Lauren Stephens travelled to Argentina to do one better than she did last year at the Tour Femenino de San Luis where she was second overall by a narrow margin. Unfortunately, the American rider was the only woman left standings of her Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank team in the final stage after her teammates were hit by a stomach bug and forced to abandon.
“It’s frustrating because we came here to win. We just had too much misfortune to overcome,” said the team’s director Ed Beamon in a press release.
Stephens 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 third place but planned to fight for the title on the last day.
An unfortunate illness swept through the team and Stephens was left to race the stage almost on her own, with the exception of Lauren Komanski, who was still trying to recover from the cuts and bruises sustained after a bad crash on stage 1.
In addition, Lauren Hall had also been in a crash on stage 1, while Alizee Brien, Brianne Walle and Kendall Ryan all came down with the stomach bug. Ryan had the worst symptoms and was forced to go to the hospital for treatment.
To make matters worse, Stephens also began to feel symptoms of the same illness the night before and during the last stage.
She ended up finishing the race in the main group but in a disappointing fourth overall, 25 seconds behind winner Hall. Last year, Stephens was second overall and finished eight seconds down.
“She finally succumbed to the stomach bug that's been going around,” Beamon said. “She didn't have the energy to try to sprint or attack.
“On the positive side though, Lauren’s repeat win in the time trial was huge. She showed once again that she is one of the best time trailers in the world and that’s key heading into this Olympic season.”
Stephens was named to the long list of riders for the US team heading to the Olympic Games this summer.
Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank will be formally presented February 6 in Palo Alto, California, followed by a training camp from February 11-15.