At the halfway point in the USA Cycling Pro Road Tour (PRT), two young stars have emerged at the top of the men’s and women’s standings. Taylor “T.J.” Eisenhart, 23, and Ruth Winder, 24, have vaulted into the lead in their respective categories.
Eisenhart’s season ‘perfect so far’
Eisenhart is in his first year riding for Holowesko-Citadel having previously ridden as a stagiaire for BMC Racing. He got the wheels turning in 2017 at the 40th Joe Martin Stage Race. While he didn’t score a result, he helped his teammate Robin Carpenter to the overall victory.
The Utah native’s time would come in New Mexico at the five-stage Tour of the Gila, where he was third overall and powered to second in the TT. He would continue his run of good form a few weeks later, capturing the overall title at May’s Redlands Bicycle Classic, an American racing staple for 33 years.
“Honestly, for me the season is going basically perfect, according to plan, just righteous,” Eisenhart said. “This is what I came to the team for, to be the leader at these GC races, and I proved at Gila that I was ready for that. And then at Redlands, again I showed that I could finish it off.”
Eisenhart is spending the next few weeks in Park City, Utah, preparing for the Cascade Cycling Classic (July 19-23), Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah (July 31-Aug. 6), and Colorado Classic (Aug. 10-13).
“Basically, every race we go to, there is not a doubt in our minds that we are not going to win,” Eisenhart said of his team’s mentality. “We may not win, but going into it, we are at least pretty sure one of us is going to win. That’s pretty awesome, having belief and confidence in everyone on the team, and believing that anyone on your team can win.”
He’ll need solid results to finish out the season as the men’s individual PRT leader, holding merely a nine-point lead over Gavin Mannion (UnitedHealthcare).
Mannion began the PRT with a considerable number of international race days already in his legs after riding the newly-elevated UCI 2.1 Vuelta Ciclista a la Provincia de San Juan in January and the Tour of Oman in February. Those early-season races translated to third place at the Joe Martin Stage Race and fourth in Tour of the Gila. While not a PRT race, the New England native also rode to a stellar fifth place on stage 4 of the WorldTour Amgen Tour of California, surviving to the finish in the breakaway.
Junior world time trial champion Brandon McNulty (Rally Cycling), 19, won the opening individual test at the North Star Grand Prix and held on to finish second overall at the stage race in Minnesota, propelling himself into third in the PRT standings. His teammate Evan Huffman and Carpenter, the latter the winner of the tough one-day Winston-Salem Cycling Classic, round out the top-five in the PRT standings on the men’s side.
Men’s individual standings
1. T.J. Eisenhart (Holowesko-Citadel), 236 pts
2. Gavin Mannion (UnitedHealthcare), 227 pts
3. Brandon McNulty (Rally Cycling), 208 pts
4. Evan Huffman (Rally Cycling), 200 pts
5. Robin Carpenter (Holowesko-Citadel), 184 pts
Winder unstoppable so far
On the women’s side, Winder has been a dominant force on the domestic scene. She has powered to 14 podiums on the PRT, between stage and general classification results. She won stages 3 and 5 at the North Star Grand Prix and ended the six-stage race third overall.
This run of terrific form translated to a bronze medal for Winder at the U.S. Pro Road Race National Championships in Knoxville, Tennessee in June. She has taken this momentum to the Tour de Feminin in the Czech Republic, where she won stages 1 and 2 over the four-day race, as well as the overall title. She never relented the lead in the overall after an emphatic solo win on the opening day.
19-year-old Emma White (Rally Cycling) won the North Star Grand Prix overall ahead of Winder. Twice a silver medalist at the 2015 junior world championships, White finished no worse than fifth on a stage during the race, which included a stage win. Her performance in Minneapolis vaulted her into fifth in the PRT standings.
“It feels like a dream,” White said after the last stage of North Star. “We got the yellow jersey on the second stage and were able to defend it all week, which was such a pleasure for our team. We are so happy that we are pulling together, this is the best result we’ve had all year and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”
White continued to impress as she powered to the U23 national titles in both the individual time trial and road race at U.S. Pro Road Nationals. A week later in Louisville, Kentucky, she took silver at the U23 pro criterium nationals.
“This season has definitely been a page-turner for me,” White said. “Last year was about figuring out the professional peloton, and this year I’m entering races trying to figure out how to win. I’m so fortunate to be a part of Rally and work with the girls on that team.”
Katie Hall had an impressive Amgen Women’s Tour of California in May, part of the women’s WorldTour and PRT. She won stage 2 and finished second overall to propel herself into second place on the PRT standings behind her UnitedHealthcare teammate.
Lauren Stephens (TIBCO-SVB) has been consistent all season. This culminated with her silver medals in the time trial and criterium national championships. She began the season strong with second overall at the Joe Martin Stage Race and fifth on GC at Tour of the Gila. Plus, she won a stage of the Redlands Bicycle Classic and the Winston-Salem Cycling Classic. Her consistency has landed her in third place in the PRT standings.
Taylor Wiles, in fourth place, gives UnitedHealthcare three riders in the top five of the overall PRT individual standings.
Marlis Mejias (Weber Shimano Ladies Power), who sits seventh overall, is a rider to watch in the PRT standings. She won the Clarendon Cup, part of the Armed Forces Classic weekend and second-tier American Road Calendar. The Clarendon Cup is considered one of the toughest criterium courses in the country with five corners on the one-kilometer circuit. She built on this form to win two stages at North Star, including the Stillwater stage.
Women’s individual standings
1. Ruth Winder (UnitedHealthcare), 692 pts
2. Katharine Hall (UnitedHealthcare), 364 pts
3. Lauren Stephens (TIBCO-SVB), 330 pts
4. Tayler Wiles (UnitedHealthcare), 275 pts
5. Emma White (Rally Cycling), 241 pts
Commanding leads for top teams
Rally Cycling and UnitedHealthcare have massive advantages in the team standings for men and and women, respectively.
Holowesko-Citadel trails Rally by 342 points, with UnitedHealthcare a further 109 points behind. Cylance and Axeon Hagens Berman round out the Top five.
The UnitedHealthcare women’s squad has close to double the amount of the next closest squad. The ladies in blue have 1,612 points, compared to Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank’s 841 points. After solid results at Tulsa Tough and North Star Grand Prix, Hagens Berman-Spearmint has moved into fourth. Sho-Air Twenty20 rounds out the top five on the women’s side.
“USA Cycling’s Pro Road Tour includes the premier American cycling events and the North Star Grand Prix p/b North Memorial Health is proud to be the only six-stage race for both men women athletes on this calendar. By hosting a PRT event, we are able to showcase these communities to an international field of professional cyclists,” said race director Brendon Hale, who’s Minnesota event closed the first half of the PRT schedule this summer.
A four-week break in the schedule allowed athletes to compete in multiple national championships across the U.S. The battle for PRT points will return July 15 at the Andersen Banducci Twilight Criterium in Boise, Idaho, and July 19-23 at the Cascade Cycling Classic in Bend, Ore.
Men’s team standings
1. Rally Cycling, 1170 pts
2. Holowesko-Citadel, 651 pts
3. UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling, 532 pts
4. Cylance Cycling, 349 pts
5. Axeon Hagens Berman, 240 pts
Women’s team standings
1. UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling, 1612 pts
2. Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank, 841 pts
3. Rally Cycling, 647 pts
4. Hagens Berman-Supermint, 394 pts
5. Sho-Air Twenty20, 268 pts