Carmen Small had to change a wheel, effectively taking her out of contention. So, the 36-year-old from Durango put her head down, charged to get back into the peloton and help as many of her American teammates as possible.
Coming off a disappointing 12th-place finish in the elite women’s time trial Tuesday at the 2016 UCI Road World Championships in Doha, Qatar, Small was back in action Saturday in the elite women’s road race.
The 2016 time trial national champion battled heat Tuesday, as teammate Amber Neben won gold, and heat again was a factor on a completely flat course for the road race. But a mechanical issue derailed Small’s ride, and Neben faded on the final lap of the 83.26-mile race that featured a seven-lap finish around a 9.44-mile circuit on Pearl Island. After helping teammate Coryn Rivera crack the top 20, Small finished in 29th.
“I think we raced well as a team (Saturday),” Small said in a message to The Durango Herald. “It was too bad that the finish didn’t go as planned.”
Neben made a gutsy move with two laps to go, and she quickly gained 50 seconds with the Australian and British teams chasing. Without a teammate to help, Neben’s strength wained, and the chase was hot on her back wheel with two laps to go.
After having to replace a wheel, Small charged back into the group and aided teammates, helping Rivera surge into a 16th-place finish, the best result for the U.S. Small finished 29th, and teammate Alexis Ryan was with her in 30th. Megan Guarnier, the first American woman to win a UCI World Tour, finished 27th.
Neben fell all the way back to 98th, and American Lauren Stephens took 83rd. Allie Dragoo of the U.S. did not finish. In all, 103 riders finished Saturday’s race.
Amalie Dideriksen of Denmark won the bunch sprint to the finish line in 3 hours, 10 minutes, 27 seconds to deliver her country’s first UCI gold in the elite women’s road race. She outsprinted the favorite, Kirsten Wild of the Netherlands, to win by half a wheel. Bronze went to Lotta Lepisto of Finland, and England’s Elizabeth Deignan finished just off the podium in fourth.
The UCI Road World Championships will conclude Sunday with the men’s elite road race.
As for Small, she is ready for a break after a long season competing in Europe, a team change and a losing arbitration battle with USA Cycling after not being selected for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“I’m glad to be heading home and ready for a good rest off the bike,” she said. “It’s been a good season and a lot of highs and lows. I’m ready for some time to enjoy Durango.”