Katie Hall claimed victory on stage two of the Amgen Breakaway From Heart Disease after out climbing Anna van der Breggen (Boels Dolmans) by 21 seconds on the final ascent up to Heavenly Ski Resort.
The move landed Hall in the yellow jersey leading van der Breggen, who won gold in the 2016 Olympic road race, by 3 seconds heading into the penultimate stage in Sacramento.
“I’m so happy to be in this jersey. Right now I’m just enjoying the moment,” said Hall, who began the day in ninth place, 20 seconds behind previous leader Megan Guarnier (Boels Dolmans).
Krista Doebel-Hickok (Cylance) finished third on the stage and Ruth Winder took fourth, both 37 seconds back. Winder’s efforts put her into the Tag Heuer best young rider jersey.
“This is a really special race, and wearing the best young rider jersey is great in any race I do, but this is a really cool feeling to have it here,” Winder said.
The 108 km stage started with a few attacks being shut down by Boels Dolmans and Team Sunweb, but it was on the Cat. 1 ascent on “The Grade” where the action really began. At five km to the summit, Hall accelerated taking Coryn Rivera (Sunweb) and van der Breggen along. Rivera quickly lost contact and fell back into the chase group.
With Hall and van der Breggen up the road, Megan Guarnier (DLT) was forced to chase while Rivera, Tayler Wiles (UHC), Ruth Winder (UHC), Arlenis Sierra (ASA), Kristabel Doebel-Hickok (CPC) and Martina Ritter (DRP) followed.
“That climb had Katie’s name written all over it,” team director Rachel Heal said. “It was one she had to be patient on at the beginning. The first part of the climb would do damage on its own, then Katie could go on the attack toward the second half.”
Hall wavered when van der Breggen surged at the bottom of the final descent gaining 15 seconds, but Hall eventually caught and passed the Dutch rider after encouragement from her team.
“After Anna attacked, I really thought I lost it,” Hall said. “But I saw her slow down on the final climb and thought ‘I have a little bit more left, I can go.’ I had both Ruth and Rachel in my ear telling me to dig as deep as I could and that really helped me.”
At three seconds, it’s a slim lead for Hall, but Heal is confident the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling team can rise to the challenge.
“I think we will have some incidental allies, riders that are looking for sprint wins at the end of the next two stages which I think will help us,” Heal said.
“We’ve had an incredible amount of success and the team is hugely confident, we’re really on a roll. But going into this race, I was still trying to manage expectations. We’re not racing against a U.S. field, we’re racing against a world-class field. Yesterday I said to them, ‘you’ve proven you can ride with the best in the world.’ To be able to actually beat them is such a great feeling.”