Ben King (Trek-Livestrong) attacked out of a three-man break and soloed to victory on Saturday during the men’s U23 national road race championship in Bend, Oregon.
King took off before the penultimate climb of Archie Briggs Road and rode the final lap and a quarter alone to the finish, crossing some two minutes ahead of the field. Alex Howes (Holowesko Partners) took second with Andrew Dahlheim (Metro Volkswagen) third.
It was King’s second consecutive victory at this year’s nats — on Friday, King won the U23 criterium, out-kicking Oscar Clark (Mountain Khakis-Jittery Joe’s) after a six-lap breakaway.
The final championship event of the week for the espoirs began with the usual slew of attacks. Daniel Katz (Now-MS Society) led things off with an attack in the opening mile that drew out Escalera-Exergy’s Austin Arguello. They stuck it out for five miles, gaining a maximum advantage of 25 seconds before the peloton drew them back.
That pattern continued through the first four of six laps, as constant attacks and counter-attacks flew off the front of the field, none of which contained a rider from the big three teams in the race — Holowesko, Trek and Cal Giant-Specialized.
King and teammate Julian Kyer each put in efforts early, as did Daniel Summerhill (Holowesko) and TT champ Andrew Talansky (Cal Giant).
“I mean, I tried a few moves early on, and I obviously was a target,” said King. “Talansky and I were just laughing because every time we would twitch it was, ‘Ah!’ so I just had to wait until later in the race.”
The most active rider in the early going was Carson Miller, who made his way into at least three moves that gained more than 30 seconds on the field.
Miller went away at mile 55 with Kevin Gottlieb (Lateral Stress Velo), Austin Allison (Dogfish) and Jerome Townsend. That move pushed a gap out to 1:25 by the time they reached the feed zone, but Miller was no longer there at that point, as Townsend and he were dropped on the climb to the feed.
Gottlieb and Alison survived over Archie Briggs and it was a fifth-lap counter-attack from the splintered peloton that stuck, springing King, Townsend, Nathaniel Wilson (Lateral Stress Velo) and David Williams (Bissell). Townsend went backward from the group in an attempt to bring bridging teammate Allister Radcliff across, but the tandem never made it back to the front.
The three remaining leaders rode registered a tremendous effort up the feed zone climb with just over one lap remaining. It was in the long false flat between the feed and the right turn onto Archie Briggs that Williams faltered, leading to a sharp acceleration from King.
“I didn’t try to drop them, I was just trying to go steady and we hit the hill,” said King. “It’s obviously a very selective part of the course, so I knew that if we wanted a chance to stay away, we needed more than a minute going into the last lap, so I just had to go.”
Trying or not, drop them he did. Wilson closed the gap to King temporarily, but by the time they reached the first steep ramp of the day’s main climb, he was gone for good. King stood out of the saddle and ran up the slope as King and Williams dropped back to the first chase group.
“I wanted this so bad, so I just didn’t want to risk it,” said King.
More details, galleries, video and results will follow soon.