Megan Guarnier’s winning ways continued in Philadelphia on Sunday. One week after defending her national road title and two weeks following her stage win and the overall victory at the Amgen Tour of California, Guarner stormed up the Manayunk Wall to win the Philadelphia International Cycling Classic.
The victory is Guarnier’s sixth of the season, her second WorldTour win, and solidifies her spot atop the UCI Women’s WorldTour rankings. Including Sunday’s success in Philadelphia, Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team has won seven of the nine races WorldTour races this season.
“It’s been pretty special,” said Guarnier. “You always hear us talking about the team but that’s because none of what we do would be possible without the support from our teammates and our belief in one another. Whatever the plan is, we all commit to it.”
The plan in Philly was to support two-time winner Evie Stevens, but races don’t always unfold according to pre-determined plans. When Guarnier came around Karol-Ann Canuel’s wheel on the final ascent of Manayunk,
Stevens wasn’t on her wheel. Forced to open her uphill sprint early, Guarnier managed to hold off her challengers and bring home the win for the team.
“Karo was incredible,” noted Guarnier. “The plan was that she would sprint into the base of the climb with me on her wheel, and she did her job perfectly. She led us through the run-in to the climb and then put in a massive turn.
She was so strong that she actually accidentally gapped me. I was able to close the gap when the road kicked up again, and that’s when I went.”
Although teams were allowed six starters in Philadelphia, Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team fielded a team of four. The small but mighty squad allowed other teams to do the majority of the attacking and chasing during the first four laps of the six lap, 118.8-kilometre race.
Mara Abbott (Wiggle High5) and Lauren Stephens (TIBCO-SVB) were in the longest standing breakaway of the day. The duo was caught on the penultimate trip up Manayunk.
“At this point in the race, I really didn’t have to do too much,” said Guarnier. “I wasn’t saving myself for the finish, but Karo and Kasia [Pawlowska} had assumed responsibility for most of the work. I stuck my nose in the wind once or twice, but I had a relatively easy ride until the final lap.”
With one lap remaining, the peloton had split into multiple groups. Three Boels-Dolmans riders – Canuel, Guarnier and Stevens – were amongst the front group of 20.
Just as the first chase group rejoined the leaders, Alie Dragoo (Twenty16-Riderbiker) launched herself up the road. She pocketed a 30-second advantage before the reduced bunch sprang into action. When the breakaway had swelled to what could have been an unmanageable group of six, the peloton lifted the pace, shutting down the move.
“We had things under control,” said Guarnier. “It’s always all about the last lap. The key was to be patient, and we were.”
TIBCO-SVB and UnitedHealthCare assembled their sprint trains inside the final five kilometres as Boels-Dolmans waited to strike. Canuel took over on the front through the chicane that serves as the run-in to Manayunk.
“Karo was so strong today,” said Guarnier. “The way she can bury herself for her teammates is really remarkable.”
“I came off her wheel with 600 metres,” said Guarnier. “Going that early would normally be a suicide move, but I didn’t really have much of a choice at that point – and with the work the team did, I desperately wanted to repay their efforts.”
With the win, Guarnier extends her lead in the UCI Women’s WorldTour rankings to 226 points over Emma Johansson (Wiggle High5). Lizzie Armitstead remains third overall with 368 points.