Although known as a sprinter, Giorgia Bronzini (Colavita/Forno d’Asolo) has no problems with short steep climbs as she showed in Geelong when she won the World Championship which ended in a climb. Bronzini waited patiently in the lead group, reduced to 12 riders by the tough tempo set by the HTC-Highoad squad and then launched her blistering sprint the final time up Chilkoot Hill to win her third stage at the Nature Valley Grand Prix.
Evelyn Stevens (HTC-Highroad) who launched the attack on the final climb only to be passed by the World Champion, held on to second. Defending champion Kristin Armstrong (Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12) was third.
Yellow jersey Amber Neben, never really threatened during the stage, always surrounded by her HTC-Highroad teammates, claimed the overall win – her first at Nature Valley.
With the start line at the bottom third of the infamous Chilkoot hill, the women showed up early for staging, spending the next 15 minutes staring at that climb with its 20 percent average grade. It took its first victims early on when a dropped chain spelled disaster for a few who had to put a foot down and could never catch back up to the main field. At the front, TIBCO’s Joelle Numainville took a solo flyer which though quickly brought back, upped the pace and shelled more riders.
Five laps into the 13-lap race, the selection was made. In the front group were Neben and her teammates Stevens, Ally Stacher, Amanda Miller , Numainville and her teammate Erinne Willock (TIBCO/To The Top), Anne Samplonius (Now & Novartis for MS), Armstrong and her teammate Kristin McGrath, Best Amateur rider Jade Wilcoxson (Nature Valley Pro Ride) and Bronzini.
The HTC-Highroad riders controlled the front of the group with Stevens setting a mean tempo up the climb, watching behind her to make sure that no one was attacking. With great form, it was obvious that Stevens wanted to go for a solo flyer but as a good teammate, she stayed to defend the yellow. Stacher and Miller took over on the descent and the flats.
With one lap to go, Armstrong attacked on the climb but Bronzini and Stevens quickly closed the gap. Stevens was awarded the Most Aggressive jersey.
Neben won the overall, Willock was second and Armstrong third.
Leah Kirchmann (Colavita/Forno d’Asolo) won both the Sprint and QOH jerseys. Stacher took home the white Best Young Rider jersey while Wilcoxson won the Best Amateur classification which she has led since the first day. Not a surprise, HTC-Highroad won the team classification.
Giorgia Bronzini (Colavita/Forno d’Asolo). “I have no words to explain the race. I try to save my power for the last climb because I come here with all the best climbers and I’m a sprinter but maybe today, this climb is too short to get a difference. So I try only to follow and to do my best sprint in the final. It was hard, it’s the last and I most do the maximum to win.”
About racing in America. “One time I was in San Francisco when I was young, very hard. At that time, I was younger and the first experience in cycling and it was hard. But now, this month, I feel good in these races, the organization and all, I hope that some American girls can come to Europe to have a big experience with the best in the world. But I know that here we have already many jerseys so I’m so proud to be here with the American people.”
Compare to climb at the Worlds. “There was a climb like that one but longer, but we do 8 times not 13.” (laughs)
Evelyn Stevens (HTC-High Road). “I think we raced, it was like a dance almost. Ally, Amanda and Chloe just rode their hearts out. They always took it on the back, Amber stayed safe the whole thing and I would just take control on the climb. I think that no one could really get away, it was perfect teamwork, it was really exciting.”
How tough is the climb? “It depends on the day. Today it’s hard but it didn’t feel too bad. It was nice because Ally and Amanda did so much work on the backside that when I came to the climb, I had fresh legs, I had recovery, recovery and then boom up it.
About the final lap. “Armstrong attacked with one to go. Personally I was on her and I wanted to counter, but the yellow jersey comes first. I was looking for Amber, ‘can I go? can I not go?’ We rode conservatively, that was the most important thing to keep that jersey. And then I jumped back there on the descent but maybe I should have waited. But you have Bronzini and she’s the World Champion. Learning how to get her the next time. Personally this is my favorite race to do. It’s only 45 minutes, it’s just fun, awesome crowd, awesome fans. It was a really big team effort.”
About the team winning the yellow jersey. “Especially today Ally in Carla’s jersey. I think today we raced how Carla would have raced, she was just an amazing woman and I know that Ally was her best friend. I can’t think of someone else better than Ally Stacher to wear that jersey. The way she rode today, she rode her heart yesterday. This whole team, it’s been incredible, so for us to keep the yellow jersey is an honor.”
Kristin Armstrong (Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY12). “Every year on Stillwater, you can’t fake climbing this hill, it’s so steep so naturally it comes down to about 15 people. A lot of times, for the last 4 years I’ve been here and racing and won the stage, I definitely try to make a break and go for it. Today I have a lot of my mind, I have Thursday’s time trial at Nationals and so I just wanted to kind of sit and let Highroad do the work to protect the jersey. I knew that 50 seconds would be too difficult against Amber so for me, the only thing I could have gained today was a stage win for the team. I tried my best, I tried to go at 2 to go but everyone out there was really strong. I just couldn’t get that extra acceleration. Giorgia won the stage and that’s why she’s wearing the rainbow stripes, she’s fast, uphill or flats. Colavita had a good showing this week. I’m proud of my team, we’re ready to start relaxing and recovering for the big time trial on Thursday.”
Top 10 Stage 6 Results
1. Giorgia Bronzini (Colavita/Forno d’Asolo p/b Cooking Light) .51’14″
2. Evelyn Stevens (HTC-High Road) 1″
3. Kristin Armstrong (Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY12) 3″
4. Erinne Willock (Team TIBCO/To The Top) 4″
5. #Jade Wilcoxson (NVGP Pro Ride) 4″
6. Amber Neben (HTC-High Road) 6″
7. *Ally Stacher (HTC-High Road) 12″
8. Anne Samplonius (NOW And Novartis For MS) 14″
9. *Amanda Miller (HTC-High Road) 46″
10. *Joelle Numainville (Team TIBCO/To The Top) 48″
Top 10 Final GC
1. Amber Neben (HTC-High Road) 8.04’25″
2. Erinne Willock (Team TIBCO/To The Top) 19″
3. Kristin Armstrong (Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY12) 49″
4. *Ally Stacher (HTC-High Road) 1’06″
5. Evelyn Stevens (HTC-High Road) 1’10″
6. Anne Samplonius (NOW And Novartis For MS) 1’45″
7. #Jade Wilcoxson (NVGP Pro Ride) 1’45″
8. Giorgia Bronzini (Colavita/Forno d’Asolo p/b Cooking Light) 2’15″
9. *Amanda Miller (HTC-High Road) 2’35″
10. *Leah Kirchmann (Colavita/Forno d’Asolo p/b Cooking Light) 3’08″