The USA National Road Championships came to a close in Knoxville, Tennessee on Sunday, June 26 with two thrilling road races in fickle weather.
In the men’s race, Human Powered Health played a tactical game all day. With strength in numbers, Team Orange stacked the breakaway and launched one attack after another until Kyle Murphy was able to catch his breakaway mates off guard and roll to a solo victory . In doing so, he takes over the Stars & Stripes jersey of his teammate Joey Rosskopf who was unable to attend the race today.
“It’s just a special race for everyone who runs,” Murphy said after the race. “Obviously it’s the nationals, but especially for our team. We’re racing in Europe but we’re still an American team and it’s like going back to basics every year. You’re going to get your ass kicked in the Tour De Suisse and you come here in the shape of your life.
Tyler Stites (Project Echelon Racing) came second and Magnus Sheffield of Ineos Grenadiers completed the podium.
How the race went
Thanks to the cloud cover and light rain at the start of the day, the temperatures were not as high as expected when the men’s field took the start, which was a relief for many. And with defending champion Joey Rosskopf going down with COVID, the race was wide open for a new rider to win the title.
Ben King (Human Powered Health) kicked off proceedings with a solo attack, until Spencer Miller and Patrick Welch joined him, both of Kelly Benefits Strategies Elite Cycling Team. This decision would not survive, however, and a mixed bag of six runners, including King, would then emerge at the front of the race. With King, Michael Hernandez (Best Buddies), Cooper Johnson (Aevolo), Lance Haidet (L39ION), Kaler Marshall (Expeditors Elite Cycling Team), Matthew Riccitello (Hagens Berman Axeon) and Christopher Uberti of 3T/ Q+ M Cyclisme. This group glided ahead of the peloton with about a 30-40 second advantage for nearly seven miles until Project Echelon Racing’s Zach Gregg joined them after jumping the gap.
This group grew even larger and the peloton seemed unsure of how to handle the growing breakout. It wasn’t until a shakeup happened and another rift emerged that things calmed down down the road. The new move, which amassed more than two minutes on the pitch, included Gregg and teammate Hugo Scala Jr., Kent Ross (Wildlife Pro Cycling Team), Jared Scott (Aevolo), Hernandez and Ben King and Gavin Mannion, both representing Human Powered Health.
Midway through the race, the peloton riders began to unravel the rear of the Sherrod Road climb, while up front the break suddenly flirted with a three-minute lead. That would remain the situation on the road until disarray in the chase ignited some hopes of a catch that dropped the gap to just 1:40 at one point. Sean Quinn (EF Education – EasyPost) began a serious chase to reset the table.
Hernandez was forced to retire, and with 60km to go, there was no doubt the break would ultimately not survive.
With five laps to go, a total of 43 riders had called it a day, and now it was just a matter of when the chasers would start committing to ending the breakaway’s hopes. Tanner Ward (Best Buddies), Kyle Murphy (Human Powered Health) and Colby Simmons (Team Jumbo Visma) tried hard to bridge the race leaders, but ultimately they would have to surrender and return to the field.
With just over 40km into the race, the sun finally emerged over Knoxville and the leading group was reduced to five when Zach Gregg was dispatched the 13th time on the Sherrod Road climb.
Sherrod would claim two more kills with less than 14 miles to go, and as a result, the Human Powered Health duo saw an opportunity to shake things up by attacking their breakaway mates. It was an effective move, as Mannion and King found themselves with only Kent Ross and Hugo Scala for company.
With one lap to go and less than a minute on the chasers, things started to get worse for what was left of the day’s breakaway. On the final climb of Sherrod’s ascent, King redoubled his efforts and left everyone behind except Kent Ross. And according to the script, that last climb was all it took to completely blow the race away. The attacks started to fly, but only Human Powered Health had the numbers to really put the group in dire straits.
Murphy, who had been banking on his time in the peloton, made the right move at the right time and avenged Rosskopf’s absence by attacking with around 3km to go. Despite Scala’s continued efforts, Murphy crossed the line.
