It’s a been a busy few weeks for Megan Guarnier since winning her second national championships in Chattanooga last month. Following a week off, she headed to the Parx Casino Philly Classic, where her British Boels Dolmans teammate, Lizzie Armitstead won, returning her to the top of the World Cup standings.
With that box ticked for the team, Guarnier, who also won the inaugural women’s Strade Bianche this spring, headed to Spain for the Emakumeen Bira stage race, where she won a stage en route to finishing fourth on general classification.
The 30-year-old from Glens Falls, New York sees her second national title as proof of her ability, that the first one was not a fluke. “I think it helped the first time sink in,” she told VeloNews. “Then I thought was it a lucky day, the stars seemed to align that first time. When I got it for a second time I thought, wow, two-time national champion, that’s pretty cool. It validates the first one.”
This week, Guarnier is showing off the stars and stripes at the second edition of the Aviva Women’s Tour, a five-day stage race around Southeastern England. In 2014, race organizer Sweetspot took a leap of faith, establishing the event as a standalone women’s race, as opposed to running it in conjunction with the men’s Tour of Britain. The organizers’ faith was repaid with huge support from crowds on the road and good viewing figures for the highlights show on terrestrial TV.
None of the five stages are overly challenging, though the final day is hilly enough to prove decisive. However, the narrow, winding roads will make for interesting racing and the event has attracted a world-class field, despite the absence of world champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Rabo-Liv), who is out with injury.
Guarnier traveled to Britain with no personal target in mind, though is looking forward to the event, telling VeloNews before the first stage, “I’m looking forward to feeling like a rock star. It’ll be incredible to hear ‘USA,’ or to hear my name. I was pretty impressed with the Philly crowds, and I was told they are very similar here. I’m hoping for some good racing and some good terrain. I’ve never raced here and want to go hard and get the Boels-Dolmans team on the top.”
The objective to ride for the home rider, Armitstead, didn’t go to plan, however. The Englishwoman crashed after winning the first stage and the leader’s jersey, her injuries forcing her to retire from the race. “It was really hard to see her on the ground like that. We didn’t know what was going on. It was really hard and the team were all really worried. I got to say that the best news of the year was when we heard nothing was broken; I think everybody is positive.”
With the leader gone, the team had to reassess its plans, setting up the Luxembourg road champion, Christine Majerus for third place in the stage 2 sprint, behind the winner, Wiggle-Honda’s Jolien D’hoore. “That was a great sprint,” Guarnier said. “You always want to win, but you have to keep it in perspective that third is a great finish too. We still would like aggressive racing, but sometimes the course isn’t conducive to that.”
With stages 3 and 5 being the toughest, will Guarnier try to grab a win? “If it’s aggressive. I’ve honestly been taking it one day at a time, and today was a long one, especially with the change in the team now we don’t have Lizzie [Armitstead]. Morale is high, it’s a great team and we came out here and raced as a team today.”