PHILADELPHIA (VN) — Evelyn Stevens (Specialized-Lululemon) likes an uphill finish. After capturing Belgium’s ultimate slow-motion sprint atop the Mur de Huy to win the 2012 Fleche Wallone, the American conquered U.S. cycling’s iconic Manayunk Wall to win the Parx Casino Philly Cycling Classic.
Atop the famed Manayunk Wall, Stevens outkicked Canadian Joelle Numainville (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) and German Claudia Häusler (Tibco-To the Top) for the win.
“It feels great. I’ve had a pretty rough spring,” said Stevens. “It’s been up and down.”
Stevens suffered a serious crash at the Classica Citta di Padova in Italy this spring, landing on her face, breaking teeth, and dealing a serious blow to her season’s goals. She returned to win the women’s time trial at the Amgen Tour of California, but suffered an unfortunate flat at nationals the next weekend. With her Philly win, luck seems to be back on Stevens’ side. So was the wisdom of a teammate laid up with a crash.
“I’ve always raced here with Ina Yoko Teutenberg, and she had a bad crash this year. But she sent me an email giving me tips on how to win it. She told me ‘I know you can win it if you do it right.’ To have that sort of confidence made me race a little harder for her, knowing that it’s always fun to race for her and have her win.”
Teutenberg was a three-time winner of the Liberty Classic, which with the Philadelphia International Championship used much of the same course as the Philly Cycling Classic, but finished on the flats of the Ben Franklin Parkway. With the new race finishing atop the Wall, the time had come for sprinter Teutenberg to pass the torch.
Stevens relied on flawless late-race support from Carmen Small, who ushered her to the foot of the Wall, and then from Tayler Wiles, who gave a full-gas effort until Stevens took the reins, claiming another hilltop win for her growing palmares.
Specialized-Lululemon closed the deal, but it was Numainville’s Optum squad that took the race in hand in the frenzied final lap of the five-lap, 60-mile contest, chasing down the day’s longest lived breakaway, a solo move by former national time trial champion Alison Powers (NOW and Novartis).
The first four laps were tenuous, with the main selections coming from the back on the Wall. Those who could caught back on the high-speed “fall from the Wall” descent. But a quarter of the way into the final 12-mile lap, Powers countered a succession of ill-fated moves and stretched her gap out to a threatening 30 seconds.
With other teams gambling on the slopes of the Wall to bring the move back, Optum put five riders, including newly crown national champion Jade Wilcoxson, on the front to bring the move back for Numainville.
“You either win or you bust, and I busted,” said Powers, whose attack came with the security of having already secured the sprinter’s prize, and with leader Lex Albrecht waiting behind.
For third-placed Häusler, the finish was the only time in the race she hadn’t crossed the summit of the Wall first. She took top points on four ascents of the wall to claim the Queen of the Mountains prize, but came up just short in the final.
“I had fun sprinting for the mountains points,” said the German climber. “You can always say maybe you spent too much energy for this, or maybe not. But the other climbers had to react every time I go, didn’t they?”