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WOLLONGONG, Australia (VN) — Veronica Ewers got a crash course in worlds road racing Saturday after the American made her debut in the stars and stripes jersey.
The 28-year-old was the last woman standing of the seven-woman U.S. squad in the front group, eventually getting dropped as the bunch broke apart on the final ascent up Mount Pleasant. In the end, she crossed the line in the same group as Marianne Vos (Netherlands) at 13 seconds behind winner Annemiek van Vleuten.
It wasn’t quite what Ewers, or the team had hoped for, but it was an opportunity to learn.
“We definitely wanted more. I think positioning wise we maybe weren’t the best and just not having as many numbers ahead as we thought we might have. It’s how the day played out,” Ewers told VeloNews. “I think the third to last time up the climb, the two of us [Ewers and Leah Thomas -ed] found each other in the front group and so we just tried to stay ahead as much as possible.”
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Ewers was selected as one of the leaders for Team USA at the UCI Road World Championships following a breakout season that saw her claim her first professional victories, and she was an outside bet for the podium.
Co-leader Kristen Faulkner had a difficult day on the bike after a tough second half to the season and she finished over 12 minutes down.
The 164.3km road race played out quite differently to how many people anticipated ahead of time. With Van Vleuten riding on a broken elbow after crashing during the mixed TTT relay, her expected early attack didn’t come.
Instead, the tempo over the major climb of Mount Keira was much more sedate and the race exploded far later on the finishing circuits around Wollongong.
“I just tried to break the race into a couple of parts, the Mount Keira loop and then a couple of circuits. Going into it, it wasn’t very predictable going into Mount Keira. It was either going to be full gas or pretty relaxed,” Ewers said.
“It ended up being pretty relaxed and most of the peloton could get over the climb meaning that going into the circuits was pretty hectic. It was a lot of attrition going up Mount Pleasant and also just positioning well and making sure that … we did that circuit so many times and you know what corner is coming up and it’s making sure that you’re in the right position.”
The road race in Wollongong was the first time that Ewers has raced as part of the national team after only turning professional late last season. It was an opportunity to race with riders that he’s normally competing against, and despite the slight disappointment with the result, she enjoyed the experience.
“Oh man, it was epic. It was really amazing to be here and representing the USA. It’s the first time that I’ve ever experienced the environment of riding for nations as teams,” she said. “It was really cool and seeing the camaraderie between competitors normally on trade teams. Leah and myself having roomed together this whole week and being on a team has been a really fun experience.”