Cyclist Alison Powers adds road race title to time trial win in Chattanooga

Cyclist Alison Powers adds road race title to time trial win in Chattanooga

May 27th, 2014 by Jim Tanner in Sportsprofessional

Alison Powers celebrates her 1st place finish as she crosses the finish line at the USA Cycling Professional Road Race Championships in downtown Chattanooga, Tenn., on Monday, May 26, 2014. Powers won the time trial, criterium and road race this year.

Photo by Ellis Smith/Times Free Press.

One national title was not enough for Alison Powers this weekend.

The UnitedHealthCare rider made history Monday morning on the streets of Chattanooga by winning the USA Cycling Professional Road Race championship.

Powers attacked with less than two laps remaining downtown and held on to win the women's road race, two days after winning the women's time trial at the Volkswagen plant.

"This is amazing; I don't really know what to say," Powers said. "Today we had a team plan, and we executed it perfectly. Everybody did their job.

"I knew if I could get over [the steep climb up Kent Street on the final lap] and still maintain my gap, I'd have a good chance to win."

With the two wins in Chattanooga, plus her earlier win at the USA Cycling pro criterium championships, Powers becomes the first pro rider ever to hold three USA Cycling national titles simultaneously. UnitedHealthCare women's sporting director Rachel Heal said Powers has upped her game this season.

"She's incredibly strong," Heal said. "and she's incredibly motivated right now, and just everything's come together at the right time.

"She's enjoying riding a bike, which makes a huge difference. You can just see it in the way she rides."

Powers finished 22 seconds ahead of second-place Megan Guarnier and 25 seconds clear Evelyn Stevens, the third-place finisher in both the time trial and road race.

Guarnier, the only rider from the Europe-based Boels Dolmans Cycling Team, said she was pleased with her performance, but she had hoped to use the two climbs up Lookout Mountain to escape from the pack in the 64-mile race.

"It was a good day," she said. "Sometimes you have to roll the dice and gamble a little bit on who you're going to follow and who you're not going to follow.

"It wasn't as hard as I thought it would have been over the climb. ... There were a lot of team tactics, which makes it difficult as a solo rider."

Stevens thought her Specialized-lululemon squad had performed well but there was no stopping Powers this weekend.

"I think my team was one of the strongest out there, and we had a tactic that we were going to race our numbers," Stevens said. "Tayler [Wiles] did an awesome job up in the front, and Carmen [Small] has one of the best sprints, so if it came down to that we knew she'd be great.

"But Alison was strong and she went, and I really would have liked to have caught her and gone past her."

Stevens said she had a plan for the 2015 nationals after watching Powers' weekend sweep.

"I'm going to take a note out of Alison Powers' book," Stevens said laughingly. "Last year she was third in both, and this year's she won both.So I'm going to use her technique -- although I don't know exactly what she did."

Heal had praise for all the UnitedHealthCare women's riders, saying Katherine Hall and Maura Abbott were a major reason for Powers' winning ride. Abbott's attacks on the climbs earned her Queen of the Mountain honors.

"We brought a small team to the race because we thought it would be hard, and it needed to be hard," Heal said. "They rode absolutely perfectly. I couldn't have scripted it better."

In the second year with the racing U.S. pro championships with the men, the women riders again were thrilled with the crowds who came out Monday morning to cheer them on -- something that they don't see often enough in American races.

"It's a highlight to race here," Stevens said. "There was a group of Star Wars people out there. There were guys in Spandex pulled up in wedgies running next to us on the climb.

"It's really special to race in such an amazing venue."

Contact Jim Tanner at jtanner@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6478.