BOISE, Idaho (VN) — Evelyn Stevens rode a two-woman breakaway to the overall win at the inaugural Exergy Tour Monday. Claudia Häusler (GreenEdge-AIS) won the stage, with Stevens (Specialized-lululemon) second.
Jasmin Glaesser (Canadian National Team) led a 12-rider chase group in for third, 55 seconds down. Stevens’ Specialized teammate Amber Neben entered the day in the leader’s jersey and came in with the chase group, handing the title to Stevens in the race’s fourth and final stage.
“To win the inaugural Exergy Tour, it’s huge,” said Stevens. “In the Olympic year when everyone is riding well, it’s quite an honor to win it.”
The 75km road race, which started and finished at the Capitol, was a lesson in team tactics from the Specialized-lululemon women. Despite a crash in the first 100 meters that caught out Janel Holcomb (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) and Nicole Cooke (Faren Honda), aggression started early with a flurry of attacks from the Exergy Twenty12 team.
The peloton was strung out with a trail of riders struggling off the back when the riders hit the first QOM climb, about 10km into the race. Stevens, who ended the day in the mountains jersey, crested the climb first, followed by Fabiana Luperini (Faren Honda) and Megan Guarnier (Tibco-To the Top). The group of three dangled off the front while the main peloton split into two groups. As soon as the front group made contact with the break, Tayler Wiles (Exergy Twenty12) attacked and Hughes followed.
“When the starting whistle blew, it was all out. And I was like, we’re going to have our work cut out for us,” said Hughes, who stayed away with Wiles for most of the race.
Tibco and the Canadian National Team took responsibility for the chase but weren’t able to put much of a dent in a gap that hovered around 50 seconds for the next two laps. Riders kept dropping off the back, so that by the start of the third lap, there were only 31 women in the main group behind the break.
As the riders hit the first climb of the third lap, Andrea Dvorak (Exergy Twenty12) and a few others attempted to bridge, shattering the main group. A chase group of 14 riders quickly formed, closing the gap on Wiles and Hughes. The women hit the second climb of the lap, and Wiles began to struggle. The chasers soon caught and passed her, while Hughes fought on until the top of the rise.
As soon as the groups made contact, Stevens was off, with Häusler on her wheel.
“She went in the hardest part of the race,” said Häusler. “We had just caught back the riders who were in the break all day long. I knew now that this was going to be a very, very hard situation. Evelyn attacked on the left hand side, and I went straight on her wheel so we could go together.”
The two women quickly established a 45-second gap that would continue to grow for the remainder of the race despite efforts from Alison Powers (Now-Novartis for MS) and others that would eventually whittle the chase group down to 12 riders.
The breakaway flew into a jam-packed Hyde Park with 55 seconds on the bunch, and Häusler came around Stevens to take the win. Glaesser won the sprint out of her group, and the best young rider jersey to boot.
Flawless team tactics and early aggression landed the Specialized team not only the yellow jersey and the top three GC spots, but also the most aggressive rider prize (Hughes), the final mountains jersey (Stevens), and the sprinters’ jersey (Ina-Yoko Teutenberg). The team won three of five stages, sweeping final three days of the race, and took home the team GC.
“We wanted to show Boise, Idaho, what women’s bike racing is like, and we wanted to put on a show,” said Stevens. “So we had the yellow, and we have such strength here that we just wanted to make it aggressive. That was the plan.”
Editor’s Note: Keep your browser pointed to VeloNews.com for more from stage 4 of the Exergy Tour.