It's been a long time since Alison Powers has stood atop the podium in a national championship time trial, and she was ready to reclaim the Stars and Stripes jersey she won in 2008 in Greenville, S.C.
Saturday, the UnitedHealthCare Pro Cycling rider did just that. She won the 2014 women's time trial at the Volkswagen USA Cycling Professional event at the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant.
"When you go so many years without winning and you stay stale, that's pretty unmotivating," she said following her winning ride. "So I really had to work hard this winter and this whole year to be ready for today."
Powers finished the 19-mile course in 42 minutes, 23 seconds -- 29 seconds faster than runner-up and 2013 champion Carmen Small. Small's Specialized-lululemon teammate Evelyn Stevens finished third at 43:26, one second faster than another teammate, Tayler Wiles, to claim the final spot on the podium.
Race commentator Kristin Armstrong, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and three time U.S. time trial champion, said the wide-open women's field made for a fun day of racing.
"It was so exciting, because normally I can go into a race and go, 'OK, here are the top three. I can go home now,'" she said. "But with the women, there have been five or six of them that have been at each other's throats all year."
Powers was disappointed with her performance last year, when she was third behind Small and Kristin McGrath, and she said a lot of planning went into Saturday's win.
"We had a very specific plan that I've been working on since last year, since last year didn't go so well," she said. "I had confidence in myself and the plan that we had.
"If you believe in yourself and the plan and you execute the plan perfectly, usually it works out well."
Small was far from disappointed at losing the Stars and Stripes to Powers after having trouble with her time-trial form earlier this season.
"To be honest, I didn't have any expectations for myself today, so to be sitting here in second," she said at the postrace news conference, "it was a phenomenal ride -- the best that I've had all year. It was good that it came today."
Stevens, on the other hand, was hoping for a better result. But the two-time U.S. time trial champion was able to keep her solid day on the bike in perspective.
"I like to win, as we all do. I'm not going to be 'Yeah, I got third,'" she said laughingly. "I got beat, but I gave it my all and have no excuses. I like to win and this makes me motivated to improve."
But there was no stopping Powers on Saturday, and Armstrong was impressed by how well she prepared her mind and body to beat America's best women cyclists.
"Alison has a harder time at one-day races, but I think that she really put it together today and that's what it takes," Armstrong said. "It's putting everything together, and it's not just physically. It's in your head, too."
"Alison showed today that she has it, and she nailed it."
Contact Jim Tanner at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6478. follow him at twitter.com/JFTanner.