It was a rainy finale at the USA Cycling Professional Road Championships on Monday where Matthew Busche put on a fine tactical display to take a solo win and claim his second Championship title.
A series of attacks left two men standing in the final lap of the 179.3-kilomoter race in Chattanooga, Tennessee and it was clear that Busche was the strongest of the pair.
Busche easily handled Joe Dombrowski’s (Cannondale-Garmin) attack with just over two kilometers to go, then immediately countered and never looked back.
“Being able to come into the line and knowing I was alone and realizing that I was going to win was special. Now I wished I had slowed down a little bit in the last 150 meters to savor it, but I didn’t know how fast Joe was coming – and you never know what can happen,” explained Busche.
“I’m ecstatic! Since I won in 2011 I wanted to do it again, for me, for my family, for the team – it’s always an honor to wear the colors of your country. It’s been a hard start to the season so this is great.
“It’s unbelievable to have [my son] Noah there with me on the podium. You see guys do it all the time, and I always thought I would never do that. Maybe it was cliché, but I enjoyed it a lot! To have my own family here, and Noah at only five months old, and to celebrate with them is very memorable.”
A large breakaway formed early in the race and Matthew Busche missed the move; with no Trek Factory Racing teammates to help in the chase Busche had to play a cool-hand and rely on others to do most of the work to bring it back.
With United Healthcare leading the chase the gap fell, and the tough Lookout Mountain climb did the rest. On the final ascent only one rider remained out front, albeit a worrisome strong climber in Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Cannondale).
Busche: “When that big group went from the start, I was mad for missing it. I don’t even know how it happened, or when or where. I, like a lot of guys, thought it was over and I was very frustrated that I had missed it. I am by myself so I have to rely on other guys to do some work and luckily there were some others that wanted to win.
“I am alone and I can’t chase the break and then win the race so I had to play it cool. I got nervous when Andrew [Talansky] went alone the third time up Lookout, because he looked very strong. It was a gutsy move. But teams kept working, and at the end things came together.”
Late in the race the rain began to pummel down giving an added dangerous element to an already punishing course, and by the three finishing circuits in town there were only 10 survivors remaining, but most of the strong climbers were represented.
Busche explained the tactical and wet ending:
“I felt I was one of the strongest at the end and Alex Howes was definitely Garmin-Cannondale’s favourite for that finish, he’s punchy and fast so i wasn’ t going to wait
for the sprint. I’ve learned from these [National Championship] races that at some point something is going to stick and hopefully I’m not going to miss it.
“I think with just over one lap to go I went for it, but everyone came back to me. There were more attacks and you never know which one is going to go, when Joe, Gaven [Mannion, Team Jelly Belly] and I got away that was a little bit surprising for me as I don’t know how the gap opened up. But it’s just one of those things in a long race and it only takes a small gap that someone can’t close and it’s over; it’s just the way a championship race is.
“Then it was just Joe and me. I don’t think he liked his chances in the sprint so he was staying in my wheel. When he attacked it was a strong attack, but I had strong legs and could follow. I knew i had to go right away, and I got a gap. I had to keep my wits about me as the final left hand turn was slippery and even though I was fairly certain I had to come back in my own head to slow down, and don’t lose it in the corner.”
Busche and Dombrowski shed Mannion on the final steep kicker and it turned into a two-up fight. Dombrowksi, perhaps knowing he had a fast teammate behind in Howes, and maybe knowing his chance was slim in a sprint against a strong-looking Busche, first sat in Bushce’s wheel for a few kilometers, then gave a final last-ditch attempt at the win with around two kilometers to go.
But Busche easily thwarted the move, countered, and soloed into the stars and stripes jersey. It was a sweet win for Busche who suffered an injury in late January and just recently returned to competition.
“To be the strongest on the day, and maybe play it a little tactically better, to win in a hard race like today, in hard conditions, hard course, just to win knowing that you gave it your all is just really the best feeling,” summed up Busche.
Full Video Coverage of Men’s and Women’s Race
Guarnier Wins Women’s Race
In the women’s race, Guarnier outlasted Coryn Rivera (UnitedHealthcare) and Tayler Wiles (Velocio-SRAM) in a dramatic final sprint to win her second national title since 2012.
“It was a long sprint and it was a headwind,” Guarnier said. “I don’t get too many opportunities to sprint, so I just kind of had to go by feel. For sure it was a long sprint because Coryn was coming up in those final 100 meters after hitting it in the headwind.”
Guarnier took the final corner just ahead of Rivera and topped the UHC rider to take the win by half a wheel with Wiles just behind. All three recorded 3:06:48 finishes.
Evelyn Stevens (San Francisco, Calif./Boels Dolmans Cycling Team) earned Queen of the Mountain honors after making it up Lookout Mountain third on the first pass, then first on the second, collecting 15 points along the way. Like Talansky, Stevens courageously went solo for an extended portion of the contest, which allowed her teammate to conserve for the sprint finish.
“I knew after Evie’s move at the end, I really had to finish it off for her,” Guarnier said. “Evelyn’s strong enough to hold them off—we’ve seen that in the past—so it could have gone either way for Boels Dolmans.”
The second climb up Lookout Mountain produced the deciding selection, as Guarnier, Rivera, Wiles, Stevens, Katie Hall (UnitedHealthcare) and Amber Neben (Lake Forest, Calif./FCS Cycling-Visit Dallas p/b Noise4Good) broke off the front. Hall was dropped off the front group in the final two laps, and the finish came down to the three podium winners and Neben just four seconds back.
“It’s an honor to represent the Stars-and-Stripes over in Europe,” Guarnier said. “Every time I’m over there, I’m honored to race for the United States, but to be able to wear that jersey over there again, hopefully it will raise my game even more.
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