Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) may have surprised herself by winning the Philadelphia International Cycling Classic on Sunday, but she didn't surprise anyone else. In fact, the only surprise was the extent of the gap between her and her competitors following the steep uphill sprint to the finish line on Manayunk Wall -- a display of dominating form that bodes well for her goal of securing a gold medal at the Olympic Games in Rio.
Asked if her performance in Philadelphia added to her confidence ahead of Olympics, Guarnier told Cyclingnews, "Yes, it's been a good year. My team is amazing and every day they bolster me to a new level."
Guarnier revealed, however, that Boels-Dolmans was not working for her at the Philadelphia Cycling Classic, which is what made her victory a surprise.
"I'm surprised by this victory because we weren't riding for me today, so I really didn't expect the win," Guarnier said. "I think there was quite a bit of ground between myself and the next person."
Although it was an impressive victory, by several bike lengths ahead of Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High5) and Alena Amialiusik (Canyon-SRAM), Guarnier said the course in Rio will be much more challenging.
Asked how the 17 per cent climb up Manayunk Wall compares to the final climb in Rio de Janeiro's road race course, Guarnier said, "it doesn't. The climb in Rio is quite a bit longer."
Guarnier has been a force on the women's cycling scene this year with second place at Trofeo Alfredo Binda-Cittiglio and Pajot Hills Classic, and fourth at Tour of Flanders. She went on to win the Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria, second overall Euskal Emakumeen Bira and third at La Fleche Wallonne Feminine.
When she returned to the US, she won the opening stage of the Women's Tour of California, carried the leader's jersey for the four stages and won the overall title. From California, she travelled to the east coast where she won her third US road title in Winston-Salem, before winning in Philadelphia.
The one-day American classic was the ninth round of the new Women's WorldTour. Guarnier moved into the series lead after winning the overall title at the Tour of California, and she increased that lead in Philadelphia. She now has 624 points ahead of Emma Johansson (Wiggle High5) with 398 and teammate Lizzie Armitstead with 368.
Olympics: 'Coaches Selection Committee has a very, very difficult decision,' says Bouchard-Hall
USA Cycling's CEO Derek Bouchard-Hall was on hand at the Philadelphia International Cycling Classic. He spent some time speaking to the public in an interview with race commentators at the staging area about the difficulty of the upcoming decision that the USA Cycling Coaches Selection has to make regarding the four-woman team for the women's road events at the Olympics.
The UCI recently announced the nations and their quotas for Olympic spots, and the US earned four spots for the road race and two spots for the time trial. However, the two riders who race the time trial must also compete in the road race.
The only rider to have pre-qualified for the Olympics spot is Guarnier, who earned her spot by placing on the podium at the World Championships in Richmond last September. There are three spots still available, two for time trial and one for the road race.
The remaining riders include Mara Abbott, Evelyn Stevens, Kristin Armstrong (Twenty16-Ridebiker), Amber Neben (Bepink), Shelley Olds (Cylance), Coryn Rivera (UnitedHealthcare), Carmen Small (Bigla Pro Cycling Team), Lauren Stephens (Team TIBCO-SVB) and Tayler Wiles (Orica-AIS).
In Philadelphia, Abbott earned the QOM and sprint jerseys after being involved in a lengthy two-woman breakaway with Stephens. Neben put in a late-race chase on the last lap into Manayunk Wall. Rivera was well-represented at the front of the field on each climb over Manayunk. Stevens, a two-time winner of the race, was likely the go-to rider for Boels-Dolmans and finished fourth on the day.
"We have so many amazing athletes, more than we have spots to bring to the Olympics, and so we actually have to not take women to Rio, because there are only four spots, who have a legitimate shot at winning a medal," Bouchard said on stage.
"Think about that for a minute – how incredible that is. The coaches on the Selection Committee will be responsible for picking the athletes, and they have a very, very difficult decision."
When asked to compare a rider like Evelyn Stevens, who is a world-class time triallist and punchy climber, to a rider like Mara Abbott, who is a world-class climber, as they relate to the Olympic selection, Bouchard-Hall was diplomatic in his response.
"Evelyn Stevens and Mara Abbott -- both are fantastic, and both have a real chance of medalling in Rio, but we have a long list of incredible athletes.
"It's really going to be a tough decision."
USA Cycling will decided on the final team on June 20.
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