American Megan Guarnier was quietly - and arguably rightly - satisfied after she claimed a third place in the Flèche Wallonne, her highest finish in a World Cup. Although winner Anne Van Der Breggen (Rabo Liv) took a well-raced victory, Guanier, riding for rival Dutch squad Boels Dolmans, still managed to get on the podium despite an untimely mechanical issue, thanks to good team work.
“I had a bit of a problem with my wheel at the point where Anna [Van Der Breggen] got across,“ Guarnier told a small group of reporters close to the finish as she received congratulations for her teammates.
“It kind of happened slowly, but by the time I reacted on it she [Van Der Breggen] was there [up the road]. Then Evie [Evelyn Stevens] drove really hard to make the gap [to the leading break] as small as possible because there were two Rabos [Van der Breggen and Roxanne Knetemann] up there and that was going to stick.”
“So Evie rode hard out to the bottom of the climb and I just went full gas from the bottom and hoped to catch the podium,” she said.
“The Huy is really hard, I knew I had a job to do there because Evie and the teammates gave it [their own chances] up and it’s really steep. It gets to 250 metres to go and you think like ‘yeah it’s not even done yet’, so you’ve just got to keep pushing.”
“So the glass is half full - with the podium.”
Teammate Evelyn Stevens, sixth on the course, pointed out that the change to the course, which added the Côte de Cherave with 5.5km to go, made a difference. “The second last climb was good, it made things different, the group was a lot smaller,” Stevens said. An attack by their British teammate Lizzie Armistead on the Cherave also thinned out the pack.
“Megan and I were with the chase group then Anne Van Der Breggen - worthy winner - she dropped me off her wheel,” Stevens said.
“Then I said, ‘Megan I chase, you go for it’ and she went for it on the Mur. One of us had to commit, one of us had to work, one of us had to go.” And as a result, a podium place was finally there for the taking.
The result was one in a string of strong performances this season, which included a victory in the inaugural edition of Strade Bianche and a second place overall in the women's Tour of New Zealand. By virtue of her podium finish today, Guarnier fulfilled part of her country's criteria for an automatic nomination for the UCI Road World Championships.
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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