Phinney, Powers turn attention to road race
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. -- Taylor Phinney and Alison Powers have already climbed to the top step of the podium once this weekend. Now, they'll try to make it even more memorable on Memorial Day.
Phinney and Powers are both scheduled to start Monday's road race at the U.S. national cycling championships, trying to add to their time trial victories Saturday. No woman has pulled off the double since Kristin Armstrong in 2006, and no man since Ron Keifel in 1983.
"Anything can happen at a national championship," Phinney said.
Phinney was expected to win the time trial, though. It's his specialty, and it was run over a course that suited his strengths. He was also the only rider from a World Tour team who rolled off the starting line, which means the pressure was on him to win his first title since 2010.
The road race will be an entirely different beast.
The course will begin with a 5-mile start circuit, and then take riders on a run out of the city and into the climbs up Lookout Mountain. The result is a long lap of 16.5 miles, and the men will have to navigate four times while the women will do two laps.
That means the winner could be just about anybody: a powerful rider such as Phinney or Tom Zirbel, who can break away and solo to victory; a climber who is able to drop most of the field on the climbs; or a sprinter who hangs around long enough to snatch victory at the finish line.
"Last year it was someone from the breakaway that won," Powers said. "Your team has to be racing well, and you have to be represented in everything that goes up the road."
Freddie Rodriguez will be back to defend his title in the men's race, but he'll receive a stiff challenge. While the time trial was pared down to riders who specialize in the discipline, there is far more depth in the men's and women's road race.
Matthew Busche is back after winning in 2011, and Ben King is back to reclaim the title he won in 2010. Tom Danielson, Peter Stetina and Phillip Gaimon are also among the favorites.
The women's race could be even more wide open.
Jade Wilcoxson, who finished fifth in Saturday's time trial, will be trying to defend the stars-and-stripes jersey she slept in after her victory a year ago. But she'll do it against a field that includes former champions Megan Guarnier and Mara Abbott.
"I think it'll be a really good race," Powers said. "There's strong teams here, strong riders, riders that have been racing in Europe and that we haven't seen. I think it's going to be a good, aggressive race. As far as predicting the outcome? I have no idea."
Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press
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