US Pro Championships: Neben claims women's road race

Veteran doubles up on 2017 national titles one day after winning time trial

A day after winning the national championship time trial, Amber Neben put her soloing skills on display again in Knoxville, Tennessee, claiming the American national road race title on Sunday.

The 42-year-old Veloconcept rider jumped clear of the peloton on the sixth of eight 12.7km laps to bridge to breakaway rider Emily Newsom (Team Elevate Racing), and ultimately soloed away to seal the victory with a comfortable margin. 

Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb) pounded her handlebars in frustration after winning the bunch sprint - second place for the third year in a row - 11 seconds short of catching Neben. UnitedHealthcare's Ruth Winder rounded out the podium in third.

Neben was speechless at winning her second title in a row this weekend, five years after her last time trial title and a full 14 years since her last win in the nationals road race. According to the race announcer, Neben is the first woman to do the nationals double - something she found surprising.

"That's really cool actually. It's beyond words," Neben told Cyclingnews. "I am still a little bit in shock. My intention today was just to come out and play and ride hard, there was no pressure - I have no team here, no expectations from that sense. I was going to take a risk at some point, I didn't know where. I was going to let my instincts direct that. It worked out well."

Rivera, however, was heartbroken that she finished second for the third year in a row in a race she has been targeting since joining the elite ranks. "Third time was not a charm this time around," she bemoaned. "It's definitely really frustrating for sure. I guess it's always the one you want the most that you can't always get. All props to Amber, it was a huge ride from her."

The women set off for 101.1km of the 12.7km circuit, facing eight trips up the daunting Sherrod Road climb - an ascent reminiscent of the Manayunk wall in Philadelphia, and technical, undulating roads over the rest of the laps. The early breakaway went clear on the first lap, with Emily Newsom (Team Elevate Racing), Abigail Mickey (Colavita | Bianchi), Janelle Cole (Unitedhealthcare), Holly Breck (Sho-Air Twenty20), Monica Volk (Rally Cycling), and Jennifer Tetrick (Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank) representing most of the major teams.

The leaders were allowed three minutes at the halfway point before the attacks kicked off, both in the breakaway and in the field. Newsom was the first to jump, taking a major risk by going clear midway through lap four and quickly opening up 1:40 on her former companions.

In the field, the breakaway was swept up on lap six, and Alexis Ryan (Canyon-SRAM) lit the fuse on the TNT in the bunch, sparking attacks that were quickly reeled in. But a move from Neben, the time trial world champion, put the peloton on the defensive.

Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank led the chase, with UnitedHealthcare also pitching in, but with two laps to go, it was 1:06 to Neben and 1:58 up to Newsom.

Knowing that they were riding into the final lap, the big teams began putting in a much more concerted effort to bring back the two escapees, and it was pedal to the metal on the penultimate climb, and the bunch shattered, leaving a group of 11 riders with defending champion Megan Guarnier, Rivera, and Winder amongst them.

There was some reluctance to bring the teammate-less Guarnier and Rivera to the line, and some riders were sitting on with hopes of a sprint finish. But without the impetus of all 11 riders, a time triallist of Neben's class could stay clear.

Rivera was keen to the danger of Neben's lead, and was frustrated that there wasn't a cohesive enough effort to chase. "I knew I was going to be frustrated at a lot of different moments in the race, being alone. There's only so much you can do without teammates. When you want it really bad, it's harder to deal with," Rivera said.

Winder said her team - which had three riders in the chase group - did their best.

"We were doing our best to get the group to cooperate, because we know how strong Amber is," Winder said. "We've know that from years of racing with her, and obviously she's riding well with her win yesterday. We were trying to convince everyone to pull through, but there were still some riders sitting on the back, not interested in working. That's a little disappointing, but you can only control what you can control. We did the best that we could."

Neben caught and dropped Newsom on the last lap, and then held her lead to win by a healthy margin. Her risk was well worth it.

"This course was not the kind I was going to win in the finish," Neben said. "That climb was only a couple minutes long, so it's really a punchy sprinter's type climb," Neben said. "The way I was reading the race, I figured I was either going to win or get 30th. If I was going to win, I had to go early. The moment just happened, and I reacted and went for it. When I went, I went hard. I committed right away."

When she finally caught Newsom, the Elevate rider took a few pulls, but finally gave up by the climb, leaving Neben on her own for almost 10km.

"I knew she was on her last legs," Neben said of Newsom. "I knew if I sat up at all, we were going to get caught. If I was going to get caught, I wanted it to be after the hill, not on it. Having put that kind of effort in, if they caught me on the hill I'd have been in trouble. So that was the first priority. Then when I made it over, and I still had 30 seconds, I knew I had a chance."

The course doubled back on itself twice in the last half of the lap allowing Neben to get a glimpse of the chasers. At the second time, she said the gap was larger and she finally knew the win was possible.

"They were coming - the guy on the motorbike said I had time to celebrate, but I wasn't going to even think that until I could see the finish line. I took a look back to make sure. You don't get these very often, so I wanted to get a chance to soak in the last 100m."

