claim her first national title on the road since her junior years.
"The whole time I kept telling myself 'It's not over until it's over, just keep going' - trying to push until I saw the finish line. I thought for sure everyone is about to pass me and it was going to be one of those super dramatic finishes like in Rio when Mara [Abbott] was passed just before the line, and then I looked around and was like, 'what?!'," Winder said.
"I knew I couldn't leave it to a sprint because Coryn Rivera, Alexis Ryan, Emma White are all so fast in the sprint. Tayler and I knew we had to start giving it a go. I didn't have a plan, necessarily, it was just a good moment to go and I ended up staying away. You never know it's going to work until the end."
Last year, Rivera benefitted from the work of Winder when they were teammates on Sunweb, but this time she was flying solo.
"It is hard on your own, but at least it's a worthy winner with Ruth," Rivera said. "We came so close to getting her so many times, I gave it my all on the last hill there. So close but it was just not enough. It goes to show that extra teamwork really makes a difference. I think she really deserved it. I had a great time in the stars and stripes and I will always remember that. I'll just have to go for it again next year."
White won the U23 Women's title with her third place, topping Chloe Dygert (Sho-Air Twenty20) and Madeline Bemis (Milligan College) to take her third jersey of the event after winning the elite and U23 criterium titles.
"Last year I made a pretty big mistake and my wheel slid out in the last corner, so all year I've been thinking about how I'm going to improve that last climb," White said. "I didn't slide my wheel out but I just didn't have enough to get Coryn.
"Being on the pro podium is really special, but the U23 title is also special because we have a strong generation coming up. I'm really proud to wear this jersey," White said.
How it unfolded
Seventy-five women took the start for the 113.5km championship road race on a hot and sunny day in Knoxville, and right from the gun, the always-aggressive Hagens Berman-Supermint squad launched their first attack with Julie Kuliecza jumping clear.
Kuliecza was chased for a time by Gabrielle Russell (Orion Racing) but remained solo until the second lap when her teammate Starla Teddergreen came across with Beth-Ann Orton (Instafund LaPrima). Once caught, Kuliecza dropped back to the field, while Teddergreen and Orton built up a maximum lead of 4:15 before Rally UHC came to the fore to whittle down the gap.
With three laps to go, Trek-Segafredo's Tayler Wiles drove the pace up the Sherrod Road climb and through the feed zone, where her teammate Winder launched a counter.
Winder was nearly caught, but she kept the pace up and was soon joined by Hagens Berman-Supermint's Lily Williams and Shayna Powless (Sho-Air Twenty20), who helped bring the move up to Teddergreen and Orton.
Having spent the better part of 100km off the front, Teddergreen and Orton soon dropped off, leaving Winder and Williams away.
On the penultimate trip up Sherrod Road, Winder distanced Williams, but the criterium podium finisher clawed her way back to the Olympian.
Behind, there were only 34 riders left in the peloton, with most of Hagens Berman-Supermint massed near the front. The gap edged near the minute mark as Sho-Air Twenty20 came to the front for Chloe Dygert, but with one lap to go, the duo's lead was down to 40 seconds and the peloton single file behind Twenty20's Jennifer Luebke.
On the final climb of Sherrod Road, Winder left Williams behind for good, but still faced 11 long kilometres and a 30-strong peloton chasing hard behind.
"I told Lily I really have to go as hard as I can on this climb because I don't know how close they are, even though it would have been better for us to be together on the final lap," Winder said.
The chase behind was disorganised by a number of attacks, but Winder's teammate Wiles played a crucial role in her victory, getting to the front in the penultimate turn and slightly slowing the bunch. Rivera managed to get past and launched her sprint early, but narrowly missed catching Winder and had to settle for second.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Ruth Winder (USA) TREK-Segafredo||3:17:41|
