Alison Powers fulfilled a goal set seven months ago on Wednesday when she won the national title in the elite women's time trial at the 2008 USA Cycling Junior, U23 and Elite Road National Championships in Irvine, California against a field of 33 women.
And she did so handily, completing the 33-kilometer course in 49:18.90 seconds, besting second-place finisher Mara Abbott by 1:39 minute. Chrissy Ruiter came in third at 51:05.50.
"Since I found out that nationals were at the same time as the Olympics, I have wanted to win this race," an elated Powers said referring to the absence of Olympians Kristin Armstrong , Amber Neben and Christine Thorburn - the three athletes who stood on the top three spots of the national time trial podium last year. "Yes, the three best time trialists are in Beijing right now, but I have to take advantage of it if I can. So, since January, this has been my number one goal."
One of five women who has spent the majority of the season racing with the Italian-based USA Cycling Women's National Team program throughout Europe, Powers explained that her European schedule precluded her from racing in a great number of time trials, and her first one was not until late May.
Since July, though, the National Team has raced in one time trial each week as part of stage races in the Czech Republic, France, and Germany. It was at Germany's Thuringen Rhundfardt that Powers had her best time trial result, placing 10th. "That was pretty good because I was pretty tired," she said. "So it was good to know that I was coming along."
Asked about the national championship course that began in the city of Irvine, Powers explained that it suited her strengths. "We drove it two days ago and I liked it right away," she said. "The longer the course is, the more it works in my favor. And we rode it yesterday and I liked it. The first 7k was really hard and then there was a section that was really fast. You could find a really nice rhythm. And then, of course, the big hill after the turnaround. But I knew the last 5 to 7k would be gradual uphill and you just had to wait, save a little bit in the tank, because that was really gonna hurt."
Abbott, last year's U23 national time trial champion [this year, Rebecca Much took the U23 jersey] who has also raced a full schedule in Europe this season with Team Columbia, commented on the course as well. "The climbing came so close to the beginning that the climb potentially could have been more decisive if the course had been reversed and the hill was at the end." she said. "Everyone's fresh going into that climb so it's not as much of an advantage [for me] as it would have been later in the course."
Ruiter, a member of the National Team with Powers this year, almost didn't even compete Wednesday, having just arrived from Europe at 10:00 p.m. Tuesday night. She said that she and her coach, Jim Miller, USA Cycling's Director of Endurance Programs, had decided that it wasn't really necessary to race the time trial since she'd arrived so late. She said that her time trial results in Europe have not been "anything special," so it wasn't a high priority.
But, she said "I got here this morning, and was like, I might as well give it a try. So it's pretty exciting." I didn't even see the course. The first time I was on the course was during the time trial." She attributed her unexpected success to a combination of having the opportunity to race in Europe, having a week's rest prior to returning stateside, and the lack of pressure she put on herself given that she did not expect to race.
Wednesday's men's U23 event included a field of 58 who raced the same course as the elite women, and it was Peter Stetina, another racer who's spent a lot of time in Europe, but with the USA Cycling National Development Team, who was crowned national champion. Stetina's time was 44:27.70, a solid 1:27 faster than second-placed Bobby Sweeting. Taylor Sheldon took third place with a time of 46:17.30.
Stetina said that, like Powers, he had been gunning for this race ever since the location was announced. "My uncle actually lives about five miles away, so whenever I want warm weather training, like in the winter, I come here," he explained. "I know all these roads, the town, and all the restaurants and all that. The only thing that could have been better was if it was in my hometown."
A strong climber, Stetina said he has been working hard all season on his time trialing skills in an effort to become a GC contender. "I've been top 10 [in time trials] all year," he explained, referring to finishes at Leige-Baston-Leige for U23's, The Redlands Bicycle Classic and The Cascade Cycling Classic, "but I haven't been able to crack the top spot, so it's about time."
And Stetina said he knew out on the course that he was riding the way he'd hoped. "I know the guy who got third today - Taylor [Sheldon] - he started 30 seconds ahead of me," he said. "He was really strong, always kicked my butt in time trials. He was a good rabbit to have and my goal was to catch him early, get him fast, and I knew I'd be having a good ride if I could do that. And then at the turn, I saw I had a lot of time on Nick Frey who was the defending champ [and started 1 minute behind him], so I just put my head down to the finish. I felt really good."
Adam Leibovitz took the victory in the largest field of the day, the 102-rider deep junior men's 17-18 event. With a time of 27:11.30 on the 18-kilometer course, silver medalist Ian Boswell was just 7.10 seconds behind, and bronze medalist Andrew Barker followed Boswell's time by a narrow .10 seconds.
For Leibovitz, pulling on the Stars-and-Stripes jersey was sweet redemption. A member of the junior national team, he had a disappointing ride at the world championships in South Africa just two weeks ago.
"Worlds was a bummer," he said, "because my bike broke right at the start [of the time trial] and I crashed in the road race. This makes the entire year worth it now." While elated with his result, Leibovitz was a bit surprised. "I've been sick for the past two weeks. I just went out there and did my thing the best I could, but I felt really slow." As just the 18th rider out, he had to wait a long time to find his time would remain the best on the day.
