Photographer/Contributor: Tim Westmore
The big guns in women’s cycling came to Merco for some early season racing, and fans were not left disappointed. Tayler Wiles (Specialized-lululemon) took the win shortly ahead of her teammate, Olympian Evelyn Stevens.
Stevens and Wiles were the final survivors of a break that included Andrea Dvorak (Exergy 2016), Lauren Hall (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies), and Alison Powers (NOW and Novartis for MS). In the final stretch of the race, Powers worked with Stevens and Wiles, while her NOW and Novartis for MS team kept the overall lead with a manageable gap. Although the risky tactics paid off with a podium spot, it will be a challenge for Powers and her squad to improve on her third place in the GC, since Stevens an Wiles are two of the best time trialists in the business.
Going into the final lap, Stevens attacked the break and looked to be on her way to victory. Powers took the bait and fell into the Specialized-lululemon net. “Coming over the top of the climb, Alison Powers was chasing Evie down and I just sat on her wheel until we got within 30 feet of Evie,” said Wiles about her winning move. “I attacked off of Powers’ wheel and Evie and I got away. We knew we would be aggressive on the climbs and wanted to get me and Evie in a break.”
As Wiles and Stevens crossed the line, they flashed some Peter Sagan-like gang signs in support of their sponsors. “I sat on Tayler’s wheel and plotted our victory salute,” said Stevens when asked about their finish-line performance.
Dvorak and Hall rode in almost two minutes down on Wiles, while the remainder of the field sprinted in almost 3:30 down on the leaders. Beth Newell (NOW and Novartis for MS) was the top NorCal rider, a few spots ahead of Flavia Olivera (DNA Cycling p/b Plan7), who finished in 12th.
Powers sits 21 seconds behind Wiles, and, even if she rides a perfect time trial on Friday, still has to contend with Evie Stevens sitting only four seconds down from Wiles. Expect the NOW team to attack the Saturday crit and Sunday road race relentlessly, now that the prize list has increased another $2500 thanks to Davis Phinney and his foundation. Phinney, who is married to former Olympic gold medalist Connie Carpenter, announced Thursday night that he would be donating to the purse, sending a ripple of excitement through the peloton and Twitter.
Top 10 after Stage 1:
- Tayler Wiles
- Evelyn Stevens (4″)
- Alison Powers (21″)
- Andrea Dvorak (1’55”)
- Lauren Hall (2’03”)
- Brianna Walle (3’25”)
- Leah Kirchmann
- Beth Newell
- Joanne Kiesanowki
- Alexis Ryan
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