Lauren Stephens (Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank) and Joey Rosskopf (Rally Cycling) have taken home the stars and stripes in Knoxville, Tennessee on Sunday.
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Both races were held in muggy, attritional conditions that saw multiple attacks, phenomenal teamwork, and first-time national road race champions soloing to the line.
In the women’s race on Sunday morning, a field of 69 riders lined up for 114.6 kilometres, comprising nine laps of a 12.6 km course.
Tibco-SVB came into the race with four riders and an aggressive mindset. Tibco’s Clara Honsinger opened hostilities with an attack on the first ascent of the steep Sherrow Road climb, and was joined by four other riders – including Lauren De Crescenzo (Cinch Elite) – to create a dangerous move of five off the front.
With defending champion Ruth Winder (Trek-Segafredo) and her teammate Tayler Wiles working to limit the gap behind, the leading group stayed intact until lap six when De Crescenzo put in a dig. Honsinger and Holly Breck (Rally Cycling) made their way back to her, making it three out front.
De Crescenzo went again, this time going solo, holding a 45-second lead over Honsinger with two laps to go. Lauren Stephens, meanwhile, bridged across to her teammate Honsinger with one lap to go. Honsinger, working for Stephens, closed the gap to De Crescenzo by the bottom of the final ascent of Sherrow Road, where Stephens finally made the catch.
De Crescenzo was finally showing fatigue on the climb, and Stephens passed her and rode it in to the line solo. It was her first national road championship and continues a strong 2021 season that also saw her win Unbound Gravel’s 100-mile (160 km) race.
“We came out at the beginning to make this a hard race,” Stephens said. “We were on the attack from the first lap with a couple of riders and got Clara up the road in a pretty significant break. It put a lot of pressure on the peloton.
“The heat was really good for me, I would have liked it even hotter. But I did throw up at the top of the climb, the last time up, so I knew I was digging deep.”
Coryn Rivera (DSM) won the sprint for second place – her third silver medal at the event – ahead of Veronica Ewers (Fount Cycling) in her first appearance at the championships.
The men’s race saw a big field of 146 riders contesting 15 laps of the same course, for a total of 190 km. There were representatives from five WorldTeams, along with nine-rider squads from the ProTeam level Rally Cycling and Aevolo outfits.
Over the opening laps, multiple breakaway attempts went and were brought back, with the most decisive move of the day coalescing around lap 11. That group – including notable names like Lawson Craddock (EF Education-Nippo), Brent Bookwalter (BikeExchange), Chad Haga (DSM) and three Rally Cycling riders – were still clear with two laps to go, with defending champion Alex Howes (EF Education-Nippo) chasing to try to get back in contention.
Joey Rosskopf (Rally Cycling), who found himself out of the WorldTour when CCC folded last year and stepping down to an equally orange ProTeam, went solo from the leading group with 17.7 km to go. He held a tenuous advantage of 17 seconds with a lap to go, before he was scooped up with 6.5 km remaining.
Attacks were flying through the closing kilometres of the race, with five riders off the front into the closing kilometre. Rosskopf had enough left in his legs for one last spurt, going clear in the final corners of the race and soloing to the finish line to claim his first US road race title.
Bookwalter secured a silver medal in his final appearance at RoadNats – last week he announced his retirement at the end of the 2021 season – while Kyle Murphy made it two on the podium for Rally Cycling.
“I was all-in with a lap and a half to go, and spent a lap out front alone,” Rosskopf told CyclingNews. “I thought that was my move. I got brought back and was a little fried, but everybody was. We just had such good numbers all day. The team was amazing.
“The last lap was just anyone’s race. Kyle was unbelievable; he was out there all day. I have no idea how he had the legs to do that, and he even got on the podium. It was just unbelievable.”
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