Claudia Häusler won the final stage of the inaugural Exergy Tour in downtown Boise. The stage victory marks Häusler's first win of the season and the first victory of the Orica-GreenEDGE outfit on North American soil.
"Our plan had been well articulated even before we started the race five days ago," said Sports Director Martin Barras. "We knew we were down on strength without Linda [Villumsen] here. Having looked at the set up the race and the strength of the other teams present, we identified our objective of winning this stage. It's pleasing to be able to accomplish this goal."
The fourth stage of the Exergy Tour started and finished in front of large, enthusiastic crowds in downtown Boise. The course covered three laps of a hilly circuit that featured three short but significant climbs. An out and back took riders from the start to the circuit and from the circuit to the finish.
Shara Gillow, the team's top placed rider on the general classification in fifth overall, was involved in a crash at the gun. The pile-up eliminated a handful of riders before the race had gotten truly underway. Gillow was able to remount her bike and chase back to the field.
A three rider break formed after the first QOM on lap one. Eveyln Stevens (Specialized-lululemon), Megan Guarnier (Team TIBCO / To The Top) and Fabiana Luperini (Faren Honda) gained a maximum advantage of 30 seconds before the field reeled them in ahead of the first intermediate sprint.
Clara Hughes (Specialized-lululemon) and Taylor Wiles (Exergy Twenty12) countered the catch and went up the road ahead of the feed zone. Hughes and Wiles established an advantage that would hover around one minute for nearly two laps.
"Clara and Taylor were amazingly strong staying out front for so long," said Häusler. "The race behind was also very fast and tiring everyone. The group became smaller and smaller with each kilometer. As we were about to catch the small break, I knew it was a hot situation and time to be extra aware."
The whittled down field caught Hughes and Wiles slightly ahead of the field zone. A 16-rider group solidified with 18 kilometers left to race.
"I stayed at the back of the group," explained Häusler. "It's often the safest to be at the front, but this group was small enough that I could see everything from the back. Shara set tempo through the feed zone, and it was the perfect time to attack. Evelyn [Stevens] (Specialized-lululemon) jumped on the left hand side of the road, and I went straight to her wheel over the top of the climb."
The duo zipped downhill together, trading pulls. Their efforts quickly netted them a one minute advantage.
"The time went up to one minute pretty quickly," Häusler noted. "We stayed with this gap after that. During the final three kilometers we felt pretty confident that we would make it to the finish, and that's when I started to concentrate on the sprint. I started to concentrate on how I would win the stage."
The final kilometer included a left-hand corner ahead of a flat finishing straight.
"I knew I needed to make my own sprint," explained Häusler. "I did not want to let Evie do her sprint and react to her. I had worked out that I wanted to come through the corner in second wheel and open my sprint from there. I jumped 175 meters ahead of the line. Evie was not able to come around me."
Although Stevens was forced to settle for second in the sprint, she earned the overall victory for her efforts in the break. Häusler moved up to sixth overall while Gillow, who finished with the group behind the break, moved up one spot to fourth to give GreenEDGE-AIS two riders in the top-ten overall after the five day tour.
"I am so happy right now," said Häusler. "Thank you to the team for all their hard work. This was a hard race today, and I'm very excited to have been able to take a win for the team."
In addition to expressing gratitude towards her team, Häusler lavished praise towards the race organization and the communities in which she raced.
"It's easy to see people put their hearts into this race," said Häusler. "From the start, when we arrived and they picked up from the airport, things have been seamless. All the little things they have done to make us feel welcome and comfortable help us feel happy here. It's amazing to get into the car and see that the stage starts and finishes are already programmed into the GPS. We received presents every night after dinner. Fans thanked us for coming to Idaho. This is not usual. It does not happen at every race. I'm already happy to come back next year."