The final day of the 2022 USA Cycling Professional Road National Championships saw a warm and muggy day with rain in the forecast in downtown Knoxville, Tenn. Teams EF Education-TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank and Human Powered Health kept the jerseys in their teams for another year.
The Women’s Road Race kicked off the day at 9:00 a.m. E.T., marking the beginning of their 68-mile race. CINCH Rise athlete Andrea Fasen (Denver) was the first rider to attempt to attack off the front. However, it was an exciting race from there. The first break to stick came as Emma Langley (Richmond, Va.; EF Education-TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank), Lauren De Crescenzo (Longmont, Colo.; CINCH Rise), and Skyler Schneider (Milwaukee, Wisc., L39ion of Los Angeles) attacked, separating themselves from the group growing their lead at one point to 1:55. Eventually, Schneider would drop back into the group. At one lap to go, Langley and De Crescenzo still had their lead.
At half a lap to go, defending National Champion Lauren Stephens (Dallas; EF Education-TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank) sped away from the group to catch the leaders with Coryn Labecki (Tustin, Calif.; Team Jumbo-Visma) and Lily Williams (Tallahassee, Fla.; Human Powered Health) going with her. The three women consistently took time out of the gap with four miles to go, but they could not make the connection. Nevertheless, Stephens kept attacking to the line solidifying the third spot on the podium as she made the left-hand turn entering downtown Knoxville.
EF Education-TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank kept the jersey in the family. Langley said, “Our ultimate goal was to keep it in the team. We didn’t have one specific person we were going after. We knew all five of us could keep the jersey.” So often in the National Championship races, a few go off the front, but it does not always stick. Langley said, “It seemed pretty quick that we were over the 90-second mark, and I don’t think it really dipped below that. You never know what’s going to happen. I think it wasn’t until the last lap that I really believed we would stay away.”
Langley talked about the course and its infamous climb, “I was definitely struggling every time up Sherrod, it is a very unforgiving climb, and we pushed it pretty hard each lap around, so it kind of felt a little bit like just hanging on so I knew from there it was going to have to be a little bit of a late-game, [and I’d have to] wait until the sprint.”
1. Emma Langley (Richmond, Va.; EF Education-TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank)
2. Lauren De Crescenzo (Longmont, Colo.; CINCH Rise)
3. Lauren Stephens (Dallas; EF Education-TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank)
Within the Elite Women’s race was the U23 competition. Thursday’s U23 Time Trial winner Zoe Ta-Perez (Orange, Calif.; LUX-CTS p/b Specialized), earned herself yet another gold medal to round out the national championship. “My race was brutal; the field was super strong. I was trying to conserve energy because the split was coming; it was just a matter of when. It was just survival. I was with the main group until the last lap, but at that point, the whole peloton was in shambles,” said Ta-Perez. She also mentioned, “I was just looking for a solid ride in terms of execution, so I’m just super happy with the ride and looking forward to next year already.”
1. Zoe Ta-Perez (Orange, Calif.; LUX-CTS p/b Specialized)
2. Marjie Bemis (Blountville, Tenn.; Roxo Racing)
3. Kaia Schmid (Marblehead, Mass.; Human Powered Health)
The race took to the streets of Knoxville with 121 starters racing 17 laps of the 6.7-mile course. Unfortunately, 2021’s champion, Joseph Rosskopf (Decatur, Ga.; Human Powered Health), was unable to participate this year due to a COVID-positive test result. An early break was established around 100 miles left of the race, with a few riders falling off and others hopping back on the lead group. The main riders holding strong were Ben King (Charlottesville, Va.; Human Powered Health), Gavin Mannion (Fort Collins, Colo.; Human Powered Health), Huga Scala Jr. (Dallas; Project Echelon Racing), Zach Gregg (Roanoke, Va.; Project Echelon Racing), Michael Hernandez (Leesburg, Fla., Best Buddies Racing), Kent Ross (Portland, Ore.; Wildlife Pro Cycling), and Jared Scott (Boulder, Colo.; Aevolo Cycling). The seven riders grew their lead to nearly three minutes.
At 47 miles to go, several of the WorldTour riders attacked from the peloton, including Sean Quinn (Sherman Oaks, Calif.; EF Education-EasyPost), Magnus Sheffield (Pittsford, N.Y.; Ineos Grenadiers), Luke Lamperti (Sebastopol, Calif.; Trinity Racing), and Lawson Craddock (Houston; Team BikeExchange-Jayco). The group did not successfully break away, but they continuously shrunk the gap a few seconds on every lap, chasing down the leaders.
A chase group comprised of Colby Simmons (Durango, Colo.; Jumbo-Visma Development Team), Kyle Murphy (Townshend, V.T.; Human Powered Health), and Tanner Ward (Little Rock, Ark., Best Buddies Racing) formed and began to chase the leaders. Sheffield and Quinn caught up to the chase group looking strong. By this point, the gap between the leaders and the chase had shrunk to 1:30.
By the last lap, the lead group was caught. Sheffield took the lead on the final descent as the group came together, with Lamperti not far behind. After that, it was attack after attack on the highway with five more miles of racing. Murphy was the only one to make it stick and pulled away from the group when he made his way into downtown Knoxville to take the win. It came down to a photo finish for silver between Tyler Stites (Tucson, Ariz., Project Echelon Racing) and Sheffield, with the Project Echelon rider edging out the Grenadier.
Murphy commented on winning the jersey for his team. “It means a lot. I got my family here, my boy Nico, my baby Sadie, and my partner Britt. It’s awesome to be here. It’s awesome to be back in Knoxville. It’s a big race for our team. It’s like a homecoming. We had a lot of fun out there. We had a lot of fun at the crit.”
When discussing the end of the race, he said, “It got pretty chaotic the last couple of laps. The big boys, the world tour guys, threw down on the climbs. You just had to be patient and make them suffer on the highway. It was pretty good. We came with here numbers, and that’s the place to use them, on the highway.”
1. Kyle Murphy (Washington, D.C.; Human Powered Health)
2. Tyler Stites (Tucson, Ariz., Project Echelon Racing)
3. Magnus Sheffield (Pittsford, N.Y.; Ineos Grenadiers)