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Lauren Stephens (Tibco-SVB) won the 2021 U.S. professional cycling road race national championships in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Stephens attacked on the steep climb into the final lap some 12km out and held on for the solo victory.
“I’ve waited so long for this, and I’ve worked so hard and it’s so exciting to finally accomplish this goal. It’s amazing,” she said.
“I didn’t do the TT in preparation for the road race and it was a big step for me to not do the time trial,” Stephens said. “And I didn’t let [the pressure] get to me, but it was this silent pressure. It’s the reason I didn’t do the time trial. We were coming out here to do the road race.”
Coryn Rivera (Team DSM) and Veronica Ewers (Fount Cycling Guild) rode across the finish in second and third, respectively, from a field sprint.
Newly crowned national criterium champion Kendall Ryan (L39ion of Los Angels) and her sister Alexis Ryan, (Canyon-SRAM), Leah Thomas (Movistar Team), Emma White, Lilly Williams, Kirsta Doebel-Hickok, Holly Breck (Rally Cycling), Amber Neben (Cogeas-Mettler-Look), defending national champion Ruth Winder and Tayler Wiles (both Trek-Segafredo Women), Megan Jastrab and Rivera (both Team DSM), Clara Honsinger (Tibco-SVB), and others took to the start for the national championship.
Each lap of the 114km course had a punchy, 600-meter climb with an average grade of 10.7 percent with the steepest slope at 18.6 percent grade, and gained 64 meters for each ascent.
The WorldTour riders all went to the front of the race on the first lap, and some of the domestic elite women found the pace tough going, and fell off the back on the climb just 5km miles in. As with the criterium on Friday, Fount Cycling Guild sent riders to the front.
Cyclocross national champion Honsinger went solo off the front with 105km to go, and convinced three others, including Unbound Gravel winner Lauren De Crescenzo (Cinch Elite) to go with her. At 100km to go, two riders bridged up to the four on the front, but one rider immediately suffered a flat, leaving five up the road.
Some 20 riders split from the main bunch some 40km later, to keep control of the gap to the break.
The break exploded inside of 45km to go, with De Crescenzo riding off the front. The other four women let her go, while Honsinger refused to give up the chase. She hovered between 20 and 45 seconds behind De Crescenzo for several laps.
Lauren Stephens bridged to her teammate Honsinger, and they chased after De Crescenzo who was 30 seconds up the road.
With two laps and fewer than 25km to go, De Crescenzo powered on with no change in the race behind her, and she maintained a 25-second lead into the final lap with 12km to go.
The Tibco-SVB riders caught De Crescenzo on the steep climb that brought the front of the race back together. Stephens then launched an attack on the fading De Crescenzo, and Honsigner, her work done, dropped off. De Crescenzo was then pedaling squares, less than a minute ahead of the chasing bunch.
Kristen Faulkner (Tibco-SVB) was in a chase group of six that included Rivera, Wiles, Neben, Doebel-Hickok that picked up De Crescenzo. She disrupted the chase for her teammate up the road. Winder, the defending champion, did not make this chase group.
With 3km to go, Stephens’ gap grew to one minute, as the chase group gamed each other, and set up for the minor podium positions.
Neben lead into the final kilometer, with Rivera attacking up to the line for her third silver medal, with Veronica Ewers (Fount Cycling Guild) pressing her all the way to the line.
“I was more riding a support role for Coryn [Rivera], and we really wanted the team win. Lauren just went in, like right for it, in the feed zone,” Jastrab said. “It was a little bit of an iffy move for us to chase because Coryn needed water, I needed water, and we weren’t riding with radios. I tried to pull it back as much as I could with one to go and just buried myself, but it just wasn’t enough to bring it back.”
2021 U.S. Professional National Road Race Championships Results
- Lauren Stephens (Tibco-SVB), 3:11:20
- Coryn Rivera (Team DSM), at 1:06
- Veronica Ewers (Fount Cycling Guild), at s.t.
- Krista Doebel-Hickok (Rally Cycling), at 1:10
- Tayler Wiles (Trek-Segafredo Women), at s.t.
- Kristen Faulkner (Tibco-SVB), at s.t.
- Amber Neben (Cogeas Mettler Look Pro Cycling), at 1:18
- Lauren De Crescenzo (Cinch Cycling), at 1:19
- Alexis Ryan (Canyon-SRAM), at 1:31
- Leah Thomas (Movistar Team), at 1:34