Megan Guarnier’s impressive season in 2015 has led to her dream of competing in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro this summer. She won her first big race overseas last year at Strade Bianche and her success continued with a second national title and a stint in the pink jersey at the Giro Rosa, but it was her third place at the World Championships that secured her spot for the Olympic road race. Guarnier has expressed her intent to bring the US a gold medal, telling Cyclingnews that it is her “all-encompassing goal in 2016”, and she travelled to Brazil to preview the course ahead of the road season. She is off to a great start, too, having placed second at Trofeo Alfredo Binda-Cittiglio, fourth at Tour of Flanders and took her first win of the season at Durango-Durango Emakumeen Bira.
When an American rider wears the leader’s jersey in a top European stage race, she definitely deserves a shout-out on America’s list of who’s who! Small rode into the overall lead at the Euskal Emakumeen Bira after placing third in the prologue and second in stage 1. It’s no surprise, though, since Small as been one of the leading American ladies on the European circuit for a number of years, racing for Cervelo Bigla, Specialized-lululemon and the US national team. Splitting her time between road and track for the last couple of seasons, Small is aiming to represent the US at the Olympic Games on the road this summer.
UnitedHealthcare’s tiny but scrappy sprinter, Coryn Rivera, packs a powerful punch. Sprinting isn’t all she can do, though, and as of late, Rivera has been proving herself as a solid breakaway rider and capable of doing well in challenging races of attrition. She was the only rider to contest Megan Guarnier all the way to the finish line at the US road championships last year, and although she lost in the two-up sprint for the title, she wowed the American cycling community with her display of strength and tenacity. A strong start to 2016, Rivera was second in the San Luis Grand Prix followed by a stage 1 victory at the Tour Femenino de San Luis, where she wore the first leader’s jersey. She is also on the US team longlist for the Olympics and hoping to earn a spot.
When Kristin Armstrong announced a return to professional cycling with her sites set on the time trial at the Olympic Games, the cycling community also knew that they would have a chance to see her in action on the domestic circuit. She did not disappoint. She recently lined up to race the Redlands Bicycle Classic where she won the time trial, stood on the podium in two other stages and won the overall title. And just like old times, her primary adversaries were Mara Abbott and Amber Neben. The cycling world has their eyes on Armstrong. There is nothing like watching a two-time world champion and two-time Olympic gold medallist compete in their speciality discipline. The world wants to see if Armstrong will have the opportunity to win a third gold medal for the US this summer.
Olds came so close to winning a medal at the Olympic Games in London. A part of the winning breakaway, the American sprinter flatted near the finish and never made it back up to the leaders. She ended up finishing seventh. She said she has no regrets about the 2012 Olympic Games but is hoping to have another chance in Rio. A promising spring so far, Olds was fifth in two stages at the Ladies Tour of Qatar, fifth at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, fourth at Omloop van het Hageland and sixth at Ronde van Drenthe.
Widely regarded as one of the best climbers in the world, Mara Abbott is also on the long list for the Olympic team selection. The two-time winner of the Giro Rosa hasn’t had as much racing under her belt as some of her rivals this spring but she did show good form by winning the Yucaipa Road Race, that finished on the notable Oak Glen climb, at the Redlands Bicycle Classic. Unfortunately, Abbott crashed earlier in the stage and fractured her collarbone, although she did finish the stage race in second overall to Kristin Armstrong.
Lauren Stephens rocketed onto the American racing scene and in 2014 she won the overall classification Cascade Classic and then secured the overall individual title of the National Racing Calendar. Last year, Stephens won the overall title at Joe Martin Stage Race. She started out this season in Argentina, at the Tour Femenino de San Luis, where she was fourth overall after the first mountain finish to Merlo on stage 3 and then stormed into the overall lead on stage 4 after winning the time trial. She lost the leader’s jersey to stage 5 winner Katie Hall from the UnitedHealthcare team and slipped into fourth place overall by the end of the race. Once racing again on the domestic circuit, Stephens is sure to give her rivals a run for their money.
The current women’s UCI Hour Record holder, Evelyn Stevens has shown that there really isn’t anything she can’t do. She is a former winner of La Fleche Wallonne Feminine, Philly Cycling Classic, overall title winner at Internationale Thuringen Rundfahrt der Frauen, Giro del Trentino and The Exergy Tour, and a two-time national time trial champion. Stevens is banking on hard work, consistently strong performances and her previous experience in London in 2012 to get her to the Olympic Games this summer in a position to help the US garner a gold medal. She told Cyclingnews that 'This is the year that I have to do everything right'.
Like Kristin Armstrong, Amber Neben has been one of the staples of women’s bike racing in America for over a decade. She is also a former time trial world champion and is hoping to be selected to the final Olympic team for Rio. This year, Neben is racing for Bepink but she just completed the Redlands Bicycle Classic in fourth place overall. More importantly, she showed her strength in the time trial finishing second, 22 seconds behind Armstrong, on the 11.4km course.
Samantha Schneider (ISCorp Cycling p/b SmartChoice MRI)
Sprinter Samantha Schneider won the first race on the new USA Cycling Pro Road Tour at Sunny King Criterium. She has been a regular podium finisher across the American criterium racing scene for a number of years and won the former National Criterium Calendar (NCC) individual women’s ranking last year. In Anniston, Alabama, Schneider and her sister Skylar, who is a member of the junior women’s national team, keyed off of one another until Samantha took the win, with Skylar finishing in third.
Rally Cycling’s Jessica Prinner is a new rider on the circuit but came out swinging this year to win the second event on the Pro Road Tour at the Fort McClellan Road Race. Tipped as a up-and-coming climber from her team, Prinner won the road race ahead of Jessica Mundy (Fearless Femme) and Jamie Gilgen (Visit Dallas DNA). The results landed her a brief lead in the Pro Road Tour.
Tayler Wiles is also a member of the long list that USA Cycling announced for the Olympic Games in Rio. This year, the all-rounder is racing for the Australian team Orica-AIS. Last year, she won a stage and overall at the Women's Tour of New Zealand in February and then won a stage and overall victory at the Tour Cycliste Féminin International de l'Ardèche at the end of the season. She also won stages at the Energiewacht Tour and US Women's Pro Challenge, and secured a bronze medal in the national road race championships.Wiles told Cyclingnews that she hopes to win bigger races in 2016.
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