Paige Onweller took the biggest result of her season with a solo victory at Big Sugar Gravel, the sixth and final round of the LifeTime Grand Prix on Saturday in Bentonville, Arkansas.
Onweller was alone crossing through the 73-mile marker and maintained her lead through the finish covering the 104.1-mile race in a winning time of 5:33:05. She finished the race six minutes ahead of runner-up Emily Newsom and 12 minutes ahead of Alexis Skarda.
How it unfolded
The 104.1-miler route began in downtown Bentonville, Arkansas, and travelled westward and north into southern Missouri before looping back to the start-finish area.
Organisers designed one of the most challenging gravel courses featuring 7,000ft of elevation gain held across rarely maintained and canopy-covered gravel roads with loose, rocky gravel, a few water crossings and bridges that also made for one of the most picturesque routes on the LifeTime Grand Prix Series.
The first official checkpoint was at mile 37.7 in Pineville, Missouri, where the Little Sugar Creek and Big Sugar Creek merge and form the Elk River.
The second checkpoint was at mile 73.8 and had the riders in the predicted headwind as they pushed on by a local brewery nestled in a tiny hamlet located less than five miles from the return across the Arkansas border.
The peloton set out onto the rolling hills of the Ozark mountain countryside under a blanket of clouds and strong winds blowing 20 miles per hour from the south, which would become a headwind for the finish.
After 20 miles of racing, the field split up with small groups of favourites that included Ruth Winder, Alexis Skarda, Sofia Gomez Villafane, Emily Newsom, Flavia Oliveira Parks, Sarah Sturm, Rose Grant, Paige Onweller, Katie Kantzes, overall leader Haley Smith, Whitney Allison, Hannah Otto, Maeghan Easler, Lauren De Crescenzo, Cecily Decker, Maude Farrell, Heather Jackson, Evelyn Dong, Rebecca Fahringer, Amity Rockwell, Amy Phillips, Hannah Shell, Amber Neben, Kristen Legan.
At the 73-mile marker, however, Onweller was in the lead.
More to follow…