While I was busy in the mid-west, the USA Cycling Junior, U23, and Elite Road National Championships concluded in Bend, Oregon.
The Felt-Holowesko Partners-Garmin, the espoirs arm of the Slipstream organization, swept all three U23 men’s titles, starting with Alex Howes’ win in the road race on Wednesday. Clocking a 45:34 over the 35 kilometers , 22-year old Peter Stetina (Felt Holoweso Partners-Garmin) had an incredible race against the clock, finishing 23 seconds faster than his nearest threat Bjorn Selander (Trek-Livestrong), to claim the U23 men’s national title. Taking the third step on the podium was Rabobank Continental rider Tejay Van Garderen with a time of 46:22. Van Garderen will be joining the Columbia-HTC team next year.
Then on Sunday, Alex Howes won his second Stars-and-Stripes jersey of the week in the U23 Criterium this time. The competition got underway with a group of three immediately going off the front on a traditional rectangular course in downtown Bend. The trio consisted of Howes, Bjorn Selander (Trek Livestrong), and Bobby Sweeting (Land Rover-ORBEA). When the men were only ten laps into their 60-lap contest, they had already established 13 second gap over their nearest threats. As they rounded the final corner coming into the start/finish, Howes attacked hard and took it all the way to the line. Sweeting then outsprinted Selander for the silver medal. Jake Keough (Kelly Benefit Strategies) and Joey Rosskopf (Jittery Joe’s U-23 p/b Kudzu.com) beat out the rest of the pack for fourth and fifth respectively.
In the U23 women’s competition, the Team Type 1 squad won two of the three competitions. Team Type 1′s Jackie Crowell earned the very first national title for first year women’s team. Finishing the course in a time of 53:44, she bested second-place finisher Jerika Hutchinson (Team TIBCO) by 12 seconds and third-place rider Rachel Warner (Charlottesville Racing Club) by 50 seconds.
Friday’s national title was her sixth after earning five as a junior (under the age of 18), including two in the time trial discipline. “But this will be the one I am most proud of because it’s at the elite level,” Crowell said.
Crowell said equipment and good advice helped make the difference. Her time was the 14th fastest overall on a day when temperatures in the 90s and wind made the race against the clock all the more difficult.
“I had our mechanic, Paul (Mazurek) put a 55 tooth chain ring on the front, which was the key to winning,” she said. “And my Orbea Ordu (bike) was awesome. I also have to thank our director, Jack, who has helped me so much in my first year as a professional. He’s been very supportive.”
“It was a really challenging course,” Hutchinson said. “It was also really hot. I had a bag of ice on my back before I started, and a wet towel on my back for the ride trying to keep me cool.”
The course was similar to the course used for the Cascade Classic the week before, opening with a climb to the turn-around point 12 km out and return back to the start area. However, the national championship course added a 11 km loop with several rollers to bring it to 35 km.
“On the lollipop loop, I was just trying to get over the rollers as hard as I could and down the descents as fast as possible,” Hutchinson said. “Toward the end I was just trying to survive.”
Then on Sunday, Team Type 1 went 1-2 in the U23 Criterium Championships. Samantha Schneider and Jackie Crowell attacked the field a third of the way into the race and rode away to finish first and second, respectively, in the 21-mile (35 km) race through the downtown streets of Bend, Ore. Lauren Hecht (Webcor Alto Velo) won the field sprint for third while Kendi Thomas (Hagens Berman) and Arielle Filiberti (Hot Tubes) were fourth and fifth.
Crowell and Schneider bided their time in the back of the field as a flurry of attacks went off in the first 10 trips around the six-tenths-of-a-mile course during the 35-lap race. But with 22 laps to go, Crowell attacked with Schneider on her wheel and the pair quickly built a seven-second lead.
“I think we caught a lot of people off guard,” Schneider said of the attack through the second-to-last turn on the rectangular course.
Trading pulls on the front, the two ticked off lap-after-lap, averaging 26 miles per hour as their lead grew to 10 seconds, then to 15, then 20, but was pegged back to 10 with 14 laps remaining. “I was getting a little worried when the gap dropped back down,” Women’s Team Director Jack Seehafer said. “The field was actually getting organized and working together.”
But Schneider and Crowell produced their second-fastest lap of the race to push the lead back to 16 seconds and deflate the spirit of the chase behind. When their advantage grew to 38 seconds with three laps to go, the only question remaining was who would cross the finish line first.
Crowell said the decision was an easy one. “The goal today was to get Sam a win and that’s what we did,” she said.
Schneider said she was happy to earn the victory – her second on the season – and the right to wear a special stars-and-stripes jersey for one year in every criterium she races. “I think it was pretty fair,” Schneider said. “She (Crowell) got the time trial championship and I got the criterium.”
Last Friday, Mike Olheiser (Marx and Bensdorf) won his second title of the week, in the Elite Men’s category, clocking a time of 45:55 over the 35-km course, twenty seconds ahead of silver medalist Adrian Hegyvary (Hagens-Berman) and over a minute faster than bronze medalist Greg Krause.
In an incredibly close Elite Women’s TT contest, Jessica Phillips (Lip Smackers) took the title with a time of 50:35. Just one-second off the winning pace was Evelyn Stevens (Webcor Builders) while 2008 champion Alison Powers (Team Type 1) was 23 seconds of the winning time for the bronze medal. Rounding off the podium were TIBCO’s Amber Rais in 4th, and ValueAct’s Kristin McGrath in 5th.
“It was a great course, because it had a bit of everything,” commented McGrath. “You basically climbed out, descended back, then had lots of fun twists, turns and rollers.”
- Team Type 1′s Jackie Crowell “this was one of those races that you never forget.”
- Mike Olheiser (Marx and Bensdorf) “After 98 miles it came down to an 11 man sprint. It was great, but it still does not feel real.”
Complete results here