While Neben celebrated, the sprint was on for second, with Rivera overhauling Winder to take second place.

Winder, who has racked up numerous road victories so far this season, but missed out on sprinting for the victory this time.

"We missed Amber's attack, unfortunately," she told Cyclingnews. "Katie and Tayler did a really good job of driving it hard, and we just came up a bit short. They tried to set me up for the sprint best as possible. I ended up going a little early in the sprint, but I can't be too disappointed with a third placed finish."

Full Results

#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Amber Neben (Team Velo Concept)2:49:34 
2Coryn Rivera (Sunweb)0:00:11 
3Ruth Winder (Unitedhealthcare Pro Cycling)  
4Alexis Ryan (Canyon Sram Racing)  
5Emma White (Rally Cycling)  
6Lauren Stephens (Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank)  
7Megan Guarnier (Boels Dolmans Cycling Team)0:00:12 
8Leah Thomas (Sho-Air Twenty20)  
9Emily Newsom (Team Elevate Racing)0:00:15 
10Brianna Walle (Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank)  
11Tayler Wiles (Unitedhealthcare Pro Cycling)0:00:18 
12Katharine Hall (Unitedhealthcare Pro Cycling)0:00:30 
13Kat Sweatt (Mellow Mushroom Racing)0:01:54 
14Erica Allar (Rally Cycling)0:02:27 
15Janelle Cole (Unitedhealthcare Pro Cycling)0:02:28 
16Heather Fischer (Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank)  
17Samantha Schneider (IScorp Powered By Progress)  
18Skylar Schneider (IScorp Powered By Progress)  
19Jessica Cerra (Hagens Berman | Supermint)0:02:29 
20Jennifer Valente (Sho-Air Twenty20)  
21Mandy Heintz (Visit Dallas Dna Pro Cycling)  
22Irena Ossola (Sas-Macogep)  
23Gray Patton (Freddie Fu Cycling Team)  
24Hannah Shell (Pastaria - Big Shark Racing Tea)  
25Monica Volk (Rally Cycling)  
26Beth Ann Orton ()  
27Rebecca Fahringer (Amy D. Foundation)  
28Shayna Powless (Sho-Air Twenty20)  
29Margot Clyne (Groove Subaru Excel Sports)  
30Tarah Cole (Qcw Breakawaybikes.Com P.B. Jlv)0:02:30 
31Julie Emmerman (Amy D. Foundation)  
32Allie Dragoo (Sho-Air Twenty20)  
33Whitney Allison (Colavita | Bianchi)0:02:31 
34Jennifer Tetrick (Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank)0:02:47 
35Amy Benner (Rally Cycling)0:02:48 
36Holly Breck (Sho-Air Twenty20)0:03:43 
37Kendall Ryan (Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank)  
38Erica Clevenger (Visit Dallas Dna Pro Cycling)0:04:18 
39Tabitha Sherwood (Pastaria - Big Shark Racing Tea)0:04:38 
40Jennifer Luebke (Visit Dallas Dna Pro Cycling)  
41Hannah Arensman (Twenty20 Pro Cycling)0:06:56 
42Caitlin Laroche (Rally Cycling)  
43Lori Nedescu ()0:06:57 
44Lexie Millard (Team Illuminate)  
45Breanne Nalder (Visit Dallas Dna Pro Cycling)0:06:59 
46Katherine Salthouse (Landis/Trek)0:07:22 
47Alison Tetrick (Cylance Pro Cycling)0:09:11 
48Danielle Clark (Rto National Womens Cycling)0:09:13 
49Judah Sencenbaugh (Cth Performance Project)  
50Jennifer Hale (Birchwood/Gis)0:09:14 
51Nicole Pressprich (Amy D. Foundation)  
52Danielle Morshead (Amy D. Foundation)0:10:15 
53Leah Thorvilson (Canyon Sram Racing)  
54Victoria Kanizer (Orthocarolina Winston Women???S)  
55Hannah Swan (Cycle Haus Racing)  
56Sarah Guilbert (Rto National Womens Cycling)  
57Ann Mallin (Nashville Local Cycling)  
58Jessica Edens (Nashville Local Cycling)  
59Ellen Noble (Colavita | Bianchi)  
60Catherine Dewberry (Team Belladium P/B Red Kite)  
61Charlotte Backus (Prestige Imports/Porsche/Audi R)  
62Alex Christofalos (Cth Performance Project)  
63Jennifer Schuble (Infinity Cycling Team)  
64Morgan Miller (Cth Performance Project)0:10:27 
65Catierowan Thompson (Eliel Factory Team)  
DNFScotti Lechuga (Hagens Berman | Supermint)  
DNFStefanie Sydlik (Visit Dallas Dna Pro Cycling)  
DNFAbigail Mickey (Colavita | Bianchi)  
DNFAmber Pierce (Colavita | Bianchi)  
DNFJennifer Wakeman (Rto National Womens Cycling)  
DNFMaria Danker (Hicks Orthodontics Womens Raci)  
DNFChristy Keely (Totalcyclists)  
DNFLauren Dodge (Wv Zeeuws-Vlaanderen)  

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