UnitedHeathcare Pro Cycling women’s team dominate Valley of the Sun
PHOENIX – It may still be February, but the 2018 road season has officially begun for the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling women, who scooped up multiple wins at the Valley of the Sun Stage Race last weekend. After claiming victory in the opening time trial, new signing Leah Thomas held her lead on GC to take overall victory, while teammate Lauren Hall sprinted to first place in the road race.
Thomas wins time trial and overall title, Hall claims stage win
“It was great to begin the season with a strong showing at Valley of the Sun,” Thomas said. “The team demonstrated unity and teamwork thorough out the weekend that allowed me to keep the leader’s jersey and gave UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling stage wins and podiums throughout the race. Team camp and this first race has laid a strong foundation that will be exciting to build on through the season.”
Stage by stage
A 14-mile (22.5km) flat out and back individual time trial set the stage for the race ahead, where Thomas took the win by 13 seconds ahead of Rally Cycling’s Sara Bergen. Lauretta Hanson finished in fourth place.
“After a great 10 days of training camp in Tucson, the team were all keen to get the racing started, and with a great field here in Phoenix, Valley of the Sun is an ideal race to test the legs and kick off the season,” team director Rachel Hedderman said. “Coming into the race as defending champion, the pressure was on Leah, and she put in a fantastic performance to take the win. With Lauretta continuing her early season form to take fourth and Katie just outside the top 10, we’re in a great position.”
Thomas said the opening Valley of the Sun time trial was an excellent test to help gauge her early season fitness and time trial position.
“Taking the top step, I am pleased with my effort, and with Lauretta Hanson sitting in fourth place, we will have some cards to play in tomorrow’s road race,” Thomas said. “I am looking forward to racing a dynamic stage with my teammates and working together to protect the overall lead.”
With Thomas in the lead, the following day’s 62-mile (99km) road race was met with the goal of maintaining the GC jersey, as well as going for the stage win. The plan worked, and Thomas came across the line with her jersey lead intact after her teammate Hall raised her arms in victory.
“After a chill first lap, the race was fairly aggressive, but no break had the right combination to allowed much leeway until the last lap, when a group of seven went clear,” Hedderman said. “We had Lauren (Hall) and Diana (Peñuela) in there. Back in the bunch we set a tempo to maintain the gap between 30 seconds and a minute. On the final climb, the break split under pressure from Tibco, but Lauren was able to hang on and sprint for a great win.”
A 40-minute criterum was the final test for the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling women that saw Tibco’s Lex Albrecht off the front for the majority of the race. Because Albrecht wasn’t in GC contention, the move was allowed about 15 seconds advantage before a crash neutralized the race. When the race restarted the dynamic changed, creating a more aggressive environment, but it all came together for a bunch sprint. Hanson powered to third place, giving UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling yet another stage podium.
“With the overall GC win, two stage wins, and a third place, Valley of the Sun was a great way to start the season,” Hedderman said. “The teamwork and momentum that we built during camp in Tucson showed through from the start and sets the stage for a great season.”
The women’s team will come together in Anniston, Alabama to race Sunny King Criterium in early April.