Megan Guarnier on Leading the Women's World Tour: I Never Thought we'd be in this Situation - Total Women's Cycling

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Megan Guarnier on Leading the Women’s World Tour: I Never Thought we’d be in this Situation

Those around the WWT leader of course are considerably less surprised at her success

American rider Megan Guarnier leads the UCI Women’s World Tour (WWT) in its inaugural year, having collected a jaw dropping 886 points to sit on the top step ahead of her World Champion team mate Lizzie Armitstead on 545.  

Since the beginning of the season, the 31-year-old has reclaimed her National Road Race title, won the Tour of California and the Giro Rosa general classifications. The latter being a title she’s steadily worked her way towards, having taken third place last year.

“[At the start of this season] I would have never thought that we would have been in this situation [with me leading the WWT].”

Her achievements have been huge. And no one is more surprised than the Boels-Dolmans rider herself. Giggling at the happy seeming accident, she tells me: “[At the start of this season] I would have never thought that we would have been in this situation [with me leading the WWT]. But I guess the people around me are much less surprised than me. They’re like: ‘of course, Megan’. So I think the people around me have a better view of the situation than I do at some points.”

Guarnier’s rise to World Tour leader has clearly not been an accident. Her success is more accurately referred to as the product of years of hard graft, determination, and a refusal to give up. The temptation might have reared its head when Gaurnier missed out on Olympic selection in 2012 – despite being the National Road Race Champion at the time, but she didn’t give in. Four years on and she’s well and truly going to Rio, something that’s been a dream since she was five years old.

For me, the results never came fast enough. Leading the Women’s World Tour or winning the Giro Rosa doesn’t feel that different for me.”

Looking back over her career thus far, she tells me: “For me, the results never came fast enough. Leading the Women’s World Tour or winning the Giro Rosa doesn’t feel that different for me. It just feels like a natural progression of things that I just attribute to my coaches’ overall view of my training and progression. I was always just trying to take the next step and be a bit better each year – and that started way back in 2008 when I began working with Corey [Corey Hart – Guarnier’s coach].”

Pro-Files: Megan Guarnier on the importance of mental training

Speaking about her discomfort and frustration when the results ‘never seemed to come fast enough’ she tells me: “Of course when you’re putting in the hours and putting in the time, you hope that you win bike races. But that’s not at all what happens. It takes a lot of work and a lot of failures to learn how to be successful and to learn how to use your strengths in bike racing. With Corey he had a lot of time with me on the phone, just asking ‘why am I not winning?’ and ‘why am I not on the podium’? and ‘what am I doing wrong’? And it’s just believing in the process and believing that I would get better. And at the same time it was frustrating for years, but that’s what makes you grow and makes you want to keep training, keep getting better and keep learning.”

Guarnier crossing the finish line, now even further up on the UCI Women's World Tour Standings

Many athletes might feel tempted to move to another coach after nine years – and Guanier confirms that was certainly a comment she heard: “People told me: ‘yea you should probably change coach every 4 or 5 years’ – but at the same time, my coach knows me, he knows how to train me, and I always believed that he had a whole plan and oversight of progression and it was just continuing to believe in that, whether it was going well or whether it was not going well. I think he’s a genius, which is why I’ve stuck with him.”

“I don’t see myself as being this great ‘World Tour Leader’ or this thing other people see, I just see somebody who is working towards being the best they can be.”

Guarnier talks less about winning, and beating others, than any rider I’ve ever spoken to. Her focus seems more internally placed – upon bettering herself to a level where the top step is the only appropriate position for her to hold as opposed to pushing anyone else off it. She tells me: “I just feel like there’s always something to improve upon. There’s always something to be better at. I’m still continuing to improve and learn and train hard, and get better. When I still feel like there’s that little bit more I don’t see myself as being this great ‘World Tour Leader’ or this thing other people see, I just see somebody who is working towards being the best they can be.”

Gallery: Boels-Dolmans Launch With Fairytale Presentation

A Day in the Team Car with Boels-Dolmans at the Aviva Women’s Tour

Guarnier has been a part of Boels-Dolmans cycling team since 2014, and it’s a team that shares her mentality in striving to be the very best. Now enjoying their third season of racing, the core of the team has remained unchanged, but the results have been remarkable to watch this year. Guarnier told me: “Danny [Danny Stam – the team DS] told me he wanted to create the best women’s team in the world. At that time [at the end of 2013/start of 2014] we were a far cry from being the best women’s team in the world. But Danny just had this ability to see women’s attributes on and off the bike, and bring women together, and there’s just this really great camaraderie in the team. It comes from a place of respect on and off the bike. And knowing how to race together. And I think that’s really the strength of our team. The core of Boels-Dolmans has been together for three years now and I feel like for every one of us everything we put into the team, we get back. That’s what creates the really incredible atmosphere the success we’ve had this year.”

Guarnier extended her lead in the UCI Women's World Tour competition at the Giro Rosa

Of course, at the Olympic Games in Rio each team member racing in the technical one day event will be competing for her country, and not her trade team. After the disappointment of 2012, Guarnier is firing on all cylinders this year and is quick to tell me that that good results have not made her “complacent” at all in training. She adds: “If I hadn’t been going as well as I have been I would have more questions about my fitness and my ability. But at the same time Rio is a totally different animal to what we’ve seen any day this year, or ever.”

The race is also a little different for the women’s peloton than it is for the men’s, despite sharing the same course (albeit shorter due to fewer laps). Guarnier argues it’s of greater importance, due to the lack of publicity and media attention women’s cycling gets over the rest of the year. She explains: “I think for the women the Olympics is more of an important race in our sport. The men have the Grand Tours, the Tour de France, the Giro, the Vuelta – and those are more the huge goals for men’s cycling. For women’s cycling, along with the World Championships, the Olympics is up there with the be all and end all of our sport.”

She adds: “Personally I’ve always wanted to go to the Olympics ever since I was 5 years old, so of course this is a pretty big deal for me. And I think in Rio I’ll just have to use all of my experience in order to make a good result.”

Read more about Boels-Dolmans, Megan Guanier, and the UCI WWT: 

Gallery: Boels-Dolmans Launch With Fairytale Presentation

A Day in the Team Car with Boels-Dolmans at the Aviva Women’s Tour

Pro-Files: Megan Guarnier on the importance of mental training

The Women’s World Tour: What to Watch and When

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