National championship racing continued in Bend, Ore. on Wednesday as the U23 men and the oldest group of junior women contested their road races. Alex Howes (Felt-Holowesko Partners-Garmin) was the man of the day as he sprinted to a national title in the U23 event after 162 kilometers of racing in temperatures that reached 100 degrees by late afternoon. In the junior women’s contest, Coryn Rivera (Proman Hit Squad) rode off with her 24th national title.
When I last talked to the 21-year old Howes, he was frustrated with his “not getting the flow down”, and that “hopefully I can find some mojo, scrap some good luck out of the bottom of the bucket and give it a go.” I’d say he found the mojo. Howes is focused on racing professionally in Europe and was hunting for a win – well he got a big won to add to his 3 NRC podiums this year.
Under the blazing sun, twelve riders went off the front almost immediately in the men’s U23 race, and as they built their lead to three minutes by lap number two, it was clear that these were the contenders for the national title. The group included Howes and his teammates Peter Salon and Peter Stetina, Trek-Livestrong duo of Ben King and Bjorn Selander, Scott Stewart (Team Waste Management), Andrew Dahlheim (Metro Volkswagon) and several others. Chase group with Julian Kyer (Trek-Livestrong), Danny Summerhill (Felt-Holowesko Partners-Garmin), and defending champ Kirk Carlsen was formed but would never catch the break.
Due to the selective course and the heat, the officials cut the race to 6 laps of the 27-km loop instead of the original 7. With one lap to go, King attacked and only Howes, Stewart and Salon could stay on his wheel. Attacks and counter-attacks continued amongst the four riders but they all back together in the final descent to the start/finish where Howes won the sprint for the title.
“I was cramping pretty hard and they brought me back,” the new national champ said of his final attack before the sprint. “I was shaking in my boots at the end there.”
After that final attack, Howes lead the sprint from a long way out. “I was pretty scared, but there was a national championship on the line, so I wasn’t going to let anyone come around me,” he added.
Stewart was the second to cross the line for the silver medal while King picked up the bronze and Salon got fourth place. Stetina came across next to grab that final spot on the podium.
Make that 24. Eighteen junior women lined up for three laps of a 27-kilometer loop. Rivera went off the front early with Jessica Prinner (Abd Cycling Team) and Jacqueline Kurth (Team Kenda Tire) and the trio entered the final climb with a 30 second gap. With three kilometers to go, Rivera attacked and soloed away to claim her 24th career junior national title.
“Everything I planned out in my head turned out great. It was a long hot day and it’s really hard to go out that early,” the southern California rider said after her win, “ But I’ve been in this heat all year, since December almost, so I’m pretty used to this stuff.”
Rivera rode her way into her latest Stars-and-Stripes jersey just days before she heads to Moscow to represent the U.S. at the 2009 UCI Junior Road and Track World Championships.
About a minute behind Rivera, Prinner and Kurth sprinted to the line for the silver and bronze medals. Kendall Ryan (VRC Now) and Kaitlin Antonneau (Nova/ISCorp) rounded out the podium in fourth and fifth respectively.
Complete results here