FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — The world championships are over. The course in Toscana was amazing. I don’t believe that anyone undeserving really ever wins a world championship, but the winners crowned in Florence were exceptionally deserving of their titles.
For me and the rest of the U.S. under-23 team Friday’s road race did not exactly go to plan. Going into the race we believed we had the team to medal and possibly better. We did not medal, but I still believe it was within our ability. It is not rare that races do not pan out as predicted or hoped, but that does not change what could have been. Going into the race we were all fit and ready, but it simply did not pan out.
Even from a situation that was not ideal, we still came very close to a medal. Cycling is very much a team sport, but this is one circumstance where perhaps I should not say “we.” Nate Brown came very close to a medal. Going into the race the plan was not to have Nate as a protected rider, but when he was the only rider left in the front group on the last lap, he did not hesitate at all and took charge. With the gold and silver medals up the road and virtually decided, Nate struck out with a little over one kilometer to go. He was solo with a gap on the field only to get caught within 50 meters of the line.
Watching it was heartbreaking, but at the same time it was just classic Nate Brown. At the time Gavin Mannion and myself were both out of the race, sitting in the feedzone and watching the race on TV. Gavin, who has raced as a teammate of Nate’s every year for the past six years, said to me, “I’d bet anything that Nate comes first out of that last corner, biggest gear, attacks the group and gets caught just before the line.” Sure enough, that is exactly what happened.
So the race did not go as we hoped, but it was still a great experience. The level at worlds was something different than any other race I’ve experienced. I don’t mean necessarily the physical level. The physical level is high, but the field is largely the same riders we’ve raced against all year. The prestige of the race, everyone racing for the nations, it just drives everything to another level. For me, just getting to take part and experience it was enough, at least for now.
Next year we will all go our separate ways. The four other guys that I raced with at worlds and all season will be on different teams. Tanner Putt will return to the U23 ranks with Axel Merckx, while the rest of are moving on, or getting kicked out in the case of yours truly. So this last race was an honor. Everybody talks about how the U23 riders are the future big names of the sport and I truly believe that about my teammates Lawson Craddock, Nate Brown, Gavin Mannion, and Tanner Putt. So, to end my season racing side-by-side with them for what could be the last time in my career is something I will never forget.