California — Mara Abbott of the Exergy-Twenty16 team won the final stage of the Redlands Bicycle Classic on Sunday, sending another message that after a year away from the sport, she is back in full force. The former champion of the Italian Giro Donne—one of the most prestigious stage races in women’s racing—rode her Felt F1 team bike to the stage victory in classy form, a solo win in downtown Redlands.
“It was awesome to be back here and to have success,” Abbott told Cyclingnews after her win. “This is a cool stage, and a special one to win, and it’s especially great to win solo.”
Along with the stage win, Abbott ended up finishing sixth overall in the four-day stage race in Southern California.
Sunday’s Sunset Stage Race is a classic in U.S. road racing. The hilly circuit starts and finishes in downtown Redlands. Abbott and her former teammate Claudia Haüsler broke away together in the second half of the race, gaining a maximum lead of 1:20 on the field.
Abbott held her lead to the line, saying afterward that it feels good to be back on top of her game.
“I had to step away from the sport to know I wanted to do it,” she said. “I made a conscious decision to come back, and I think that makes me a stronger competitor.”