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Photo: Casey B. Gibson/USA Cycling

Q&A: Ruth Winder on her victorious solo win at U.S. nationals

Ruth Winder's gutsy attack helped her claim a first elite title in Knoxville.

Ruth Winder (Trek-Segafredo) put in a daring attack on the penultimate lap of the U.S. Pro Road Championships to drop her competitors, and continued solo over the 7.9-mile final lap of the Knoxville course to the finish line. Winder was able to hold off a charging small group of riders to claim her first pro road race title.

“It’s not over ‘til it’s over, just keep on going, that’s all I was thinking. I was just trying to motivate myself to go as hard as I could,” Winder said. “I thought everyone was going to pass me in the last 100 meters; I had nothing. I sat down, and I was like, ‘Get up, sprint, sprint, sprint’. Nobody passed me and I can’t believe that I won.”

This was Winder’s first elite national championship title. She won her first national championship in Bend when she was 15 years old. After her victory, Winder quickly celebrated with her boyfriend at the airport before flying to Italy to prepare for the Giro Rosa. We caught up with the Yorkshire-born American right after she arrived in Italy.

VeloNews: What is the moment from the race that will stay with you forever?

Ruth Winder: I think the actual attack. I tried to be sneaky. But I had just asked [my trade teammate] Tayler [Wiles] how she was going right before hand. She was good.

VN: Take us through your move — why did you decide to go then — and the final lap when you were solo? What were the thoughts going through your head? What was hurting most?

RW:  Tayler had just been going so hard up the climb, and kept going. I just didn’t want her to have wasted her effort. We’re lucky to be teammates in a nationals because lots of European based girls are solo riders. Playing off each others’ efforts is key.

Firstly I thought, ‘Okay, is this just dumb…? It’s quite a ways from the line.’ But at the same time you don’t know until you try, and we knew we didn’t want to leave it late anyway. And worst case would be I came back and then Tayler could go, which would have been a great option. There is a point where the course doubles back on itself and I could have some hand signals with Olivia Dillon who was driving our follow car. She gave me a confident thumbs up so I just kept digging!

And, my legs were hurting the most. Nothing new or exciting there!

VN: If you could step back and observe the race from the outside, would you say that your attack was a brilliant move or a risky move that happened to work?

RW: [laughs] Both. But I think when they are both, they make for the best bike racing.

VN: What does this victory mean for your wider career?

This is huge for my career. Becoming national champion is a really hard, hard thing to achieve. Everyone is after it, and so much of it can depend on how it gets raced. I have been racing for 10 years now — lots on the track and road, sometimes on the mountain bike. But with this win I can really feel a lot of recognition already.

VN: You had to leave almost immediately to get to Italy and the Giro Rosa. Did you even get to celebrate before jumping on a plane? 

RW: A little! We had a quick cheers at our host house right before we all left for the airport. I actually got a little more time to celebrate with my boyfriend because his flight had been delayed. If you know me, you know I’m a big whiskey fan. Luckily flying out of Tennessee, they had some not-bad choices at the airport. We had time to sit down and have a sip before we both left. He was back to Boulder while my long travel to Milan was just starting.