World champion Amber Neben (Team Veloconcept) put in a perfectly paced, powerful performance to take out the time trial title on Saturday at the USA Cycling Professional Road Championships in Knoxville, Tennessee.
The 42-year-old had anticipated that just seconds would separate the top riders on the three-lap, 23km test, but instead, she pulled out a commanding 32-second victory over Lauren Stephens (Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank). Third-place finisher Leah Thomas (Sho-Air/Twenty20) was a distant 1:04. Emma White (Rally Cycling) was the best U23 rider in 15th.
Although Neben has been quite accomplished at the elite level over her career, with two world titles and numerous stage race and time trial victories, this is shockingly only her second national title.
"It's funny, honestly I don't know how many second places I've got," she said. "It's probably in the double digits - eight or 10 [10 podiums in the ITT, four in the road race - ed.] ... It's been an elusive championship. So it's extremely special to win it. You don't ever take it for granted, and I didn't take today for granted. There are too many talented riders who can bring it. I knew I had to ride well, it just feels good to put it together and get it done on race day."
Overnight rains soaked the course, but by the time the last wave of riders went down the start ramp the sun had come out, the course dried up and the temperatures had risen to sauna level, making pacing over the three laps critical. Neben was down on Stephens by five seconds on lap one, but pulled back 13 seconds on lap two and another 24 on the final circuit to claim her victory.
"The humidity and the heat was going to make it hard, and it was a hard course," Neben said. "It was hard to find a rhythm on it. For me, I just knew that first lap, especially the first three minutes I had to be patient. I was patient early with the intention of being strong later, and it worked out for me."
All of the top three riders eschewed race radios, choosing instead to rely on feel on a technical, punchy course. Neben joked that radios aren't useful in time trials, saying, "I don't wear a radio because, what is someone going to tell me, go harder? I'm already on the rivet trying to go as hard as I can. I've won titles by less than a second and lost by less than a second. When I'm racing, I'm doing it with that in mind, that every second matters."
Stephens was similarly unaware that her time was being steadily chipped away by Neben, but was happy to cross the line and find herself on the podium in second. Also an accomplished time triallist who topped Neben in the Chrono Gatineau last month, it's a well deserved silver medal for the 30-year-old.
"It's my first time on the podium, last year I was fifth, the year before I was fourth, and so I'm pretty excited to make my way onto the podium in second place," Stephens said. "A couple weeks ago it was about the same length and I got (Neben) there, so it's a little back and forth. Hopefully I'll get a chance to race the world championships and get another chance. The longer the time trial, the better it suits Amber than me, but I gave it my all and I'll get better every race."
Thomas was also hopeful that her performance would catch the eye of USA Cycling's Worlds selectors, and was happy to claim the bronze medal.
"There are so many good time triallists here, it often feels like it's a toss up how things are going to go," Thomas said. "It was a hard course to tell how things were going, it was hard to get in a rhythm and you were suffering the whole time. It was nice to come back and know I landed on the podium."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Amber Neben (USA) Team Velo CONCEPT||0:30:27.45|
|2||Lauren Stephens (USA) Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank||0:30:59.08|
|3||Leah Thomas (USA) Sho-Air TWENTY20 Pro Cycling||0:31:31.86|
|4||Julie Emmerman (USA) Amy D Foundation||0:31:56.91|
|5||Tayler Wiles (USA) UnitedHealthcare||0:32:17.54|
|6||Alison Tetrick (USA) Cylance Pro Cycling||0:32:28.63|
|7||Allie Dragoo (USA) Sho-Air TWENTY20 Pro Cycling||0:32:35.47|
|8||Whitney Allison (USA) Colavita | Bianchi||0:32:40.88|
|9||Beth Ann Orton (USA)||0:32:43.28|
|10||Ruth Winder (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro||0:32:46.80|
|11||Jennifer Valente (USA) Sho-Air TWENTY20 Pro Cycling||0:32:48.41|
|12||Emily Newsom (USA) Team Elevate Racing||0:32:58.75|
|13||Brianna Walle (USA) Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank||0:32:59.19|
|14||Jennifer Luebke (USA) Visit Dallas DNA Pro Cycling||0:33:00.33|
|15||Emma White (USA) Rally Cycling||0:33:02.93|
|16||Margot Clyne (USA) Groove Subaru Excel||0:33:32.28|
|17||Tarah Cole (USA) QCW Breakawaybikes||0:33:49.74|
|18||Erica Clevenger (USA) Visit Dallas DNA Pro Cycling||0:33:58.79|
|19||Scotti Lechuga (USA) Hagens Berman | Supermint||0:34:09.77|
|20||Breanne Nalder (USA) Visit Dallas DNA Pro||0:34:18.74|
|21||Jennifer Tetrick (USA) Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank||0:34:21.45|
|22||Leah Thorvilson (USA) Canyon SRAM Racing||0:34:22.99|
|23||Alexis Ryan (USA) Canyon SRAM Racing||0:34:32.63|
|24||Stefanie Sydlik (USA) Visit Dallas DNA Pro Cycling||0:34:33.39|
|25||Sara Youmans (USA) Therapeutic Associates Racing||0:34:54.19|
|26||Abigail Mickey (USA) Colavita | Bianchi||0:35:08.67|
|27||Tabitha Sherwood (USA) Pastaria - Big Shark||0:35:25.75|
|28||Hannah Arensman (USA) Sho-Air TWENTY20 Pro Cycling||0:35:58.49|
|29||Nicole Pressprich (USA) Amy D Foundation||0:35:58.91|
|30||Jennifer Hale (USA) Birchwood/GIS||0:36:13.84|
|31||Danielle Morshead (USA) Amy D Foundation||0:36:20.33|
|32||Charlotte Backus (USA) Prestige Imports/Porsche/Audi||0:36:48.66|
|33||Jennifer Schuble (USA) Infinity Cycling Teaam||0:37:02.59|
|34||Catierowan Thompson (USA) Eliel Factory Team||0:41:00.06|
|35||Maria Danker (USA) Hicks Orthodontics||0:42:51.80|
|DNS||Kelly Catlin (USA) Rally Cycling|