Five USA national champions were crowned after winning road races on the first day of the 2012 USA Cycling Juniors, Under-23, Elite & Paralympic Road National Championships on Wednesday at Fort Gordon in Augusta, Ga.
Juniors men 10-14 and women 10-16 contested road races of varying distances on the 11-kilometer course in temperatures hovering in the mid-80 degrees. (Read replay of day one).
Juniors Women 10-12. In the first race of the day, Megan Doherty (Boise, Idaho/Boise Young Rider Development Squad) rode away with the juniors women’s 10-12 contest, winning by over three minutes. The 11-year-old Doherty, who also competes in triathlons, watched her teammate, Abigail Youngwerth (Boise, Idaho/Boise Young Riders Development Squad) attack the field early in the 22-kilometer contest. The field caught Youngwerth, but Doherty’s counterattack near the midway point of the race was not answered as she rode away with the first Stars-and-Stripes jersey of the day. Katie Clouse (Park City, Utah/Cole Sport), who is the reigning 10-and-under mountain bike cross-country national champion, narrowly beat Youngwerth in a two-rider sprint for the silver medal.
“Our team’s plan was for Abbie to go, then when the group caught her, I would go,” Doherty explained. “I went and I realized that they were far behind me. I said to myself, ‘I’ve gotta go,’ and I went, I pounded. At one point, I was breaking, but I just said to myself, ‘I’ve got to go. I have to go.’”
Juniors Men 10-12. The day’s second race pitted 28 of the country’s best juniors men 10-12 road racers against each other in a 22-kilometer contest. Adam Croft (Toano, Va./Slipstream-Craddock Junior Development) pulled away from the field in a sprint to the finish line. Eduardo Cruz (San Diego, Calif./ACQUA AL 2-San Diego Bicycle Club) earned the silver medal while William Bobrow (Louisville, Ky./Better Cycling of Louisville), who was 13 seconds behind Croft and only five seconds behind Cruz, rode away with the bronze medal.
At the midpoint of the race, a group of nine riders, including Croft, broke away from the field, opening a gap of approximately 25 seconds. None of the riders were able to shake the other eight, which resulted in a nine-rider sprint to the finish line.
“I started my sprint as we started to see the finish,” Croft said. “I knew I had to sprint early, so I started to sprint at the bottom of the hill. I didn’t know if I could hold it. I just knew when to go. It feels really good to win.”
Juniors Women 13-14. The day’s next race showcased 23 of the nation’s fastest juniors women 13-14 road racers in a 33-kilometer test. Skylar Schneider (West Allis, Wisc./Team TIBCO II), who won national titles in the road race and criterium at this event last year, secured another gold medal for her mantle by pulling away late in the third and final lap.
After riding the first 22 kilometers together, the race became more animated in the third circuit of the 11-kilometer course. Schneider and her friend, Gina Johnson (Park Ridge, Ill./Village-Verdigris Cycling), patrolled the leaders, monitoring any attacks. Johnson chased down any potential threats. Despite planning to wait until 200 meters, Schneider could not resist longer and she drilled it early, winning a two-rider sprint over Hannah Green (Boise, Idaho/BYRDS (Boise Young Rider Dev Squad)). Johnson rode away with the bronze medal, finishing only two seconds behind Schneider and Green.
“It’s really an honor,” Schneider said. “Coming to nationals every year makes me nervous. I didn’t sleep much last night, but once I get into the race, I get comfortable.”
Juniors Men 13-14. The race that featured the deepest field was the juniors men 13-14 as 84 contestants toed the line. In the end, Gage Hecht (Parker, Colo./International Christian Cycling Club) collected the sixth national title of his career, winning a field sprint of over 20 riders to the finish line. Grant McElroy (Portland, Ore./Beaverton Bicycle Club) earned the silver medal while Mathew Ly (Fountain Valley, Calif./Tru Cycling) won the bronze medal.
The stronger riders proved themselves early in the race as the field split during the first lap. A group of approximately 20 riders broke away before they turned into the second of three laps of the 11-kilometer course. That group stayed together until the final stretch when the sprint began. Hecht’s closing sprint proved to be faster than the other riders in the field as he emerged with the Stars-and Stripes jersey.
