After being in the break for most of the 168-km road race on a hot afternoon in Georgia, Julian Kyer (Juwi Solar) pumped his arm and shouted his elation at winning the USA elite men national road race championship this past Sunday. He just claimed his second title at the USA Cycling Junior, U23 and Elite Championships following his win in the time trial a few days earlier.
What was going through his mind when he screamed while crossing the finish line?
“It’s just been a frustrating past two seasons where after last year I got written off.” Kyer told podiuminsight. “After my last year with Trek Livestrong, I’d had a good season but there were too many guys – we had Tim Roe, Jesse (Sergeant), (Alex) Dowsett and Taylor (Phinney) go to the ProTour from the team and I just kind of fell through the cracks and just written off last year because I’d been sick.”
The 24-year old rider paused and added, “That was just a big screw you to everybody that didn’t give me the courtesy of believing in me.”
After spending two years on the Trek Livestrong team, starting in 2009, health issues struck Kyer in 2011.
“I was anemic last year.” said Kyer who added that he is healthy now. One thought that didn’t cross his mind was to hang up the bike. “Obviously I’ve been frustrated but I know that I’m good and that I’m talented and so it’s something that I care enough about that I didn’t want to give it up, I wasn’t ready to do so.”
Heat and humidity were once again present for the elite men’s road race on the Major Matthew P. Burke, M.D. Championship Course at Fort Gordon. Right after the feedzone, at the beginning of the first of seven laps a few riders went off the front. Kyer followed another rider across.
“It wasn’t something I was trying to do, it was convenient, it wasn’t really hard to do so,” Kyer shrugged, “every time you have a chance to do something easily in a bike race you take it. We went across.”
With no teammates in the break and many unknown riders, Kyer had to base his strategy on the team and not the individual rider.
“Generally in bike racing, you want to pay attention to jerseys in terms of numbers and what teams are maybe capable. The jerseys are more a symbol of what somebody’s intentions are more than anything. So you judge what you’re going to do on what you assume their intentions are.” Kyer explained. “I don’t like to make judgements on guys based on whether they look fast or whether they look like they might be good at something because half the time you end up making the wrong judgement and you screw something up.”
After a rough start, the seven riders off the front starting to work together. “We finally starting rotating. There were a couple of guys who didn’t really want to work but I just decided to start messing with them – I’ll just take you back to the field, I don’t care being up here and so they finally starting working.”
More and more riders bridged across in the next few laps until finally the break consisted of 22 riders. “We weren’t really going that hard in the group but we were going steady, steady enough that anybody that wanted to come across was going to have to make an effort to do it.”
With two laps to go, Stefano Barberi (CashCall Mortage) attacked after the feedzone.
“Basically by the time Stefano and I attacked, that group was the peloton, that group was everybody that was going to make a difference. There was another group maybe a minute or two back, they weren’t coming back. Stefano just came up to me (and said) we got to hit and so I was like alright let’s try to make this happen. He went, I saw him go and I was little further back, it was pretty far out, I don’t know if we can do this.”
But they did do it. Kyer and Barberi were joined by a third rider, Matthew Davis (Team LaS’port). The three worked together to gap off the remnants of the field and scattered chase groups until the final climb when Kyer attacked.
“I’ve been watching Francisco Mancebo (Competitive Cyclist) do this all year. I just put it in a huge gear and just stomped as hard as I could for the whole hill. I kept looking back down and I could see his (Davis) wheel. I knew Stefano was wrecked. I could see his wheel and I could see him starting to come off a little bit, I just committed to it, I just punched all the way to the top of the hill and then held on for dear life all the way to the finish.”
Kyer held off the other two for the win with Davis taking second and Barberi, third.
What do the two titles mean for his future? A tough question to answer just a few minutes after the podium.
“I don’t really know what it means yet.” Kyer replied. “Right now all it means is that I was the best guy this week. But what I hope it means is I’m on a solid professional team next year and more so, that it means I get to go back to Europe and race because that’s where I want to be. That’s what gets me out of the door every morning thinking back to that high level of racing.”