Editor’s note: Ben King is a first-year professional with Team RadioShack (Related: Ben’s previous VeloNews diaries)
Teams rising, folding, combining, and trading riders around on annual contracts makes it difficult for die-hard cycling fans to commit themselves to one team. On the other hand, we were born with a predetermined national team. Spectators and riders bring vibrant team pride to world championship events.
After a special neo-pro season supporting Team RadioShack to a number of victories, USA Cycling chose me to help Tyler Farrar at the elite world championships in Copenhagen, Denmark. Despite Cavendish’s speculation, I had confidence in Tyler, a grand tour stage winner.
USA, however, pitted a young team against Cav’s British team stacked with grand tour stage winners. Five of us brought less than two years of Pro Tour experience. Last year, Phinney, Talansky, and I raced the U23 Worlds. The U.S. federation took a risk with us, but we’re building a team and in the foreseeable future as we exchange youthful enthusiasm for experience our threat will increase.
Honored to be selected for the team, I prepared for a 170-mile battle against 210 riders that USA Cycling’s Jim Miller said could cost 6,000 calories. It took almost an hour for a break to establish. I followed attacks from the sprinter teams, but it was the teams without sprinters hoping to make the race hard. There seemed to be a terminal velocity on the circuits, which we held for most of the race allowing the protected sprinters a comfortable draft and smooth pace.
Unsure of my ability to aid in the finale, I asked Tyler if I should pitch in up front. He said, “Ask Sayers (our director).” I dropped back to the car and Sayers told me to wait a lap or two. With 145 km remaining I slithered to the front and swapped steady pulls with GB and Germany.
Soon teams started hurling riders off the front upsetting the rhythm. We lifted the pace and lost the Germans. During one pull, I overshot a corner and barely held it up on the curb without causing trouble. I felt amateur and embarrassed. When I got back to the front, I apologized. More than once I gave what I thought might be my last ditch effort. The Brits shoved me back into the rotation offering a “good job” or “nice pull.” Their sportsmanship impressed me and they were pulling like oxen.
Timmy Duggan took over after my last pull, and I sagged to the back of the peloton. We lost Talansky, Louder, and Busche behind a mass pile up. I got to the front once more, took a single hard pull, but late in the race the speed ramped up and the head of the peloton became less welcoming. I had no strength left to fight. After that I managed to stay in the front group. Taylor did what he could to position Tyler in the sprint. As the sprinters unleashed, I craned my neck to see the finish on the big screen
Tyler finished 10th, a mediocre result but a step in the right direction and a result we can build on. Tyler also thinks so, and next year he expects to compete for the home team on a similar style course at the Olympics — and now, for a fact, at the 2015 Worlds in Richmond, Virginia. Go USA.