The women's US National Team found more success in France, this time at the Tour Cycliste Féminin International Ardèche. The team previously scored victories in the La Route de France Féminine, where Amber Neben took the overall classification, and the Holland Ladies Tour, where World Time Trial champion Kristin Armstrong put her talents to good use to snatch the overall win on the final day from T-Mobile's Judith Arndt. In Ardèche, it was the 'B' team who put Katheryn Curi on the final podium in third overall, and Katharine Carroll in the sprint leader's jersey. Brooke Miller also earned the squad a stage win, as did Carroll on the final day.
The success of the newer riders, many of whom are in their first season of European racing, shows that the depth of talent is growing in the USA. Carroll launched herself into the crazy pink and blue argyle sprint leader's jersey with a concerted effort to achieve that title from the start of the race. "For me being so new in the Euro peloton, it's good to focus on a goal like the sprint jersey because it gives me a purpose during the races," Carroll told Cyclingnews. "Without that focus, some of the stage profiles could be a little intimidating... it just helps me break the race down into more manageable pieces."
The shift from US to European racing is always a big leap for a domestic racer, but the goal of USA Cycling is to send a number of different women to Europe to gain that experience and come back to the US stronger for it, thereby elevating the level of racing on American soil. Carroll noticed the difference on her second trip across the pond. "It was much better this trip than the last one... I've learned to fight and hold my position a lot better."
Despite the US holding a number of high-profile races such as Redlands, Tour de Toona, Nature Valley GP and the Liberty Classic, Carroll says the racing is quite different. "Most of the Euro races have been on from the gun - like 35-45 kph before you even get to climbs. Once people decide to attack here, its full gas for a while: there's no 10 second attacks and they look back, see someone on their wheel and sit up."
The stronger focus on women's cycling by USA Cycling and the US Women's Cycling Development program has earned plenty of good results - from Mara Abbott's second at the Montreal World Cup, to the aforementioned stage race wins, but it is the team residence in Lucca, Italy, which proves to be a great motivation for the team. Carroll is looking forward to returning to Italy next season. "I am doing part time here with the national team and part time in the US next year with Aaron's," she revealed. "I could live off of gelato and cappuccinos."
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