The biggest goal for the team this season was to bring home a National Champion Jersey at the USA Cycling Under 23 National Championships in Augusta, GA. While the team management did not put pressure on the guys, each rider knew the importance of the event and that it would be the key indicator of their development this season. We are happy to report that the team rode flawlessly throughout the week and not only put riders on the podium four times, but accomplished our ultimate goal of taking a National Championship title.
The Time Trial
The first Championship event for the week was the individual time trial. While not our greatest strength as a team, Larry Warebasse is a serious contender in any time trial. Larry flew to the US just two days before the event after wrapping-up the Baby Giro where he was a key rider in Joseph Dombrowski's victory for the US National Team. With jet lag and fatigue from the previous week's stage race, Larry had legitimate excuses if he chose to bow-out of the race or just go through the motions of the event. Instead, Larry pushed himself to his absolute limit on the bike and held the fastest time almost until the end. Larry ended up with a solid 4th place finish and a trip to the podium.
Ty Magner is one of the fastest under 23 sprinters in the country. We knew he had a great chance at winning the criterium, so the team planned the strategy around setting him up for the final sprint. The morning before the race it was clear Ty felt good about the crit. His pre-race tweet read, "Hmmmmm a little hard to sleep last night..I wonder why!!? Can't wait to race critnats tonight with my @HincapieDevo brosephs."
The guys had positioned themselves at the front on the start line and held the position until the finish line. As soon as the gun went off, the team took control of the race. Almost every attack of the race was initiated by the team or contained at least one BMC-Hincapie Sportswear rider. If the team wasn't in a move, the move was brought back before even a 50 meter gap was opened. Towards the end of the race, a dangerous group composed of two top California Giant riders and a Livestrong rider put in a big attack. Matt Lipscomb reacted immediately and single handedly reeled the group back. In the final three laps, Matt again went to the front and turned up the speed so fast that no one could even think about trying to get away from the peloton.
Going into the last lap of the race, Ty Magner raised his hand and signaled to his teammates that he was ready for the sprint and all they needed to do was keep him in position up to the final corner. Tanner Putt then moved to the front on turn two and drilled it all the way around the back side of the course. Thomas Craven and the staff knew that everyone had done a perfect job up to this point and they anxiously watched corner number six for racers to come back in sight. When they finally came around the corner, several riders appeared to have a small advantage over the field. As the riders charged towards the finish line, the tropical colors of Luke Keough's Mountain Khakis jersey came into view first. Luke raised his arms in triumph as he neared the line, but Ty Magner was still accelerating like lightning around Luke and he threw his bike at the start line to take the win by mere inches. The team had done it – they had won the Championship jersey for Ty and had even put Tanner on the podium too with a fifth place medal.
The Road Race
With the Criterium Champion Jersey secured, the guys seemed relaxed before the road race. It was going to be a long hot day. Augusta, Georgia is known for its heat and humidity, so the boys chugged Gu Energy's Electrolyte Brew in preparation for the 104 mile battle.
There were several small attacks at the beginning of the race, but it wasn't until Mike Stone and Mac Cassin from Juwi Solar Cycling rolled off the front that the peloton was willing to let something go. Mike and his companion quickly built up to a gap of four minutes and held it for the first half of the race.
On lap four of seven, several of the big teams realized it was time to get serious. Tanner Putt, Larry Warbasse and Alder Martz were attentive at the front and joined the attacking riders to create a 13 man chase group. They quickly caught and integrated with the two leaders, giving BMC-Hincapie Sportswear four riders in the now 15 man group. Realizing the advantage of the strong numbers, Larry asked Alder and Mike to drive the breakaway to increase the gap over the peloton while allowing Larry and Tanner to conserve energy for a lap. Alder and Mike each rode as hard as they could until they exploded and gave the break a big enough gap to ensure that it would stay away.
In the next-to-last lap the riders were all starting to show the effects of riding in the hot sun all day. Our team, plus Chipotle and Livestrong each had two riders in the breakaway. Tanner and Larry knew that there were too many strong riders left in the group so they took turns attacking. Eventually one of Tanner's attacks stuck and only Robert Bush from Chipotle and Gavin Mannion from Livestrong managed to jump on. With each big team represented, it was obvious that the winner would come from this small group of three riders.
Knowing the finishing speed of Robert Bush as they neared the end, Tanner stood-up on the last hill of the day and considered attacking the other two riders. Unfortunately, sirens went off in Tanner's legs and he knew that a failed jump would leave him with a third place finish. Bush ended up leading out the sprint to the line. Tanner used every last bit of his strength in the finishing dash, but couldn't come around Bush in those last 200 meters. He was however able to hold off Mannion and end up with an impressive silver medal.
This first half of the season has all been in preparation for the National Championships. The guys worked together and learned how as a team that they can win big bike races such as Nationals. Director Thomas Craven said, "the best of part of the weekend was how well the guys executed the team plans. They worked together and accomplished our biggest goal of the year, winning a National Championship Jersey."