Leah Thomas (Trek-Segafredo Women), came back from spinal surgery earlier this year to handily take the US Pro national time trial championships with a time of 29:38, beating time trial specialist Amber Neben by 44 seconds and U23 phenom Zoe Ta-Perez by 1:52 over the 23.3km course.
“I felt good coming into the time trial. If you had asked me three weeks ago, I did not feel good,” Thomas said. “I had a pretty rough block of racing in May this year. A lot of carryover injuries from my neck were affecting my knee. I wasn’t comfortable and in a lot of pain. I came home, got some good physical therapy help, and did some solid training. After that, I enjoyed riding my bike again and felt strong. It was fun to put in the hours and work. I felt motivated again, so I was proud to go through that process and not give up when things were hard.”
Thomas not only best her time from 2021, where she finished third, she beat the time of last year’s champion, Chloe Dygert by 53 seconds on the same course and under the same conditions.
“It feels really good,” Thomas said. “I was trying to do my best time trial. I can’t control what other people do. And, of course, I want to win. I feel like I had a good PR here today and felt proud of my preparation and pacing. So that’s all I can ask myself. And I’m happy that it was enough.”
The familiar setting of Oak Ridge set the stage for 27 starters, including five U23 contenders, to take on 23.2km of a fairly flat course.
Setting off in the first of three waves, defending road champion Lauren Stephens (EF Education Tibco-SVB) took the early lead, setting the fastest split at the intermediate checkpoint with a time of 15:54 and holding her pace to stop the clock at 31:58.
However, it wasn’t long before U23 rider, and multi-time national track champion Zoe Ta-Perez (LUX-CTS) blasted through the intermediate check 17 seconds faster, besting Stephens and teammate Emma Langley. Ta-Perez only increased her speed on the second lap and went into the hot seat by 27 seconds ahead of Stephens.
Ta-Perez’s knew her time in the hot seat was likely over when Thomas flew through the intermediate check 50 seconds faster than the 20-year-old, with Amber Neben following 18 seconds down at the 11.6km point.
“I felt good considering I built the time trial bike just two weeks ago,” Neben said at the finish. “I hadn’t pulled it out of the bag since the 2021 World Championships [Neben finished fourth].
“The Lord put it on my heart to come race, and I was like, ‘alright, giddy up.’ It was hot. I did my best out there. Leah smoked it. She’s obviously super fast right now. This might be my last nationals, so I just wanted to return and give it one more run.”
Human Powered Health’s Lily Williams, who finished in ninth place last year, was having a strong ride, but crashed at the turnaround point, before recovering to finish in eighth place, 2:54 down.
In the U23 competition, Ta- Perez took home the stars and stripes, Oliva Cummins (LUX) claimed second at 1:59, and Betty Hass (Levine Law Group) was third at 3:14.
“I was pretty nervous coming into the ride,” Ta-Perez said. “I usually do not run a radio. I just go on feel. So no power meter. I just focus on speed and execution. I was trying to put maximum effort out there and spread it as evenly as possible.
“It feels amazing [to win U23 and finish third in the elite category],” Ta Perez said. “I took some time off last year to re-assess what I wanted out of the sport, so just to get back out here and be back in the mix is amazing. I’m just happier than ever now and excited to be here. I’m so grateful for my team and my family and just filled the people that supported me.”
|1||Leah Thomas (Trek-Segafredo Women)||29:38|
|2||Amber Neben||@ 44 sec|
|3||Zoe Ta-Perez (Lux)||1:53|
|4||Lauren Stephens (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB)||2:20|
|5||Veronica Ewers (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB)||2:22|
|6||Emily Newsom (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB)||2:23|
|7||Lauren de Crescenzo (Cinch)||2:40|
|8||Lily Williams (Human Powered Health)||2:55|
|9||Emma Langley (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB)||2:57|