Guarnier & Daniel celebrate USA Cycling Pro Road Race National Championships

May 29, 2016
Category: Women's Races  National Championships 

Less than a week after using a Stage 1 victory and consistently high placings to pave the way to the overall win at the Amgen Tour of California Women’s Race empowered with SRAM, Megan Guarnier (Boels Dolmans) won her second consecutive Volkswagen Professional Road National Championship in Winston-Salem, North Carolina on Saturday. For the 31-year-old from Glens Falls, New York, it was her third career national title dating back to 2012. In the men’s event, 21-year-old Greg Daniel (Axeon Hagens Berman) won his first USA Cycling Pro Road National Championship, launching himself to triumph with a perfectly-timed attack in the final 800 meters on the climb to the finish.

 "When we hit that final climb up Manly Road, I just sat on, expecting a move. There wasn't a move that went, so I thought maybe everyone else was tired. So I just decided to test my legs and no one followed. I tried not to look back, but when I looked back and saw a gap, I just thought I needed to go full gas. I knew at that point I couldn't sprint. So I just kept going to the line," said Daniel, of Sylva, North Carolina, who finished five seconds ahead of Alex Howes (Cannondale) and Travis McCabe (Holowesko-Citadel).

Before Saturday’s coronation, Daniel’s best result came at the 2014 Amgen Tour of California when he finished second on Stage 4. At the national championship race, he was part of a two-man squad with Logan Owen, who was first to initiate a missive on the last lap.

"I was talking to Greg going into the final lap and he said he was feeling good and wanted to go for it," said Owen, who would ultimately finish 8th. "I trusted him and he trusted me to follow through on what we were going to do and it worked out perfectly. Either Greg or I could have won today. We had perfect teamwork. It could not have gone any better just working with two of us."

The men’s race unfolded over 187km on a hot and humid day. Daniel explained, "It was aggressive all day, which played to my strength. When the pace slows down, I just like to keep going hard. I just felt good all day and made sure to keep hydrated. I was worried about cramping and knew it was going to be humid and hot. So the best thing for me was to get in the break because I am not a sprinter.”

In the end, Daniel’s intuitive attack created the necessary separation to claim the title in a time of 4:21:39.   

“In the last lap, it was Logan off the front, so I could just relax and not do anything. When he got caught, there were a few moves off the front, but I think everyone was just kind of tired at that point. I was just following wheels,” said an elated Daniel, still trying to process his victory, which comes with the right to wear a stars & stripes jersey for the next year. “I think deep down I didn’t think it was possible, like maybe there’s a 0.1% chance. I had really good legs today, but I still can’t believe it. I’m expecting myself to wake up in bed thinking, ‘Oh yea, that’s just a dream.’”

For the second year in a row, Guarnier, who leads the UCI WorldTour rankings after her GC victory in California, came to the line with Coryn Rivera (UnitedHeathcare) with Mandy Heintz (Visit Dallas DNA) completing the podium.

“The course wasn’t super selective so it was never going to be hard enough to force a selection,” said Guarnier, who formed a potent pairing with Boels Dolmans teammate Evelyn Stevens, winner of the 2015 Amgen Tour of California Women’s Time Trial. “This course favored tactics over strength, and tactical options are limited when we’re only two against teams with five, six, seven, eight riders. We had to play it cool and count on other teams to do the work.”    

The two-woman squad reeled in a threatening break on the second of nine laps (140km), but otherwise minimized their exposure at the front to conserve energy for the finish.

“I wasn’t worried too much about the energy I’d expend on the front. You either do it and gamble about spending energy early or you don’t and maybe you’ve lost the race because you didn’t put in the effort. I knew it wasn’t going to happen again. It snapped us into attention,” Guarnier shared, whose winning time was 3:48:20.

With a break attempting to stay clear on the final lap, Guarnier put herself in position to contest the finale. “It was single file going into the final stretch and I just kept following wheels. Initially, there was a lead-out of a bunch of riders on the left and I jumped on that. When it lost momentum, I had to check up and when I checked up, I saw Tayler Wiles (ORICA-AIS) come flying up the right with Coryn on her wheel so I jumped on that. I got boxed in on the right and had to find my way out to finish it off.”
    
Rivera started her sprint first before Guarnier rocketed around the 23-year-old Californian, opening a one-second gap on the line. “I’m really happy that I could pull it off two years in a row. I wasn’t sure if I could,” said Guarnier, who expects to be in Rio in August for the Olympic Games representing Team USA. “I’m just doing what I always do. I’m always trying to be better. I’m always putting in the hard work. The results may be better than they used to be, but I’m still the same Megan. I’m still the same Calimero. I’m just out there doing my job and loving what I do.”   

And it shows.