State of the Nation: Analysis of USA Cycling’s Women’s Team for the 2021 World Championships

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Ahead of the 2021 UCI World Championships road races this weekend, Cyclingnews takes a look at the key teams.

Here’s a look at the United States Women’s Team.

Story

The United States has always been a threat in the elite women’s time trial at the UCI Road World Championships, winning gold seven times since 1994, when the rainbow jersey was first presented. to women in the discipline and that Karen Kurreck has carved her name in the history books. This year.

Over the past 16 years, the Americans have won 11 podiums, including world titles for Mari Holden (2000), Kristin Armstrong (2006, 2009), Amber Neben (2008, 2016) and Chloe Dygert (2019).

In the road race, the United States only secured a world title in this event twice – 1980 with Beth Heiden and 1969 with Audrey McElmury. Other shiny hardware colors were also scarce, Megan Guarnier last won bronze in Richmond in 2015.

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Key pilots

From the time trial, a few cracks in the American armor appeared leading to Flanders.

US time trial champion Chloe Dygert declined her automatic nomination, ending her season earlier due to continued rehabilitation of her left leg, which was badly lacerated in an accident during the time trial. -watch from last year in Imola.

Neben, who finished second at the US Pro Time Trial Nationals and fifth at the Tokyo Olympics, is not sure whether he is 100 percent or even taking the starting line. She is recovering from three undisplaced pelvic fractures suffered when a car collided with her while participating in training on August 22.

With less than a week of the 22.1 km individual time trial, Leah Thomas will carry the hope of a medal for the American team. She finished seventh at Harrogate in 2019 and fifth at Innsbruck in 2018, and she is certainly in great shape.

A bronze medalist at the US Pro Time Trial Championships in June, Thomas was just 50 seconds off Dygert’s winning pace with Neben taking the silver. She placed in the top five in the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta uphill time trial, her first race after the Tokyo Olympics, and has just claimed victory in the overall classification of the Tour de l’Ardèche of Seven. days.

Thomas will line up again five days later for the 157.7km road race, where she will be joined by reigning national champion Lauren Stephens, Coryn Rivera, Ruth Winder, Tayler Wiles and Kristen Faulkner.

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OYAMA JAPAN JULY 28 Amber Neben of Team USA during the Women's Individual Time Trial on Day 5 of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Fuji International Speedway on July 28, 2021 in Oyama Shizuoka Japan Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

Healthy Amber Neben finished fifth in time trial at Tokyo Olympics (Image credit: Getty Images)

Rivera, who won the silver medal behind Stephens at the June US Pro National Championships, was America’s top runner in the Tokyo Hill Road Race at the Olympics, finishing seventh. As the only American to have won the Tour of Flanders, having done so in 2017, she says the Worlds course looks more like Brabantse Pijl than the Tour of Flanders course, but remains “punchy and a classic race of Belgian style ”which suits him and his teammates.

“Most of the climb is done in the middle of the race at the Worlds, on the Flandrien circuit, and the race can start at that point, which is quite similar to the Brabantse Pijl. While in the Tour of Flanders, most of the decisive climbs follow one another at the end of the race, for a decisive final, ”said Rivera, who also won a stage in the Giro d’Italia Donne this year.

Looking at the most recent edition of Brabantse Pijl, four of the six Americans on the world championship team finished in the top 20, with Ruth Winder taking the win with a bike throw over the line in Overijse and Thomas just in side of the podium in fourth. A nod to Winder for winning the 127.3 km course. She is also in good shape with a victory at the Women’s WorldTour Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa in July, and a first place on the stage 4 victory at the Tour de l’Ardèche. She also has intangible motivation, as it will be her last Worlds appearance with a retirement at the end of the season.

Winder’s key support at Brabantse Pijl was his Trek-Segafredo teammate Taylor Wiles, who finished in 11th position. Wiles was also in the top five in the TT and road race at the US Pro Nationals in June.

Stephens finished 17th at Brabantse Pijl and mixed over 14 days of criterium and gravel racing with 25 days of UCI road competition and the US Pro road title this year, winning Unbound Gravel 100 and podiums at SBT GRVL and at Rift Gravel. She finished fifth in the first stage of the Tour de l’Ardèche, but withdrew before stage 5 due to persistent pain in her right arm due to vibrations on the road.

“I’m excited about the Worlds, I think we’re bringing a strong team that can fight for victory. This will be my fifth world championships. I am always delighted to be selected to represent the United States at such a special event, ”said Stephens. Cycling news.

Kristin Faulkner has the most experience this year with nine one-day races, and has four top 10s including third place in the Plouay GP two weeks ago. She also won a stage of the Tour of Norway. The Alaska native was involved in a stage 3 accident at the Ceratizit Challenge in La Vuelta and took time to recover from the bike.

Strengths

The American has numbers in the road race, and all six riders are riding strong.

While Winder enjoys a Trek-Segafredo teammate with Wiles, Stephens has a TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank alliance with Faulkner to help with strategy, which was key in his solo victory to the US Nationals.

Rivera and Thomas are the two runners in great shape at this point in the season. After a solid overall victory in the Tour de l’Ardèche and fourth place at Brabantse Pijl, look for Thomas or Rivera to push the line, and victory, at Louvain, but the Americans have enough firepower to throw a runner different if he takes the break.

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Lea Thomas (Movistar)

Léa Thomas won the general title of the Tour de l’Ardèche (Image credit: Team Movistar / Gomez Sport)

Weaknesses

The Mondial route is very long and bumpy, 20 km more than Brabantse Pijl.

The six challenging climbs in the middle of the Flandrien Loop will undoubtedly allow for breaks in the peloton, including the familiar Brabantse Pijl climbs of the steep, cobbled Moskestraat climb and the S-Bocht climb to Overijse. Then the legs will continue to suffer for the last 10 short climbs on the local circuits of Leuven to the finish line.

If the Americans cannot work as a team to get a pair of riders on a break for the final circuits, then they will have to settle for rankings and allow the powerful talented Dutch and Italian teams to charge for rainbow stripes.

The view from the USA

There were higher hopes for medals at the Tokyo Olympics for American runners, an early indicator of the world championships in every quadrennial campaign for runners aligned with home countries rather than commercial teams.

The Tokyo Time Trial put Neben and Dygert in the top 10, but with only Neben on the squad for the World Championships, and he’s not expected to be completely recovered from hip fractures, making Thomas a wild card.

In the road race in Tokyo, only Rivera finished in the top 10. The comeback home without a medal was disappointing, but could spark a number of riders to make amends in Flanders. Look for American women to improve their game with a real game plan.


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