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.

Australia’s Jay Vine wins Tour Down Under

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ADELAIDE, Australia — Australia’s Jay Vine defended his overnight lead to win the Tour Down Under, the first event of the 2023 World Tour.

Simon Yates of Britain won the final stage and moved up from third to second place on overall standings. Vine came in second on the stage to secure the biggest win of his career in a stage race.

The UAE Team Emirates rider took the overall tour lead when he finished second in Stage 2 and third in Stage 3. He came into the final stage with a 15-second lead on general classification.

The 70-mile stage involved four laps of a 15.5 mile-circuit through the Adelaide Hills before finishing just beyond the summit of Mount Lofty.

Yates led the crucial attack on the ascent less than 1.2 miles from the finish, but Vine jumped onto his wheel and Australian Ben O’Connor also joined in.

O’Connor led out close to the finish line, Vine briefly passed him but Yates came over the top to claim the stage win. Vine retained his overall advantage and claimed the title in his debut appearance in the Tour Down Under.

The 27-year-old made his name in e-Sports before being signed by the UAE team after winning the academy program on the Zwift online platform. He won two stages of the Vuelta a Espana last year and the Australian Time Trial title.

“It’s pretty incredible to be standing here and wearing this jersey,” Vine said. “The way we drove that was first class. My guys were incredible.”

The final stage featured a breakaway of 13 riders but Vine’s UAE teammates led the chase by the peloton and put their rider in a position to contest the win.

Yates again rode an aggressive race but had to be happy with the stage win.

“We came Down Under with a lot of ambition. We put a lot into it and we didn’t come away with the overall but we can walk away pretty happy,” Yates said. “Obviously Jay Vine is a massive talent and the crowd will be happy with a local winner.”

France’s Coquard wins Tour Down Under Stage 4; Vine leads

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ADELAIDE, Australia — French cyclist Bryan Coquard won Stage 4 of the Tour Down Under for his first-ever World Tour win, while Australia’s Jay Vine retained the overall tour lead by 15 seconds with one stage remaining.

Coquard is a lightweight sprinter who has had 49 wins in a decade-long career but had never won on the World Tour until he cleared out near the finish to claim the 82-mile stage by a margin of about just over 100 feet.

Vine was among the leading group that shared Coquard’s winning time and who retained his lead on general classification over Britain’s Simon Yates and Germany’s Phil Bauhaus. The race concludes with Stage 5, which ends atop 2,329-foot Mount Lofty.

“It’s a long time that I’ve waited for this win, 10 years,” said Coquard, who rides for the French Cofidis team. “I never really expected and I’m very happy and relieved with this win.”

While the stage was flat and suited sprinters, it had its challenges. Cross-winds and occasional gradients made the stage difficult and confounded some riders.

After an early breakaway by Jonas Rutsch and former tour winner Daryl Impey of South Africa, the peloton broke into two groups with Vine and other tour leaders among the leading group.

The leading group stayed together around the last, sharp bend towards the finish and Coquard bided his time until his late sprint left other riders flat-footed.

“It was pretty stressful,” Vine said. “There was one point there, I thought we were going to have an easy day and I was happy, smiling, waving to families on the side of the road.

“Then, 45 kilometers in it was on and it was on until the end so it was a very hard day. There was a lot more calorie expenditure than I was planning.”