Abbott captures elite women's road race crown at Seven Springs

Champion, Pa. (July 16, 2007)—Multi-time collegiate national champion Mara Abbott (Boulder, Colo./Webcor Builders) notched the biggest victory of her young career on Monday by winning the national championship in the elite women’s road race at the 2007 USA Cycling National Festival at Seven Springs presented by California Giant Berry Farms. Abbott won a head-to-head sprint over defending champion Kristin Armstrong (Boise, Idaho/Team Lipton) after 92 kilometers of racing to claim her first elite stars-and-stripes jersey.
 
Abbott, 21, was part of a six-woman breakaway late in the race that included Armstrong, a two-time winner of the event, 2003 winner Amber Neben (Irvine, Calif./Flexpoint), 2005 winner Katheryn Curi (Mountain View, Calif./Webcor Builders), Kori Seehafer (Louisville, Colo./Team Lipton) and Christine Thorburn (Menlo Park, Calif./Webcor Builders). After the final ascent that led to the finish line, only Armstrong and Abbott remained in contention and the two sprinted it out for the title of national champion with Abbott crossing the line first.
 
“I’ve never been thought of as a sprinter,” Abbott explained of her reputation as one of the nation’s top climbers. “Right now, nobody thinks I can sprint, but yesterday, my coach said he thought I could sprint.”
 
Abbott rode to a fifth-place finish at Seven Springs a year ago – a then-breakthrough performance at the elite level for one of the nation’s top collegiate cyclists. With a solid year of elite competition under her belt that included a second-place finish at the Montreal World Cup in May, Abbott returned to Seven Springs as one of the pre-race favorites to contend for a national title.
 
“I look at this race as being the one-year anniversary of becoming a good cyclist,” Abbott said. “Everything just felt right being back here and I proved to myself I could do it.”
 
With Team Lipton and Webcor Builders the two strongest teams on paper entering the contest, an early-race breakaway of Abbott and Armstrong rolled off the front of the peloton, but was eventually caught by a small chase group before a second two-woman breakaway of Curi and Seehafer was established. With Seehafer and Curi working well together, it appeared as though the move would keep its distance from the remaining chasers, but in the closing kilometers the pair was joined by Neben, Armstrong, Abbott and Thorburn. Eventually, Curi and Seehafer fell off the pace and a last-kilometer attack from Abbott left her and Armstrong alone to battle it out at the line. With 200 meters to go, Armstrong led out the sprint, but Abbott came around to take the victory.
 
“Kristin was so nice to me last year when I was first starting out,” Abbott said. “I told her it was good to have her back from Europe. I love having her here, but beating her in a sprint, which everyone said I couldn’t do, made it all much cooler.”
 
Behind the leaders, Neben, one of the strongest riders in the world who routinely competes at the national championships without any teammates as the sole American on the Dutch Flexpoint squad, placed third ahead of Thorburn and Curi.
 
Abbott earned two stars-and-stripes jersey with her victory, also claiming the U23 national title. Earlier in the week, she claimed the U23 time trial title, placing fourth overall in the race against the clock.
 
Abbott’s victory also meets the automatic nomination criteria for the U.S. National Team for the UCI Road World Championships this September in Germany, an accomplishment she already achieved with her second-place effort at the Montreal World Cup.
 
With the Olympic-caliber women’s field highlighting Monday’s competition, the elite men’s contest, featuring the nation’s top amateurs, was also contested. Paul Martin (North Royalton, Ohio/Texas Roadhouse), the 1997 elite men’s champion, rode to a national title in the 138-kilometer contest. 
 
Over the course of the event, significant natural selection pared the field down to just a handful of contenders as a five-man group containing Martin, Mike Olheiser (Huntsville, Ala./Memphis MotorWerks), James Mattis (Mountain View, Calif./Cal Giant-Specialized), Dan Cassidy (Burlington, Vt./CCB-Volkswagen) and Matthew White (Hadley, Mass./Fiordifrutta) emerged from the 100-plus rider field as the key contenders.
 
In the final-kilometer stretch – an uphill run to the finish – Martin, Olheiser and Mattis were together before Martin escaped to the line with an eleventh-hour surge. The winner of the master men's 35-39 race last week, Martin benefited from having already won a national title on the course’s final stretch.
 
“Generally I’m not a very good sprinter, but it was good preparation to see how the long climb to the finish played into the end of a race situation.” Martin explained.
 
Olheiser claimed the silver medal and Mattis took home the bronze.
 
The 2007 USA Cycling National Festival at Seven Springs presented by California Giant Berry Farms concludes on Tuesday with the final four national championship events – the junior men’s and women’s 10-12 and 13-14 road races.     
 
2007 USA Cycling National Festival at Seven Springs presented by California Giant Berry Farms
Champion, Pa.
July 6-17
 
Elite Women’s Road Race
1. Mara Abbott (Boulder, Colo.)
2. Kristin Armstrong (Boise, Idaho)
3. Amber Neben (Irvine, Calif.)
 
Elite Men’s Road Race
1. Paul Martin (North Royalton, Ohio)
2. Mike Olheiser (Huntsville, Ala.)
3. James Mattis (Mountain View, Calif.)
 
U23 Women’s Road Race
1. Mara Abbott (Boulder, Colo.)
2. Amy Dombroski (Boulder, Colo.)
3. Rachel Warner (Luray, Va.)
 
About USA Cycling
Recognized by the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Union Cycliste Internationale, USA Cycling promotes American cycling through its 60,000 members and 2,500 annual events. USA Cycling associations include the BMX Association (BMX), National Off-Road Bicycle Association (mountain bike), U.S. Cycling Federation (road/track), the National Collegiate Cycling Association and the U.S. Professional Racing Organization (professional men’s road). For more information, visit www.usacycling.org or contact USA Cycling Director of Communications, Andy Lee at 719-866-4867.


This Article Published July 16, 2007 For more information contact:
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