After holding the yellow jersey for one day, Shelley Evans (Peanut Butter Co TWENTY12) lost it on the tough Menomonie Road Race on Saturday but she was confident she could reclaim it on the final stage of the Nature Valley Grand Prix, the Stillwater Criterium.
“Man, we knew we could do it, everybody knew we could do it. It’s a perfect course for our team, we’re crit riders, a lot of us, we’re muscly girls and we can handle this kind of tough course, we’re directed by Kristin Armstrong when it’s a tough course this is where we rise up.” said Evans, who continued with a laugh “And we had to win for Kristin because she would have dropped the baby if we didn’t.”
Coming into the race, Evans and her team was directed by four-time overall winner Kristin Armstrong. “It’s exciting. This, for me, is number five, four on the bike and one off.” said a pregnant Armstrong.
When she saw the yellow jersey into the stage and her teammate Linda Villumsen (HTC-Columbia) in trouble, Evelyn Stevens got the call to attack. She took a solo flyer with 3 laps to go and quickly established a gap of 25 seconds to Evans and others. A gap she still held with 1 to go and it seemed that her plan worked.
Stevens crossed the finish line solo and all eyes were on the clock, she needed 25 seconds to take the overall.
“I could see the counter ticking up and it was at 9 seconds and I was like oh I got this and it was all just muscle until the end.” said Evans who crossed the line in second place at 14 seconds back, enough for her to claim the overall. “We’re so happy with this win, the girls deserve this and I’m happy I could do it for them because everyone worked so hard.”
“Really we were going for the yellow today. My stage win is nice and all, it’s always nice to win, but with this team, it’s such a a wonderful team, you want to win as a team. I went for it just hoping to take the GC over at that point but Peanut Butter raced great, I give them all the respect.” said Stevens.
A race of attrition. The Stillwater crit is known to shell riders off the back lap after lap when they tackle the tough Chilkoot Hill, with an average grade of 18%. And it happened again on Sunday.
Immediately from the gun, riders went up the road to force a separation for their teammates vying for the overall. On the third lap of thirteen laps, the field was splintering under the impetus of the first Queen of the Hill sprint won by Cath Cheatley (Colavita/Baci). With 9 laps to go, the sprinters were falling off the back as the lead group dwindled at the front.
With 6 to go, Evans attacked and was joined by Stevens, Cheatley, Ruth Corset (TIBCO/To The Top) and Erinne Willock (Webcor), all the top of the GC except one, the yellow jersey. Behind, Villumsen’s teammates led the 15-rider chase group.
With four to go, the chase group did catch the break but not until Villumsen had fallen off the pace, and that’s when Stevens got the order to go.
“Linda wasn’t with us and Rene said, next lap just go knowing they are going to have to chase. I went and I think I had about 27 seconds but they’re a strong team and I’m not the best at going downhill quite yet.”
Cheatley and Corset jumped away to chase Stevens while Evans and her teammate Mara Abbott worked to reel everyone in with help from Willock and her teammate Amber Neben.
“Mara got to the front and set tempo for me, she kept me calm, she was like calm down get on my wheel, and she brought the two ahead of us back and kept the tempo high enough that nobody countered. It was one to go, I don’t know what the gap was maybe 20 seconds or so, Mara just kept the pace, she was the perfect teammate today, amazing.” said Evans.
Evans came around Abbott on the corners after the descent on the final lap and sprinted, uphill, to the finish line.
Cheatley took third in the stage.
In the end, Evans won the overall with 10 seconds on Stevens and 26 seconds on Corset. A miscalculation in the final results initially put Willock in third overall for the podium ceremonies.
Evans also won the Sprint competition while Stevens took home the QOH jersey and the Most Aggressive jersey. Villumsen won the Best Young Rider. Chloe Forsman (Specialized D4W/Bicycle Haus) won the Best Amateur. The TIBCO/To The Top team won the overall team classification.
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Top 10 Stage Results (Complete Results)
1. Evelyn Stevens (HTC Columbia) .50’06”
2. Shelley Evans (Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12) 14″
3. Catherine Cheatley (Colavita/Baci Pro Cycling Team) 16″
4. Meredith Miller (Team TIBCO) 17″
5. Erinne Willock (Webcor Builders) 17″
6. Ruth Corset (Team TIBCO) 17″
7. Kristin Sanders (Team Vera Bradley Foundation) 24″
8. Amber Neben (Webcor Builders) 24″
9. * Joelle Numainville (Webcor Builders) 29″
10. * Mara Abbott (Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12) 35″
Top 10 Final GC (Complete Results)
1. Shelley Evans (Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12) 6.16’07”
2. Evelyn Stevens (HTC Columbia) 10″
3. Ruth Corset (Team TIBCO) 26″
4. Erinne Willock (Webcor Builders) 26″
5. * Linda Melanie Villumsen (HTC Columbia) 37″
6. Catherine Cheatley (Colavita/Baci Pro Cycling Team) 47″
7. Meredith Miller (Team TIBCO) 53″
8. Amber Neben (Webcor Builders) 1’03”
9. Alison Powers (Team Vera Bradley Foundation) 1’10”
10. Kristin Sanders (Team Vera Bradley Foundation) 1’14”