“At the start, I put my hand up to try to be active on the first lap,” Murphy said. “Which I think I kind of needed like just a little kick in the pants. But, I felt pretty awful until the last lap.”
Emma Langley drops breakaway mate in final 500m to win Stars & Stripes jersey
In the women’s race, the race was reduced to a mano a mano confrontation when, after having spent some 50 km in the breakaway, Emma Langley (EF Education – Tibco – SVB) gave a last minute acceleration to overtake Lauren de Crescenzo (CINCH Rise) and make sure the Stars and Stripes jersey stays on the EF Education team.
“You never know what’s going to happen, and I don’t think it wasn’t until the last lap that I really believed we’d stay away, but it was pretty cool,” said Langley. “We had time gaps, and the gap was considerable. It was pretty good.”
The 26-year-old former swimmer waited until she and De Crescenzo were inside the final 500 meters of the race to launch her sprint against her breakaway mate to secure victory.
“I wanted to play to my strengths and I know Lauren De Crescenzo is so strong,” Langley said. “And if I was going to shoot to shoot with her on the last lap, I knew I wouldn’t make it, so we had to be tactical and let her do a little more work.”
Langley was born in England and has dual American and British citizenship. She lived in five countries growing up, but lives in Richmond, Virginia.
At the start/finish line, nearly every runner again took a knee in protest at the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade before the race. Despite a rest day between races, the struggle on the Sherrod Road on the first of 10 11km laps seemed to indicate a touch of heat fatigue.
Cinch Rise tried to make the competition last from the start by sending Andrea Fasen on the road, but this attempt was short-lived. The second time around the course, a large split in the field threatened just before the feed zone. But this group proved to be too large and the riders straightened up quickly enough to allow the peloton to reform. Alexis Ryan (L39ION of Los Angeles) and defending champion Lauren Stephens also flirted with a breakout with around 45 miles to go, but neither team was ready to commit just yet.
The rain started to lightly batter the road as Langley, Skylar Schneider (L39ION of Los Angeles) and Lauren De Crescenzo (Cinch Rise) pulled away from the peloton with 54km to go. That break quickly added up to nearly a minute on the court, and they maintained that advantage as they moved up Sherrod Road in unison. Former National Champion Coryn Labecki (Team Jumbo-Visma), running without any teammates, came out on top of the group to resume the chase. Nevertheless, the leaders pushed that advantage to 1:49 with four race laps remaining.
At that time, EF Education and L39ION withdrew most of their support during the hiatus. De Crescenzo was left to fend for herself, as the hunting party was largely disorganized and undecided behind them.
Langley and De Crescenzo were able to drop Schneider the next time out on Sherrod Road, but that effort also took a good 15 seconds from the gap. The field was whittled down to around 20 riders remaining with two laps to go, and De Crescenzo led Langley on the penultimate trip up the climb.
“That’s all I wanted, to break away and ride as hard as I can,” De Crescenzo said after the race. “I just wanted to keep the gap. I just wanted to go as hard as I could. I was out there for my own race. I was looking at my power meter, and it said good practice.”
As he crossed the start/finish line for the bell lap, it was clear that EF Education had let Langley off the line and told him to prepare to contest the finish. Behind them, Labecki made a final effort not to let his chance for the starry jersey completely disappear on the road. Still, last year’s champion Lauren Stephens overtook her to provide EF Education with some insurance to win the bronze medal.
Langley, who was seated for the majority of the final two miles, was in an ideal position to jump De Crescenzo as the pair approached the short, punchy climb of Clinch Ave. Langley crossed the line with a healthy gap.
The U23 runners were mixed on the pitch but scored separately. Following her performance in the Time Track, rising star Zoe Ta-Perez (LUX-CTS p/b Specialized) was the first U23 rider to cross the line in downtown Knoxville, adding another medal to her week. . transportation. The 20-year-old won bronze in the elite time trial, securing gold among the U23 time trials and today won another U23 gold medal. Marije Bemis (Roxo racing) and Kaia Schmid (Human Powered Health) complete the U23 road race podium.