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Rosskopf, Neben repeat as U.S. time trial national champions

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OAK RIDGE, Tenn. — Joey Rosskopf and Amber Neben solved the new and somewhat unique time trial course at USA Cycling’s road national championships without much problem.

Unlike the course, the result Thursday was nothing new at all.

Rosskopf and Neben defended their titles in the individual time trial on a rainy, humid day just west of Knoxville. Rosskopf covered three laps of a seven-mile course in 39 minutes, 46 seconds, and Neben was among two women to break the 30-minute barrier in covering two laps in 29:43.

“It’s super special. There’s no way I can show up to a race and expecting it to happen,” said Rosskopf, who edged Team Sunweb’s Chad Haga and BMC Racing teammate Brent Bookwalter to take the gold.

“You saw the weather shape up the last lap, which was a big advantage for me,” Rosskopf said. “It’s hard to show up here and know that (Neilson) Powless, Haga and Brent have all done better time trials than me so far this season. So something special came together this year and last year at nationals.”

Especially considering Rosskopf was coming off a hard race at the Criterium du Dauphine in France.

Rosskopf opened a 3-second gap on his nearest rivals after the first time check on the course, which was unique for a time trial in its 180-degree hairpin turns. The gap had doubled by the second time check before Rosskopf powered to a 28-second gap on Haga by the time he reached the finish line.

Bookwalter was another six seconds back to finish on the podium for the fourth time in his career.

“At nationals I’ve had a lot of seconds, a lot of thirds, fourths, fifth, just about everything except a win. It’s bittersweet,” he said. “The goal is always to come here and win. I’m always consistent, and that’s kind of my trend. I’ve had a career of consistency. I will always be fighting and always in the hunt, even if I haven’t gotten the big win, I’m proud of being right there and close.”

The rain that slickened the tarmac held off for the women’s time trial, where Neben – a two-time world champion in the discipline – only had a four-second edge on Tayler Wiles at the intermediate check.

The 43-year-old Neben showed off her experience over the second half of the ride, putting more time into the field despite having no updates on time splits. She wound up finishing 15 seconds ahead of Wiles and 38 seconds ahead of Emma White to win her second straight national title and third overall.

“I don’t race with a radio. I go in with the strategy of racing my race, and riding the course the way I need to ride it,” explained Neben, a two-time Olympian. “I have different strengths and different weaknesses than other riders, so my approach is different.”

One of her weaknesses is accelerating out of near-dead stops, which made the U-turns that highlighted the course in Tennessee difficult. Neben had to make up the time on the long straights between them.

“I liked this course a lot better than last year. It’s more of a pure time trial course where you have to really focus and stay in the moment and pace yourself really well,” Wiles said. “I started to fade a little bit and really had to just push and mentally dig a little bit deeper. I had nothing in the last one-K and so I was just trying to get to the finish line as fast as I could.

“Amber Neben is world-class, a multi-world champion and I really respect her,” Wiles added, “so losing to her is still pretty good.”

The road cycling national championships resume Friday night with the men’s and women’s criteriums in downtown Knoxville, followed by the men’s and women’s road races on Sunday.

Massachusetts man wins Mount Washington bike race

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PINKHAM NOTCH, N.H. — A 30-year-old Massachusetts man won Saturday’s bicycle race up Mount Washington, the highest peak in the northeastern United States.

Barry Miller, of Beverly, Massachusetts, was the top finisher in the Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb up the 7.6-mile ascent to the summit of the 6,288-foot peak in 53 minutes and 34 seconds.

Miller was followed by Drake Deuel, 20, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Erik Levinsohn, 28 of New Haven, Connecticut.

In the women’s race, 40-year-old Aimee Vassee, of Longmont, Colorado, finished the course in 1 hour, 4 minutes and 5 seconds. She was followed Stefanie Sydlik, of Pittsburg, and Kristen Roberts of Reading Massachusetts.

The start of Saturday’s race was delayed two hours due to rain, fog and heavy clouds.

Last year’s top male finisher wasn’t in the race this year, nor were any of last year’s other top seven finishers.

Vasse defended her title as reigning champion in the climb. She won the race from 2004 to 2006. After a long absence, she returned last year and won in her fastest time yet.

Riders deal with a steep grade averaging 12 percent and rising to 22 percent at the finish, as well as Mount Washington’s unpredictable weather.

The race raises money for the Tin Mountain Conservation Center in Albany, New Hampshire, which provides environmental and recreational education for children, schools, and families.

Australian cycling star Simon Gerrans to retire

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SYDNEY — Simon Gerrans, who won two stages of the Tour de France and is the only Australian to have won two of cycling’s one-day classics, has announced he will retire at the end of the 2018 season.

Gerrans is one of only seven Australians to have worn the leader’s yellow jersey in the Tour de France. He also won stages of the Giro d’Italia and the Spanish Vuelta and won the Milan-San Remo and Liege-Bastogne-Liege races which are among cycling’s five one-day classics, which are collectively known as the Monuments.

In an open letter published Tuesday on the website of his BMW Racing Team, Gerrans said he was ready to change careers.

“Although I feel that I am still performing at a good level physically, my passion for the sport is not what it used to be,” he said. “Professional cycling is too hard unless you are able to commit wholeheartedly.”

Gerrans, who turned professional in 2005, rode the Tour de France for the BMC team this year. He finishes with 33 career victories, winning his home tour – the Tour Down Under – four times.

“When I look back over my racing career my fondest memories don’t come from winning Classics or Grand Tour stages but the happiness and joy my victories created for the team and people close to me,” Gerrans said.