The fifth and final day of the 2012 USA Cycling Elite, U23, Juniors & Paralympic Road National Championships on Sunday started with the juniors men 17-18 before concluding with the elite men's and women's races on the Major Matthew P. Burke, M.D. Championship Course at Fort Gordon in Augusta, Ga.
The 23.7-kilometer course filled with rolling hills was made more challenging by soaring temperatures exceeding 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The competition was just as hot on the course as all three races came down to final sprints and one was decided by a photo finish.
The 120-kilometer elite women's road race would crown not only an elite women's national champion, but a U23 winner would be recognized as well.
After five laps and just over three hours of racing through the late Georgia morning, Megan Guarnier (Mountain View, Calif./TIBCO to The Top) sprinted in ahead of her teammate, Lauren Hall (Dolores, Colo./TIBCO to The Top) for the first national championship of her career. A third rider from TIBCO to The Top, Samantha Schneider (Milwaukee, Wisc.) was the top-placing U23 woman, finishing fifth overall, to earn her second U23 Stars-and-Stripes jersey of the event and second consecutive U23 women's road race gold medals. Schneider also was the top finisher among U23 women in the elite women's criterium on Friday to earn that national championship.
A larger lead group was whittled down to four riders about midway through the contest. Andrea Dvorak (Crozet, Va./Exergy Twenty12), Amanda Miller (Fort Collins, Colo./TIBCO to The Top), Anna Barensfeld (Ellwood City, Pa/Team Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) and Debbie Milne (Belden, Miss./Absolute Racing Team) built a lead that hovered around two minutes on the field. With less than two laps remaining in the five-lap race, Barensfeld was content sitting in, essentially shutting down the breakaway. The field absorbed the breakaway just after receiving the bell signaling one lap remained in the race.
Despite a lot of animation on the front of the field, none of the attacks stuck and teams began setting up their leadouts for a sprint finish. With Hall and Schneider nearby, Guarnier kicked at the top of the final hill and, with Hall in tow, Guarnier cruised through the finish line, while Hall placed second. Carmen Small (Durango, Colo./Team Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) and Alison Powers (Pinecliffe, Colo./NOW and Novartis for MS) finished third and fourth, respectively with Schneider placing fifth.
"It's still kind of surreal," Guarnier said of winning her first national championship. "I actually got to post today, which is awesome."
The final event of the competition pitted 176 elite men in a 168-kilometer road race. Julian Kyer (Boulder, Colo./Juwi Solar Cycling), who flashed the speed he used to win the time trial national championship on Thursday, started his sprint about 200 meters from the finish line before coasting to the finish line for what he described as "the biggest win of my career."
The early laps of the race were animated by a move that grew to as many as 22 riders building a lead that grew as wide as three minutes on the peloton. That move dwindled and three riders attacked that lead group. Kyer, Stefano Barberi (Oak Park, Calif./CashCall Mortgage) and Mathew Davis (Shreveport, La./Team LaS'port) were off the front with three chasers 30 seconds behind them and the field only one minute back.
"I just put it in a huge gear and I just stomped as hard as I could for the whole hill," Kyer said. "I kept looking back down and I could see Mathew Davis' wheel starting to come off a bit. I committed to it and punched all the way to the top of the hill and held on for dear life the rest of the way to the finish."
Davis finished three behind Kyer in second place while Barberi was 11 seconds back to earn the bronze medal. Eric Marcotte (Scottsdale, Ariz./Elbowz Racing) won a bunch sprint for fourth place ahead of Frank Travieso (Winterville, Ga./Team Coco's).
Juniors Men 17-18
The juniors men 17-18 field showcased 150 of the nation's best, young road racing talent, including several riders who compete with the USA Cycling National Development Program.
After two hours and twenty-five minutes of racing, road racing supremacy would come down to a field sprint. Miguel Bryon (Miami, Fla./BLUE STAR-BOOM Development Team) won the field sprint, barely edging Logan Owen (Bremerton, Wash./Lake Washington Velo) in a photo finish. Ansel Dickey (Truro, Mass./Killington Mountain School Cycling) earned the bronze medal while Gregory Ratzell (Blandon, Pa./Young Medalists-Team Rothrock) and Stephen Bassett (Knoxville, Tenn./Texas Roadhouse Cycling Team P/B Motorex-Kentucky Flyers Cycling Inc) finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
Several breakaways and attacks throughout the contest were countered and answered, creating the 200-meter dash to the finish line.
