CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — Alison Powers is the fastest woman on two wheels.
In the U.S., at least.
The reigning national criterium champion finished off a sweep at USA Cycling’s signature event on Monday, pulling away from the field in the final stretch to win the women’s road race just two days after she captured victory in the time trial.
Powers is the first rider to sweep the weekend since Kristin Armstrong in 2006.
“To have three national championships all at the same time, that’s unbelievable,” said Powers, who will try to defend her criterium championship in September.
“It’s a dream. My name will always be remembered in a good way. I don’t really know what else to say.”
Eric Marcotte held off teammate Travis McCabe to become the surprise men’s champion. Alex Howes finished third in a race that was marked by a serious crash involving time trial champion Taylor Phinney, who was transported to a hospital with a fractured bone in his left leg.
Phinney had planned to ride in the Tour de France later this summer.
Powers was among the favorites in the time trial, but even she acknowledged that she was a relative longshot in the unpredictable road race. But her UnitedHealthcare team rode perfectly for her, putting a rider in an early breakaway and forcing several contenders to use up energy.
The chase caught the break with just over a lap remaining in the finishing circuits through Chattanooga, and Powers decided to attack with five miles remaining and rode solo to victory.
She was followed across the line by Megan Guarnier, who won the race two years ago, and Evelyn Stevens, who stood on the podium for the first time after winning two time trial titles.
“I was very lucky my team rode a perfect race,” Powers said. “I very much wanted one of our UnitedHealthcare riders to win. I definitely did not think it would be me. But I knew I had a chance, and there are so many variables that can happen. Today, everything was on my side.”
The men’s road race may have summed up that unpredictability.
After winning Friday’s time trial, Phinney crashed hard during the first descent of Lookout Mountain. He lay under a guard rail beside the road while medical staff tended to him, and then was taken to a hospital, where he was undergoing surgery for two broken bones and a knee injury.
The race pressed on without him. Several riders tried to break away from the field, but everything bunched up one last time as they headed down the finish stretch.
Marcotte appeared to be trying to lead out McCabe, ensuring one of the SmartStop team’s riders would slip into the stars-and-stripes jersey. But he wound up powering right through the finish line, and McCabe swung wide and crossed in second place with Howes in third.
“It’s pretty unreal,” Marcotte said. “It hasn’t sunk in yet because it wasn’t even on my possibilities today until late in the race, when it started to look like, ‘Oh my God, if I play my cards right this could turn out well.’”
He wound up playing his cards perfectly.
Marcotte runs a chiropractic clinic in Arizona as his day job, which makes his victory with a relatively small team over a number of cyclists who ride exclusively all the more impressive.
“Hopefully for the team, this helps get us that exposure to keep growing the team, like some of the other squads out there,” he said. “As for myself, I have no idea, man. I have no idea.”