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by Neal Rogers
April 28, 2016
Photography by Dejan Smaic/Sportif Images
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.
Overall GC winner, Points winner, and U23 winner Neilson Powless (Axeon Hagens Berman) took home a suitcase full of jerseys and a bright future in cycling. Photo: Dejan Smaic.
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.”
Coryn Rivera (UnitedHealthcare) took a hotly contested sprint for Stage 3 sprint win, with Samantha Schneider (ISCorp) in second, and race leader Linda Villumsen (UnitedHealthcare) in third. Photo: Dejan Smaic.
Colombian Janier Acevedo (Jamis-Sutter Home), as he left Devil’s Den State Park on his way to take the stage win and leader’s jersey on Stage 1. Photo: Dejan Smaic.
World time trial champion Linda Villumsen (UnitedHealthCare) was second-to-last to leave the start ramp, and ended up with the fastest women’s time for the opening stage. Photo: Dejan Smaic.
The breakaway established over a minute on the field on Stage 2 as Tyler Magner (UnitedHealthcare) and Nicholas Torraca (Elevate) shared duties at the front. Photo: Dejan Smaic.
The field rolled across a steel girder bridge in the Arkansas countryside while a breakaway worked hard to establish a lead that eventually grew to six minutes. Photo: Dejan Smaic.
The action in the break heated up on Stage 2 with an attack by Coulton Hartrich (Support Clean Sport), Travis Livermore (Astellas), and Mac Brennan (Holowesko-Citadel). Photo: Dejan Smaic.
The break felt the pressure from a chase group and a charging field as Stage 2 wound down. In this photo, Andres Diaz (Cylance) worked on the front while Jamis riders Luis Amaran and Sebastian Haedo rode in the draft. Photo: Dejan Smaic.
Sebastian Haedo (Jamis-Sutter Home) took the Stage 2 win after a long day in the break, which was reeled in before the finish. Photo: Dejan Smaic.
The first serious break on Stage 3 consisted of Rocio Parrado (Weber Shimano Ladies Power), Kimberly Lucie (Canyon Elite), Beth Hernandez (Colavita-Bianchi), and Joanne Kiesanowski (TIBCO). However they were caught by a hard-charging group of select riders, led by race leader Linda Villumsen (UnitedHealthcare). Photo: Dejan Smaic.
A breakaway rolled away early on Stage 3 and built up a lead of four minutes. In the move: Barry Sitler (Astellas), Coulton Hartrich (Support Clean Sport), Phillip O’Donnell (Axeon Hagens Berman), Danny Summerhill (UnitedHealthcare), Robin Carpenter (Holowesko-Citadel), Jonathan Clarke (UnitedHealthcare), Tony Baca (Elbowz), and Brayan Sanchez (Jamis-Sutter Home). Photo: Dejan Smaic.
Sprint points were awarded every lap on Stage 3 as Philip O’Donnell (Axeon Hagens Berman) edged out Brayan Sanchez (Jamis-Sutter Home) for sprint points. Photo: Dejan Smaic.
A late-race attack on Stage 3 formed a four-man break comprising of Belarusian national champion Andrei Krasilnikau (Holowesko-Citadel), Oscar Clark (Holowesko-Citadel), Colin Strickland (Elbowz), and Andres Diaz (Clyance-InCycle). The group built up a 55-second lead until it was reeled in by the field. Photo: Dejan Smaic.
Stage 3 provided lots of action in the women’s race, with numerous breakaways and aggressive riding. The first serious break in the women’s field consisted of Rocio Parrado (Weber Shimano Ladies Power), Kimberly Lucie (Canyon Elite), Beth Hernandez (Colavita-Bianchi), and Joanne Kiesanowski (TIBCO). Photo: Dejan Smaic.
After spending most of Stage 3 off the front, the breakaway was reeled in by a hard-charging field on the final lap of the men’s race. Photo: Dejan Smaic.
After catching the breakaway and avoiding a late-race crash, Carlos Alzate (UnitedHealthcare) took the sprint for the Stage 3 win as teammate John Murphy came in for second. Photo: Dejan Smaic.
U.S. national criterium champion Lauren Tamayo (UnitedHealthcare) led the field through a series of turns while monitoring several riders off the front. Photo: Dejan Smaic.
Lauren Stephens (TIBCO) took a hard uphill finishing sprint for the win. Photo: Dejan Smaic.
Race leader Janier Acevedo (Jamis-Sutter Home), monitored the front as a three-man breakaway, including his teammate Eric Marcotte, was 35 seconds up the road. Photo: Dejan Smaic.
First! Sebastian Haedo (Jamis-Sutter Home) was first into the first corner on the first lap of Stage 4. Photo: Dejan Smaic.
A three-man break, comprising of Eric Marcotte (Jamis-Sutter Home), Dan Gardner (Astellas), and Andres Diaz (Cylance-InCycle) built up a 35-second lead on Stage 4. Photo: Dejan Smaic.
Racers wound their way through the historic downtown square of Fayetteville during the early laps of Stage 4. Riders at the front applied pressure to string out the field, while others attacked to establish a break. Photo: Dejan Smaic.
Early action on stage 4 saw the field chase down breaks, with U23 and GC leader leaders, Nigel Ellsay (Silber) and Janier Acevedo (Jamis-Sutter Home) staying close to the front. Photo: Dejan Smaic.
Danny Summerhill drove the UnitedHealthcare train during the final laps of the final stage, looking to set up teammate Carlos Alzate for the stage win. Photo: Dejan Smaic.
With the finishing stretch approximately 200 meters uphill from the final corner, Travis McCabe (Holowesko-Citadel) took the Stage 4 win against some of the best sprinters in North America. Nielson Powless (Axeon Hagens Berman) made up a seven-second deficit on the stage before sprinting to a runner-up finish. Those results delivered Powless to a four-second victory over Nigel Ellsay (Silber Pro Cycling ,in background). Photo: Dejan Smaic.