Crouch, Idaho (VN) — Ina-Yoko Teutenberg won stage 3 of the Exergy Tour Sunday. Teutenberg (Specialized-lululemon) topped Leah Kirchmann (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) and Megan Guarnier (Tibco-To the Top) in a small bunch sprint.
Amber Neben (Specialized) retained the overall lead with one stage remaining. Specialized-lululemon holds the top four places on the general classification with Neben, Teutenberg, Evelyn Stevens and Clara Hughes sitting first through fourth.
With 4520 feet of climbing on a course that took riders from Crouch to Idaho City, few teams expected the race to come down to a field sprint on this fourth day of racing.
“In a race like this, when I actually hurt myself for the 80 kilometers before, it’s not a given that a sprinter is still a sprinter. These are the times when I actually don’t have a jump anymore. I can still push it, but the mountains took a lot out of my legs,” said Teutenberg.
The 93km road race, which rolled along the South Fork Payette River for about 30km before hitting the base of the first climb, started fast, with a flurry of attacks animating it early. Courteney Lowe (Optum), Alexis Rhodes (GreenEdge-AIS) and Amanda Miller (Tibco) all tried to establish breaks, but with the Specialized squad monitoring the front, nothing stuck.
After Lauren Hall (Tibco) took the first and only intermediate sprint 20km into the race, the road gradually started heading upwards in a climb that would culminate with the first QOM, at 56km. Despite a thin trickle of riders dropping off the back, the peloton stayed together for the most part until the group hit the final 13km of steep climbing before the first QOM. Here, a break of seven riders managed to sneak off the front: Janel Holcomb (Optum), Fabiana Luperini (Faren Honda), Trixi Worrack (Specialized), Tiffany Cromwell (GreenEdge), Rachel Neylan (ABUS Nutrixxion), Lindsay Myers (Tibco) and Kristin McGrath (Exergy Twenty12).
Sari Saarelainen (Forno D’Asolo-Colavita) bridged to the group, but shortly fell off again along with Neylan. The reduced break of six hovered about 35 seconds off the peloton, and was the first group of riders to cross the summit of the first climb. Luperini won the QOM, and finished the day in the Queen of the Mountains jersey.
But with NOW-Novartis for MS driving the pace at the front of the peloton, the bunch swallowed the break about 8 km from the second QOM. Despite another flurry of attacks initiated by Tayler Wiles (Exergy Twenty12) and Beth Newell (NOW) the group made it to the top intact, with Evelyn Stevens (Specialized) taking the second QOM. Teutenberg fell off the pace but was able to close the gap with the help of teammate Worrak to ultimately win the sprint.
“I was in agony for 80km, while the others just breathed through their noses. I had a rubber band — it got longer and it got shorter, it got longer and it got shorter, but it never snapped, so that was good,” said Teutenberg, who also kept the sprinter’s jersey.
Once the riders crested the last climb, they hit a downhill that would carry them the final 25km of the race to the finish. As the racers approached the finish, the Optum and Specialized leadout trains rolled into action. Navigating a sharp, slick turn 300 meters out, Teutenberg came around Kirchmann to take the win.
“It ended up being kind of a drag race. My team set me up great coming into the last kilometer, we had Janel (Holcomb) in the front and then I was on Carmen (Small’s wheel,” said Kirchmann. “It had just rained so the corners were really slippery, and the last corner was pretty sketchy. I managed to come out second on Carmen’s wheel and start sprinting from there.”
The jump would prove too early, however, and Teutenberg was able to close on the Kirchmann at the line.
Another notable ride came from Jasmin Glaesser (Canadian National Team), who took over the best young rider jersey from her teammate Gillian Carleton. Specialized will start tomorrow with Neben, Teutenberg, Stevens and Hughes sitting in the top four of the GC.
“We’re in a good position. We’re going to fight hard and we’re going to work together,” said Neben.
Monday’s final stage of the Exergy Tour returns to Boise for a 75km road race that Neben, Teutenberg and Theresa Cliff-Ryan (Exergy Twent12) all predicted would be the decisive stage of the race.