Juniors Women 15-16. The day’s final featured 27 of the best juniors women 15-16 in the country as they tested their meddle in a 55-kilometer race. Two riders from JETCycling proved stronger than the field as teammates Claire van Ekdom (Chevy Chase, Md.) and Laurel Rathbun (Monument, Colo.) were the first two riders to cross in a six-rider sprint to the finish line. Janelle Cole (Rockford, Mich./West Michigan Coast Riders) earned the bronze medal.
The win marked van Ekdom’s first national championship after placing fourth in the national championship road race in 2011.
“I was trying to breakaway because I thought that was my only chance,” van Ekdom said. “I held my line and wouldn’t let anyone get the wheel I was on. I just went. I was not expecting it. I’m just shocked right now, but I’m really happy.”
Time Trial. The time trial course, which will be used on Thursday by all competitors, stretches as long as 30 kilometers and narrowly crosses the state border into South Carolina. The course features an overall elevation of 561 feet, gaining 205 feet from the start to the midway point. The course is shortened to 10 kilometers for juniors men and women ages 10-14. The elite and U23 men and women as well as the juniors men 17-18 years of age will compete on the full 30-kilometer course, while women 15-18, men 15-16 and the para-cyclists will race against the clock on 19 kilometers of the course. (See start times)
Results from Thursday’s Paralympic time trial will help determine the athletes selected for the team that will compete in the time trial at the Paralympic Games in London later this summer. The team will be announced during one of the podium ceremonies on June 22 in Downtown Augusta.
Juniors Men 10-12 – 22 kilometers
1. Adam Croft (Toano, Va./Slipstream-Craddock Junior Development) 40:23:00
2. Eduardo Cruz (San Diego, Calif./ACQUA AL 2/SDBC/San Diego Bicycle Club) 40:31:00
3. William Bobrow (Louisville, Ky./Better Cycling of Louisville) 40:36:00
4. Torin Bickmore (Longmont, Colo./Boulder Junior Cycling) 40:39:00
5. Kerem Ayhan (Hackettstown, N.J./Team Bulldog) 40:51:00
Juniors Women 10-12 – 22 kilometers
1. Megan Doherty (Boise, Idaho/BYRDS (Boise Young Rider Dev Squad)) 38:24:00
2. Katie Clouse (Park City, Utah/Cole Sport) 41:35:00
3. Abigail Youngwerth (Boise, Idaho/BYRDS (Boise Young Rider Dev Squad)) 41:35:00
4. Isabella Brookshire (Hendersonville, N.C./DIY Junior Development Team p/b ABRC) 41:46:00
5. Sarah Swan (Alpine, Calif./Strive Racing) 41:57:00
Juniors Men 13-14 – 33 kilometers
1. Gage Hecht (Parker, Colo./International Christian Cycling Club) 0:53:48
2. Grant McElroy (Portland, Ore./Beaverton Bicycle Club) 0:53:48
3. Mathew Ly (Fountain Valley, Calif./Tru Cycling) 0:53:48
4. Sandor Delgado (Hialeah, Fla./Interactive Metronome Development) 0:53:48
5. Nick Oestreich (Powder Springs, Ga./Junior Flyers) 0:53:48
Juniors Women 13-14 – 33 kilometers
1. Skylar Schneider (West Allis, Wisc./Team TIBCO II) 1:05:16
2. Hannah Green (Boise, Idaho/BYRDS (Boise Young Rider Dev Squad)) 1:05:16
3. Gina Johnson (Park Ridge, Ill./Village-Verdigris Cycling) 1:05:18
4. Rachel Cross (Costa Mesa, Calif./Sho-air/Rock ‘n Road/Team Velos) 1:05:18
5. Svetlana Mack (Silver Spring, Md./Rock Creek Velo) 1:05:22
Juniors Women 15-16 – 55 kilometers
1. Claire VanEkdom (Chevychase, Md./JET Cycling) 1:43:06
2. Laurel Rathbun (Monument, Colo./JETCycling/JET Cycling) 1:43:06
3. Janelle Cole (Rockford, Mich./West Michigan Coast Riders) 1:43:06
4. Zoe Reeves (Grand Rapids, Mich./Einstein Racing) 1:43:06
5. Hannah Swan (Alpine, Calif./Strive Racing) 1:43:06