Jerika Hutchinson successfully defended her junior women's 17-18 title, clocking a time of 31:43/40 on the 18-kilometer course. Danielle Haulman took the silver medal at 32:17.13, and Cinthia Lehner was awarded bronze with a time of 33:56.0
Like Leibovitz, Hutchinson's win was also redemption for her performance at junior world's where she placed 12th after reaching the podium in with a third-place effort in 2007.
"It's been kind of an on-and-off season for time trialing for me," she said. "I had a couple of dry spells, and then junior world's didn't go the greatest for me. So when I came into this race, I just came in giving it everything I had left, to just prove I can still race. I worked really hard for this, so it's just nice to have hard work pay off."
In the elite men's time trial, second-year racer, Jonathan Chodroff took the gold with a time of 44:14.80 seconds on the 33-kilometer course. Mike Olheiser was second in 45:09.50 and Andy Jacques-Maynes turned in the third best time at 45:14.00
A former collegiate rower, Chodroff was 15th last year in the U23 men's event where he raced without any time trial gear. This year, he came in with not only the right gear, but good results, such as his win at The Fitchburg-Longsjo Classic. "I knew I always had the power and a big engine," he said. "It was just a matter of learning how to get in the right position to show that."
In the junior men's 15-16 event, Lawson Craddock took the champion's jersey with a time of 27:04.00 on the 18-kilometer course. In the field of 81, the silver medal went to Anders Newbury, and Chris Wallace took the bronze.
A field of 14 junior 15-16 women raced the same 18 kilometers as the junior 15-16 men, as Coryn Rivera took her 17th career national championship jersey with a time of 31:50.30. Rivera competes in cyclo-cross and track as well as road events. Kaitlin Antonneau was the silver medal winner at 32:07.40 and Jessica Prinner took bronze at 32:57.80.
The remaining junior categories - men's and women's 13-14 and 10-12 - rode an 11-kilometer course, and John Funk took the national champion's jersey in the junior men's 13-14 with a time of 21:14.20. In the closest event of the day, Alexander Freund finished just .10 seconds behind to take the silver, and Kyle Torres was .40 seconds behind Freund for the bronze.
In a field of 23, Zoe Frazier claimed the national champion's jersey in the junior women's 13-14 time trial with a time of 23:25.00. Grace Alexander took silver at just .10 seconds down, while bronze medalist Karla Lopez came in at 24:36.30.
Philip O'Donnell claimed the Stars-and-Stripes jersey in the junior men's 10-12 event with a time of 23:38.10, besting the field of 41. Noah Granigan was second, while Dylan Drummond claimed the bronze.
And in the junior women's 10-12 time trial, Laurel Rathburn defeated second-placed defending champion, Katrina Howard by just 10.50 seconds with her finishing time of 25:11.20. Dominique Shore was third.
2008 USA Cycling Elite, U23 and Junior Road National Championships
Irvine, California - August 6-10
Elite Men's Time Trial
1. Jonathan Chodroff (Kennet Square, Pa.) 44:14.80
2. Mike Olheiser (Huntsville, Ala.) 45:09.50
3. Andy Jacques-Maynes (Capitola, Calif.) 45:14.00
Elite Women's Time Trial
1. Alison Powers (Boulder, Colo.) 49:18.90
2. Mara Abbott (Boulder, Colo.) 50:50.00
3. Chrissy Ruiter (Bend, Ore.) 51:05.50
U23 Men's Time Trial
1. Peter Stetina (Boulder, Colo.) 44:27.70
2. Bobby Sweeting (Bradenton, Fla.) 45:54.10
3. Taylor Shelden (Breckenridge, Colo.) 46:17.30
Junior Men's 17-18 Time Trial
1. Adam Leibovitz (Indianapolis, Ind.) 27:11.30
2. Ian Boswell (Bend, Ore.) 27:18.80
3. Andrew Barker (Lakewood, Colo.) 27:18.90
Junior Women's 17-18 Time Trial
1. Jerika Hutchinson (Mt. Shasta, Cali.) 31:43.40
2. Danielle Haulman (Denver, Colo.) 32:17.13
3. Cinthia Lehner (Greer, S.C.) 33:36.00
Junior Men's 10-12 Time Trial: Philip O'Donnell (Suwanee, Ga.)
Junior Women's 10-12 Time Trial: Laurel Rathburn (Monument, Colo.)
Junior Men's 13-14 Time Trial: John Funk (Topeka, Kan.)
Junior Women's 13-14 Time Trial: Zoe Frazier (Suwanee, Ga.)
Junior Men's 15-16 Time Trial: Lawson Craddock (Houston, Tex.)
Junior Women's 15-16 Time Trial: Coryn Rivera (Tustin, Calif.)
For complete results with photos, visit Cyclingnews.com.
© BikeRadar & AFP 2008