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U.S. team rallies around Guarnier

Despite a late change to its roster, Team USA ready to ride for Guarnier in worlds, but Olds will be ready to sprint for the win as well.

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A last-minute roster shakeup hasn’t shaken Megan Guarnier, the U.S. team’s “plan A” for the worlds on Saturday.

Guarnier, who rides for Boels-Dolmans, is the tip of an American trident that also includes Evelyn Stevens, a strong climber known for her versatility, and Shelley Olds, an accomplished sprinter and classics rider. The three will be supported by Lauren Stephens, Coryn Rivera, Taylor Wiles, and, as of Wednesday, Lauren Komanski.

“It was a shakeup, but we’re all professionals here for one goal,” Guarnier said of the mid-week roster change that saw Komanski replace Allie Dragoo. “We all have a job ahead of us. It’s a big task at hand, and we’re just focused on that main goal.”

Guarnier hopes to cap her best-ever season, which included wins at Strade Bianche, the U.S. national road race, and the Tour of Norway, as well as third overall at the Giro d’Italia Femminile, with the rainbow bands on Saturday.

The team will ride to protect her chances, with Stevens and Olds as backups, depending on how the unpredictable course affects the race.

“We have a gameplan, and then a plan B. As professionals all year, we’re used to making decisions on our toes,” Guarnier said. “We know each other as racers and we can make a decision then and there, and make them as a unit.”

Olds led Team USA at the last world championships in Ponferrada, finishing sixth out of a select group. She holds protected status with the team as well, and if it comes down to a similar style of finish — a sprint out of a tired, select group — she’s confident. Earlier this month, she won the Madrid Challenge by the Vuelta a España.

“I think it will be a lot like last year, where it’s 20 riders, 15 riders, something like that. It may be less,” she said about worlds. “I am really stoked, it’s been the goal all year. I saw the course last year, I’ve been preparing for this race all year. I knew what it looked like, and the whole season has been geared around this.”

The only consensus on Richmond’s unique world course is that it will be unpredictable. Three stiff climbs load the back end of the lap, close to the finish line. Even if a group makes it to the finish, riders will be on and past their limit by the time the sprint opens up. “Those last three climbs, in the last few kilometers, are going to be difficult. It gets pretty heavy in the end of each lap,” said Rivera, who holds dozens of national titles but is in her first elite world championship.

“We’re here with a really good strong squad, I think we can do something special,” she said. “With the forecasted rain, anything can happen. We’re prepared and we’re ready to take it on.”

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