WALLA WALLA, Wash. - Competing on wet and treacherous streets in Stuttgart, Germany, Whitman's Mara Abbott placed 45th Saturday in the women's road race at the World Cycling Championships.
Abbott, the U.S. national champion, finished just behind U.S. teammate Christine Thorburn, a 2004 Olympian. The two Americans were at the back of a group that finished one minute, nine seconds behind the winner, Italy's Marta Bastianelli.
"The World Championships are such a huge event with so much at stake for the various national teams," Michael Engleman, director of the U.S. Women's Cycling Development Program, said following the race. "For Mara, I'm sure this was the most difficult race she's ever been in. With her relative inexperience, I'm sure it was even more difficult, but she finished well and not that far back. That tells me she gave it everything she had. I'm enormously proud of her."
Bastianell's winning time for the 83-mile race was three hours, 46.34 minutes. Marianne Vos of the Netherlands was the runner-up, about six seconds back. Italian riders also placed third and fifth. The Italian team, Engelman said, "rode a very aggressive race and it certainly paid off for them."
A total of 81 riders finished the race, which featured a number of crashes and mishaps as riders completed a total of seven laps on a course lined with thousands of race fans. About 60 riders were knocked or dropped out of the race.
Recent Olympians Kristin Armstrong and Amber Neben gave the U.S. team its top two finishes. As part of the lead group, Armstong was 13th and Neben 16th.
Members of each national team support one another as part of an overall strategy of getting as many riders as possible into a position to win, Engleman said. Depending on which teammates are having the best race, other members of that team may fall into a more supportive role, he added. "Mara may have spent much energy helping get Kristin and Amber into the final break."