Abbott wins USA National RR 2007
Webcor rider takes 2007 USA National RR Championship
Multi-time collegiate national champion Mara Abbott (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 (Team Lipton) after 92 kilometres 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 (Team Flexpoint), 2005 winner Katheryn Curi (Webcor Builders), Kori Seehafer (Team Lipton) and Christine Thorburn (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 favourites 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 kilometres the pair was joined by Neben, Armstrong, Abbott and Thorburn. Eventually, Curi and Seehafer fell off the pace and a last-kilometre 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.
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