The USA Cycling National Road Championship week culminated on Sunday, June 25, with the men’s and women’s pro road races. Gray storms threatened the skies but the women’s race went off without a drop. The men weren’t so lucky, however, and despite a storm delay of an hour and a half, their race took place on wet roads, making the descent on Sherrod Hill quite slippery.
Here’s how the racing unfolded:
Chloé Dygert goes two for two, storming to her second national title in four days
After her success in the national time trial on Thursday, Chloe Dygert (Canyon-SRAM) also took the win in the US Pro Nationals Road Race, winning from a select group of 17 after attacking with 400 meters to go, and leading into the last two corners in a near-mirror finish to how Coryn Labecki (Jumbo-Visma) won the criterium two days prior. Labecki would take second, followed by Skylar Schneider (L39ion of Los Angeles) in third.
"I know every time it's been won, it's pretty much the first one into that last corner, and so I knew that was pretty much my only shot, so I just took off from there and just tried to hold it and was able to pull it off," said Dygert in the post-race interview.
In the U23 race, Natalie Quinn of CCB-LLG took the win finishing 20th overall. Teammate Betty Hasse, who won the U23 time trial, took second, with Cassidy Hickey (Instafund Laprima) taking third.
After six years, the Knoxville course is a familiar one, consisting of ten laps around a 6.8 mile course with the defining climb being the Sherrod Road climb, 0.6 miles in length and 245 feet of elevation.
The major break of the day was formed early on by DNA Pro Cycling’s Heather Fischer who attacked solo with still 60 miles to go. Fisher would get some company as Marjorie Rinaldo (Fount Cycling Guild) joined her off the front. A flat tire for Fischer would take her out of the break and she would soon rejoin the peloton. Andrea Buttine (Miami Nights), and Holly Breck (DNA Pro Cycling) were next to ride off the front of the peloton, hoping to bridge over to Rinaldo.
A serious chase by the peloton started around mile 30 ,up the Sherrod Road climb, which brought the gap down very quickly from 2:40 to one minute with four laps remaining. The Blue Ridge 2024 team set a hard pace up the climb ,dropping more riders from the peloton and bringing the break back to just 20 seconds. But the gap extended back to 50 seconds as they returned to the highway.
With four laps remaining, EF-Education-Tibco-SVB defending champ Emma Langley lit up the climb. She created a select group of around 15 riders, including Chloé Dygert, Clara Honsinger (EF-Education-Tibco-SVB), and Labecki. But as they sat up on the flats, more riders rejoined the peloton.
On the next lap, Honsinger pushed the pace up on Sherrod Hill resulting in more riders getting detached off the back of the peloton while the breakaway was finally reeled in. On the highway, the EF team constantly attacked, trying to get a rider up the road. Dygert was chasing most of them down, with Labecki also trying to follow several of their attacks. We saw Natalie Quinn of CCB-LLG attack through the start/finish but quickly sat up and returned to the group.
As the peloton took on Sherrod Hill for the last time, Lauren Stephens (EF-Education-Tibco-SVB) took to the front to set a brutal pace. Only three riders were able to hold her wheel —Labecki, Dygert and Schneider. As the group started to look at each other on the highway, Stephens attacked but was drawn back in quickly. The group needed to work together in order to stay away as a chasing group, working much better together, was hot on their heels. The quartet was caught with three miles to go. Langley attacked as soon as the front group was reeled in but she, too, was quickly brought back.
A field sprint was looking more and more likely, as the group of 15 was nearing the finish. In a near-mirror finish to the criterium race on Friday, Dygert attacked up the final hill first. She led into the last two corners with Labecki in second wheel and Schneider behind her. Still, neither of them could match Dygert’s pace as she powered through to take the win.
Quinn Simmons takes an emphatic solo win to take his first Professional national title
Competing in just one event this year at Pro Nationals after a last-minute flight back from Europe, Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo) made his appearance count, taking an emphatic solo win in the road race. The win meant a lot to Simmons as showed in a heartfelt post-race interview.
“Coming after one of the worst days I've ever had on a bike I just feel super lucky to be here with my family, racing with my brother, Dad jumped into the team car for the last few laps, Mom in the feed zone. To be honest today could have saved my career, I’ve been really thinking what do I want to do and this brings the mojo back and now for the first time in a long time the Stars and Stripes is going to do a lap of France,” said Simmons, who wore a black band and dedicated the win to the late Gino Mader.
Simmons had been constantly on the attack throughout the race, finally getting off the front with Tyler Williams (L39ion of Los Angeles) with 40 miles remaining. Simmons would finally distance himself from Williams on the last ascent of the Sherrod Road climb and ride the remaining seven miles solo to his first professional road race title. Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) and Tyler Stites (Project Echelon) would break free of the remaining peloton to try to bridge the gap but would not be able to make it and had to settle for third and fourth on the day.
How the race played out:
There was a chaotic start to the men's race with delays due to thunderstorms, and heavy rain for the first 30 miles of the race. There were plenty of attacks and more than a few times a large group would get away that looked like it could be the selection of the race, but they would eventually be brought back together.
Eventually, a group of 19 rolled off the front, with the bigger teams of Echelon, Human Powered Health, L39ion of Los Angeles, Q36.5 as well as race favorites Simmons, crit champion Luke Lamperti (Trinity) and McNulty all represented. But they, too, got caught as they rolled back through town, expanding the front group to approximately 45 riders. This would be the final peloton of the day.
Along the highway and through the feed zone, another group would jump off the front containing big names in Simmons, defending champ Kyle Murphy (L39ion of Los Angeles) and Lamperti. They were dragged back by McNulty. Williams (L39ion of Los Angeles) was quick to make the counter attack, deciding to go it alone.
With 47 miles to go, a small chase group tried to bridge to Williams but the reduced peloton was not having it and quickly brought them back, while Williams (L39ion of Los Angeles) remained up the road with a gap of 25 seconds. Simmons attacked again, trying to bridge up to Williams solo. Simmons was successful, making contact with Williams on the Sherrod Road descent, and immediately the two started working tigether.
With 30 miles remaining, the duo's lead had ballooned out to three minutes as Colby Simmons (Jumbo-Visma Devo) ran interference for his brother up the road. Going up the Sherrod Road climb, McNulty attacked out of the group bringing Colin Joyce (Human Powered Health), Stites and Riley Sheehan (Denver Disruptors) with him. The four riders started rotating and slowly gained time on the duo up front. Coming through the line with three laps to go, this chase group was 2:30 behind.
McNulty once again attacked on Sherrod, dropping Joyce and Sheehan. Stites held onto the wheel of McNulty and the duo continued to chase, 2:20 back from the leading duo with 18 miles of racing left.
With two laps to go, the chasing duo of Stites and McNulty had closed another 30 seconds and were now 1:50 down on the leaders of Simmons and Williams. Behind, Sheehan and Joyce were being collected by the remaining peloton led by Sean Quinn (EF Education-Easypost).
Coming through with one lap remaining, Simmons attacked Williams but was not able to distance him. McNulty and Stites followed at 1:20 behind.
As the leaders took on Sherrod Road for the last time Simmons put in a blistering attack and dropped Williams to go solo. The massive acceleration was just too much for the L39ion rider to follow.
Simmons put his head down, staying aero to put a 30-second gap into Williams on the flat roads leading back into downtown. Williams was still digging, trying to hold off the duo of Stites and McNulty to secure second place.
Simmons would successfully hold his lead to take a commanding solo win after forcing a breakaway for nearly 50 miles. Williams managed to hold off the chasers as well to take a well-deserved silver medal. Stites would win the two up sprint with McNulty to take third place.
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