19-year-old Nielson Powless takes first UCI stage race in dramatic fashion
Axeon Hagens Berman rider Neilson Powless scored his first UCI stage race victory in dramatic fashion, winning the four-stage Joe Martin Stage Race in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
The 19-year-old from Roseville, California, made up a seven-second deficit on the final stage by earning a pair of time bonuses during the 85-minute criterium before sprinting to a runner-up finish. Those results delivered Powless to a four-second victory over Nigel Ellsay (Silber Pro Cycling) while Janier Acevedo, who had held the overall lead for Jamis-Sutter Home since winning the opening time trial, finished third overall, five seconds back.
“This is awesome,” Powless said in a team release. “It pretty much all came down to the time bonuses. I knew going into the last lap that I didn’t have enough seconds to take the win. So [teammate] Geoffrey Curran gave me a full lap lead out to the base of the climb. I was going back and forth all the way to the line with Travis McCabe (Holowesko-Citadel) and Carlos Alzate (UnitedHealthcare). It came down to a bike length between the three of us as we all threw our bikes at the line.”
Powless, winner of the Stage 3 time trial at the Redlands Classic, said Curran acted as road captain all day, coordinating the team’s efforts. “Geoffrey was keeping track of the sprint laps for me,” Powless said. “I actually went a lap early on the first one but Geoffrey and I had pretty much gone off the front. So I took a gamble and stuck it out there for another lap. Luckily, I had enough in the tank to win that one and take three seconds.”
A breakaway group nabbed the second of the three time bonus sprints before Curran again set up Powless, this time by overtaking UnitedHealthcare’s sprint train to finish second to Robin Carpenter (Holowesko-Citadel) and earn two more seconds. Curran said he and Powless also avoided a last-lap crash as Powless rode away with the “best young rider” white jersey and the green jersey for the sprint classification.
“Today was about improving on everything we had done at Redlands and making it happen here,” Curran said. “We are a team with solid sprinters but we aren’t 180-pound monsters who can win everything. So for us to do that takes a lot of opportunism and teamwork to make it happen.”
The month of April was remarkable for Powless, who raced mountain bikes internationally until last year. He won the time trial when he was runner-up at Redlands, and placed third overall at the San Dimas Stage Race the week before that.
Rivera takes overall as UHC dominates with three stage wins
The women of the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team had a successful campaign at the Joe Martin Stage Race. The squad came into the final stage defending leads in both the general and team classifications. They succeeded on both fronts, with Coryn Rivera taking eight seconds in time bonuses on the final stage to take over the GC lead from teammate Linda Villumsen. Villumsen took second on the GC, ensuring UnitedHealthcare also won the team classification.
The criterium was held in downtown Fayetteville, with a punchy finishing climb that made for a tough test after three days of racing. With three stage wins already in the bank, and with Villumsen and Rivera sitting 1-2 on the top of the general classification, the team had multiple cards to play. After a successful late-race solo attack by the 2015 winner Lauren Stephens (TIBCO), the UnitedHealthcare train rode at the front of the peloton to keep the advantage in check before setting up Rivera for the field sprint. Rivera bided her time on the sharp finish climb, and succeeded in coming across the line at the head of the field, taking second on the stage and taking eight crucial seconds of time bonuses to seal the victory. Stephens finished third overall.
Rivera was pleased with the team’s performance, and happy to add an overall victory to her resume.
“Personally, I wouldn’t call myself a GC rider, but the racing and courses at Joe Martin really suit my strengths,” she said in a team release. “Going into the last stage we had really good cards to play with Linda in the lead and myself in second. Following attacks on the intermediate sprints and finishing second on the day resulted in Linda and I swapping places on GC, but what was most important was that we, as a team, came away with the GC win this weekend.”
Villumsen took the opening day’s time trial victory as the only rider to break the 11-minute barrier on a short and punchy course. The performance hints at the training Villumsen has been putting in behind the scenes on the run up to her biggest goal of the year, the individual time trial at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Coming into the final stage, Villumsen worked selflessly in pursuit of the overall win for the team, even if that meant teammate Rivera took the honors instead, “Coryn is going really strong at the moment, she managed to win after also working quite hard, and that is just impressive,” Villumsen said. “So all together, with a 1-2 overall and three stage wins, I think we should be very happy, and hopefully also bring good momentum toward the next block of racing.”