Alison Powers (NOW and Novartis for MS) did the exact same time on stage 3 of the SRAM Tour of the Gila, the time trial than she did in 2010, a 39:18 on the 16.15 miles (26km) course. A time that delivered a win in 2010 but not this year with a strong Kristin Armstrong (Exergy Twenty12) in the field. Powers finished in second place.
“Two years ago, it was so windy and it was cold too and I really like that because, I don’t like it but I like it because it makes the soft people even softer. So I like the more wind, the better. Today was good, I went hard. I was talking to Anne and it just felt like I didn’t have the extra suffer gear, and maybe that’s from the two days of hard racing. I went hard, my bike and everything worked well.” Powers told podiuminsight after the stage.
Armstrong blazed her way on the out and back course and 1,188 feet (362 m) of climbing to finish with a time of 37:13. On her way to her third win, Armstrong passed multiple riders including Powers.
“She passed me actually at the start of the downhill.” Powers explained. “And I like to feel that the downhill is my best card, when she passed me, it was like damn it. She’s so strong. It was a nice carrot, keep the pressure, don’t let her get too big of a gap. So that was actually nice, it kept me pedaling hard.”
Armstrong has an (almost) unassailable lead in the GC with 5:01 on Carmen Small (Optum-KBS) who finished third in the TT. Powers sits in third overall, reducing her gap to Small to 29 seconds.
Powers’ team has been aggressive, launching riders off the front time and time again for the first two stages.
“That’s how we like to race.” smiled Powers.
Armstrong was able to resist all attacks, even taking it upon herself to go in breaks. Powers said that her team has not changed how they approach their racing with such a strong opponent.
“You have to make her tired. We’re not here to race for second and so that’s why we try to go up the road, make breaks, made her team work, make her work. It hasn’t worked so far.” she laughed. “She’s real strong but we’re here to race, we don’t want to just sit in and be happy with second or third place overall.”
In past years, many of the women races have started piano but Powers and her team attack early and attack often. In the first stage, her teammate Anne Samplonius tried to escape the field as soon as the race started. How do the others feel about these tactics?
“Maybe they get annoyed, maybe they like it.” Powers replied. “Two days ago, we were an hour faster, it was helpful with the wind and everything else but we started attacking. I haven’t heard anything. I know at Sea Otter they were like, oh you’re going to rip our legs off every single day but here it’s a little bit stronger.”
The NOW and Novartis for MS and Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies are battling Armstrong and battling each other, each team attacking the front. However, Powers states that she is not marking Small but rather racing her own race.
Two more stages left with the Downtown Silver City Criterium on Saturday with 19 seconds of time bonus available. The plan for Powers is to race and not wait for the final stage. “Every day is a race and we like crits.”
Then Sunday is the Queen Stage, the Gila Monster. “Kristin will go real hard at the base of the climb, she’ll get a gap and ride to win. For real, that’s what she’s done every year I’ve ever raced with her.” Powers predicted.
She added, “The first part is real steep and that’s hard for me. So after the first one or two miles, that it’s an easier grade and better for me.”
And the plan on Sunday is to “isolate people.”