"The heat was definitely a factor," Bryon said. "Everyone was on their game today. It was really hard. I have a lot of respect for everyone that showed up. Everyone really wanted this win. I thank my coach. I thank my dad, mom for being behind me. My friends and teammates, everyone gave me an extra push to keep going."
Bryon, who sprinted to a sixth-place finish in the Juniors Pan American Games in Guatemala in April of 2012, collected the second national championship of his career having already won a juniors road race in 2010.
TEAM TIBCO REPORT
Megan Guarnier of Team TIBCO/To the Top took advantage of an excellent team effort to win the 2012 U.S. National Road Race Championship today. Guarnier led home a depleted and strung out field, with her teammate Lauren Hall celebrating a couple bike lengths behind Guarnier in 2nd place. Team TIBCO’s Samantha Schneider sprinted hard to the line to secure 5th place and her second consecutive U23 Road Race National Championship.
“All of us are incredibly proud of Megan’s hard work and accomplishments for both Team TIBCO and the U.S. National team this year,” said Linda Jackson, 1996 Olympian, bronze medalist at the 1996 world championships and Team TIBCO President.
“Winning the 2012 National Road Race Championship is a tremendous achievement and the entire team performed exceptionally well, with Lauren taking second and Sam taking fourth and winning the U23 title. Today’s results were truly earned by the whole team.”
That teamwork started when Team TIBCO’s Amanda Miller helped instigate the main break of the day about 7 km into the race. The break of 10 also included Alexis Ryan, the Team TIBCO junior racing her for the fourth straight day after winning the Junior road race and criterium national championships and finishing on the podium in the time trial.
This break would stay off the front for four trips around the 13-mile circuit in Augusta. By the time the move was caught with one lap to go, Miller had whittled the group down to four through her attacking. The main pack was down to about 40 riders thanks to the high pace of the chase on the second to last trip up the finishing climb that comes with 1 km to go in the circuit.
The final laps saw a series of attacks, including more from Miller and her teammates. But as the group hit the finishing climb, the diminished bunch was mostly together. Exergy was looking to set up criterium winner Theresa Cliff-Ryan for the finish but she wasn’t at the front. Which left Team TIBCO to battle it out with the NOW and Optum teams.
“Going into the climb, I was on Ali Powers’ wheel on the right side,” Guarnier said. “Lauren and Sam were on the left side with Lindsay Myers leading them out. Janel Holcombe went to the front and strung things out and my path opened up a bit more. Optum was leading out Carmen (Small) so I jumped on her wheel and then Lauren found my wheel. When the road flattened out with 300 meters to go I went with Lauren on my wheel.”
And that’s how the duo finished, with Team TIBCO alums Small and Powers taking 3rd and 4th just ahead of Schneider in 5th.
“This was a very satisfying win,” said Team TIBCO European Directeur Sportif Angela van Smoorenberg. “One of my goals in directing is to get the riders to race well as a team and today they did. Everyone rode great and worked together like they did in the criterium. We didn’t want to race for the bunch sprint today and we were able to take advantage of Amanda being up in the break. Lauren rode very strong again today. She was focused on nationals and she showed that she was good when she finished a very close second in the criterium.”
Today’s squad also included Team captain Meredith Miller, Jennifer Wheeler, Jennifer Purcell and Kendall Ryan.
Today’s results establish Team TIBCO/To the Top as the premier U.S. national cycling team, with the Team now having won the National Road Race Championship three out of the last five years, including Brooke Miller’s double championship year of 2008 when she also won the criterium, and Team captain Meredith Miller’s road championship in 2009 along with Guarnier’s title this year.
“Competitive cycling is both an individual and a team effort and we’d like to thank all of the members of the extended TIBCO team, including riders, staff and sponsors, for contributing to our success this year, and in all the years the Team has been racing,” said Jackson. “We really, truly couldn’t have succeeded without their efforts.”
Photo by Jonathan Devich, Epic Images