|2||Coryn Rivera (USA) Team SunWeb||0:00:01|
|3||Emma White (USA) Rally UHC Cycling||0:00:02|
|4||Chloe Dygert (USA) Sho-Air TWENTY20||0:00:03|
|5||Alexis Ryan (USA) Canyon SRAM Racing||0:00:04|
|6||Leah Thomas (USA) Bigla||0:00:06|
|7||Emma Langley (USA) Racing Women/Dornier Ra|
|8||Katharine Hall (USA) Boels Dolmans Cycling Team||0:00:08|
|9||Tayler Wiles (USA) TREK-Segafredo||0:00:10|
|10||Madeline Bemis (USA) Milligan College|
|11||Krista Doebel-hickok (USA) Rally UHC Cycling||0:00:12|
|12||Lily Williams (USA) Hagens Berman | Supermint|
|13||Emily Newsom (USA) Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank||0:00:13|
|14||Amber Neben (USA) Cogeas Mettler Look Pro Cycling|
|15||Leigh ann Ganzar (USA) Hagens Berman | Supermint|
|16||Nina Laughlin (USA) CTS Cycling fueled by Hiball En||0:00:14|
|17||Whitney Allison (USA) Hagens Berman | Supermint||0:00:49|
|18||Clio Dinan (USA) Green Line Velo driven by Zipca||0:02:18|
|19||Shayna Powless (USA) Sho-Air TWENTY20||0:02:19|
|20||Debbie Milne (USA) Supra Cycling Team|
|21||Regina Legge (USA) Gray Goat - Bullseye Total Medi||0:02:20|
|22||Emma Bast (USA) Levine Law Group Elite Cycling||0:02:22|
|23||Jolene Holland-neve (USA) Colavita|Bialetti Racing||0:02:23|
|24||Kat Sweatt (USA) Specialized Wolfpack p/b Jakroo|
|25||Clara Honsinger (USA) Team S&M CX||0:02:25|
|26||Kathryn Aman (USA) Green Line Velo driven by Zipca||0:02:26|
|27||Starla Teddergreen (USA) Hagens Berman | Supermint|
|28||Lindsay Goldman (USA) Hagens Berman | Supermint||0:02:31|
|29||Stefanie Sydlik (USA) Femme Equipe p/b Swisse Wellnes|
|30||Liza Rachetto (USA) Hagens Berman | Supermint||0:02:43|
|31||Jessica Cerra (USA) Hagens Berman | Supermint|
|32||Samantha Schneider (USA) CWA Racing p/b TREK|
|33||Katie Kantzes (USA) Specialized Wolfpack p/b Jakroo||0:04:53|
|34||Beth ann Orton (USA) Instafund LaPrima Racing||0:05:13|
|35||Erica Clevenger (USA) Sho-Air TWENTY20|
|36||Jennifer Luebke (USA) Sho-Air TWENTY20|
|37||Heidi Franz (USA) Rally UHC Cycling||0:06:18|
|38||Lisa Cordova (USA) Levine Law Group Elite Cycling||0:10:33|
|@1Lap||Ayesha Mcgowan (USA) A Quick Brown Fox p/b Liv Racin|
|@1Lap||Holly Breck (USA) Go Fast - Incycle /Go Fast|
|@1Lap||Rachel Jordan (USA) 3T/Q+M|
|@1Lap||Abigail Mickey (USA) Rally UHC Cycling|
|@2Lap||Allie Legg (USA) Sho-Air TWENTY20|
|@2Lap||Julie Emmerman (USA) Rally Sport Cycling Team|
|@2Lap||Laurel Rathbun (USA) Colavita|Bialetti Racing|
|@2Lap||Kendall Ryan (USA) Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank|
|@2Lap||Skylar Schneider (USA) Boels Dolmans Cycling Team|
|@2Lap||Melanie Wong (USA) Sho-Air TWENTY20|
|@2Lap||Margot Clyne (USA) Sho-Air TWENTY20|
|@2Lap||Charlotte Backus (USA) Orion Racing p/b Borah Teamwear|
|@2Lap||Michelle Howe (USA) Northwest Tri & Bike|
|@2Lap||Melissa Teeple (USA) American Flyers Racing|
|@2Lap||Jillian Bearden (USA) Trans National Womens Cycling T|
|@2Lap||Summer Moak (USA) Rally UHC Cycling|
|@2Lap||Lori Nedescu (USA) Femme Equipe p/b Swisse Wellnes|
|@2Lap||Krystal Burnham (USA) Milligan College|
|@2Lap||Brenna Wrye-simpson (USA) DNA Pro Cycling Team|
|@2Lap||Grace Chappell (USA) Specialized Wolfpack p/b Jakroo|
|@2Lap||Erica Carney (USA) Rally UHC Cycling|
|@3Lap||Hayley Bates (USA) Levine Law Group Elite Cycling|
|@3Lap||Samantha Quijano (USA) SquadraSF p/b Terun|
|@3Lap||Danielle Clark (USA) Racing Women/Dornier Ra|
|@3Lap||Jennah Dunham (USA) Femme Equipe p/b Swisse Wellnes|
|DNF||Julie Kuliecza (USA) Hagens Berman | Supermint|
|DNF||Gabrielle Russell (USA) Orion Racing p/b Borah Teamwear|
|DNF||Caitlin Milne (USA) Supra Cycling Team|
|DNF||Christina Gokey-smith (USA) Colavita|Bialetti Racing|
|DNF||Heather Nielson (USA) Colavita|Bialetti Racing|
|DNF||Tina Pic (USA) Colavita|Bialetti Racing|
|DNF||Meredith Moran (USA) Green Line Velo driven by Zipca|
|DNF||Jaime Larmer (USA) Team Elevate Racing|
|DNF||Madison Kelly (USA) CWA Racing p/b TREK|
|DNF||Masha Schneider (USA) E2Value p/b Verge Sport|
|DNF||Janelle Cole (USA) Fast Chance Womens Cycling|
|DNS||Jennifer Hale (USA) Orion Racing p/b Borah Teamwear|