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Guarnier’s gutsy sprint wins U.S. road nationals

The Boels Dolmans team delivered a perfect one-two punch on Monday as Megan Guarnier won the women’s USA Cycling pro road nationals in Chattanooga. Guarnier’s winning sprint was cued up by teammate Evelyn Stevens, who went on the attack with a little over 10 kilometers to race.

While the chase group squabbled to catch the two-time national time trial champion, Guarnier kept her cool and followed wheels.

When Stevens’ escape ended, a few kilometers from the finish, Guarnier weathered a flurry of attacks from both Tayler Wiles (Velocio-SRAM) and Amber Neben (Visit Dallas). And finally, with arguably the country’s top sprinter on her wheel — Coryn Rivera (UnitedHealthcare) — Guarnier led-out and won the four-up gallop.

Rivera took second, and Wiles was third.

The race featured two trips up Lookout Mountain. The first time up the selective climb whittled the field of 76 women down to only 25 riders.

Whitney Schultz (Colavita Bianchi-Fine Cooking) and Kaitlin Antonneau (Twenty16-Sho-Air) were the early animators. Their gap was around 50 seconds on the climb. The peloton caught the two leaders coming into town after Lookout.

Twenty16-Sho-Air drove the pace. The newly crowned national time trial champion, Kristin Armstrong was a fixture on the front.

Coming into the last trip up Lookout, the lead group had been pared down to 11 riders.

Stevens launched a move at the top of the climb, and only three riders could follow: Neben, Guarnier, and Wiles.

At the end of the descent, two UnitedHealthcare riders bridged the gap to the front group: Rivera and Katie Hall.

Allie Dragoo (Twenty16-Sho-Air) and Brianna Walle (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) were chasing, only 10 seconds behind as the break sped along the flat roads on the outskirts of Chattanooga.

The two chasers were joined by Armstrong and Lauren Stephens (Tibco-SVB).

With 26km to go — three short laps left — the four chasers had the lead group in sight and soon made the catch.

However, the front group pulled apart on the steep climb up Kent Street as Stevens attacked. Only three others could follow: Wiles, Rivera, and Guarnier.

Neben then joined the four leaders.

On the penultimate trip up Kent street, Neben was gapped, and Stevens again went off the front.

Neben caught the three chasers and rode right past, trying to bridge to the lone leader. Guarnier quickly jumped on her wheel.

Wiles attacked next, but Rivera marked that move. Neben went back to the front to pull as Stevens remained in sight but still off the front.

Stevens tackled the last trip up Kent Street, holding her slender gap. Neben was again in trouble at the back.

When the chase made the catch after the short climb, Wiles countered with a hard attack.

Stevens was soon dropped, and Wiles was not able to stay away. The tireless Neben launched another counter-move, and Guarnier hopped on her wheel.

Although the attacks kept flying in the final two kilometers, the race was destined to come down to a four-rider sprint.

Rivera made a bold move on the final descent, scooting up the inside to hop on Guarnier’s wheel into the left-hand corner that delivered the riders to the finish straight.

Guarnier led-out the sprint. Rivera jumped with about 100 meters left, but could not come by the Boels Dolmans rider on the right side.

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