Megan Guarnier claimed her third US national road title in Winston-Salem on Saturday. The nine-lap circuit race ended in a bunch sprint that saw Guarnier edge out Coryn Rivera (UnitedHealthcare) and Mandy Heintz (Visit Dallas DNA) for top honours. Guarnier’s win comes on the heels of her overall victory at Amgen Tour of California last weekend, which catapulted her to the top of UCI Women’s WorldTour rankings, and solidifies her status as North America’s top rider.
“I’m just doing what I always do,” said Guarnier. “I’m always trying to be better. I’m always putting in the hard work. The results may be better than they used to be, but I’m still the same Megan. I’m still the same Calimero. I’m just out there doing my job and loving what I do.”
Guarnier lined up alongside Evie Stevens. Outnumbered by most the US-based squads, the Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team duo needed to patient and smart.
“The course wasn’t super selective, so it was never going to be hard enough to force a selection,” said Guarner. “This course favoured tactics over strength, and tactical options are limited when we’re only two against teams with five, six, seven, eight riders. We had to play it cool and count on other teams to do the work.”
A 13-rider breakaway on lap two caused a slight panic. With all the big teams represented, Guarnier sensed that the gap would grow quickly. She immediately rode to the front of the peloton and lifted the pace to shut down the move.
“Maybe I jumped the gun, but all the teams seemed pretty happy with the move,” said Guarnier. “That was the only time that I felt like it was our responsibility to chase.”
“I wasn’t worried too much about the energy I’d expend on the front,” she added. “You either do it and gamble about spending energy early or you don’t and maybe you’ve lost the race because you didn’t put in the effort. I knew it wasn’t going to happen again. It snapped us into attention.”
Lindsay Bayer (Hagens Berman-Supermint) went away on lap three and rode two lonely laps alone out front. The peloton brought Bayer back to the bunch on lap five. Several counter-attacks followed but none had staying power until Nina Laughlin (Visit Dallas DNA) went solo with three laps left to race. One lap later, Kathryn Donovan (Colavita-Binachi) bridged across. The pair cooperated as UnitedHealthcare set a steady tempo at the front of the field.
“There were always one, two, three riders off the front, but we paid close attention to numbers,” said Guarner. “There were other bigger teams lacking representation, and those teams weren’t very happy with the moves. We could look to them to chase down the breaks.”
“There were still riders off the front on the final lap,” Guarnier added. “Teams just kept attacking, which I think was a good tactic. There was even a group of three going off the front the final time up Manley, which was 1.4 kilometres from the finish. The threat was always there that the break would spoil the show.”
Guarnier knew she needed to be well-positioned up the final climb, but she also knew that she didn’t want to expose herself to the wind too early.
“It was single-file going into the final stretch, and I just kept following wheels,” said Guarnier. “Initially, there was a lead-out of a bunch of riders on the left, and I jumped on that. When it lost momentum, I had to check up, and when I checked up, I saw Tayler Wiles (ORICA-AIS) come flying up the right with Coryn on her wheel, so I jumped on that. I got boxed in on the right and had to find my way out to finish it off.”
Rivera opened the uphill sprint, but Guarnier was able to come around to snag the victory. Guarnier’s sprint was so strong that she was awarded a gap on the line, finishing one second ahead of Rivera and Heinz.
“I’m really happy that I could pull it off two years in a row,” said Guarnier. “I wasn’t sure if I could.”
“Although we were a small team today, it took the team,” Guarnier. “It took me and Evie committing to the team plan, committing to staying calm and reading the race to make the result. It was a hard day out there, and Evie was a big part of this result.”