By Jared Eborn
Stars, stripes and beehives. Might as well rework the national champ jerseys after Utah’s finest displayed an impressive amount of speed and power at the latest round of USA Cycling’s 2014 national championship races.
The Beehive State represented well, with more a handful of red, white and blue jerseys wrapped around shoulders.
Perhaps the most notable winners were rising stars Tanner Putt and TJ Eisenhart. The youngsters put on quite the show during the Fourth of July weekend in Madison, Wisconsin. Putt, racing for the Bissell Development Cycling team, defended his U23 National Road Championship while Eisenhart, who was third in the road race, dominated the competition to earn a U23 Time Trial championship.
Putt’s victory cemented the Park City product as one of the top young cyclists in the country while Eisenhart (BMC Development) showed he also has some of the strongest legs in America’s young peloton.
In the U23 road race, Canyon Bicycles-Shimano’s Daniel Eaton was part of a three-man breakaway early in the race. The trio’s five-minute lead, however, was swallowed up by a hard chasing group and with three kilometers to go, the race set up well for Putt and Eisenhart.
A strong attack in the sprint gave Putt his second national championship in as many years while his leadout man, Keegan Swirbul (Bissell) took second and Eisenhart rounded out the podium with bronze.
Canyon Bicycles-Shimano’s Erik Slack placed second in the Cat 1 road race.
Not satisfied, Lehi’s Eisenhart – who had captured the Utah State Time Trial title a few weeks earlier – beat all others in the race against the clock. The new U23 TT champion covered the 28-kilometer course in just 32 minutes, 38 seconds. Eisenhart’s time was nearly 48 seconds faster the second place finisher Robin Carpenter (Hincapie Development).
Adding to Utah’s Time Trial tally was Contender Bicycle’s Tim Mulvihill. The Park City cyclist won the men’s open elite division with a time of 32:54, almost 10 seconds better than runner up Justin Rossi.
In a mild ‘upset,’ defending champion Katie Clouse finished second in the Women’s 13-14 Time Trial with a time of 13:52. Boise’s Megan Doherty made an impressive showing with a gold-medal time of 13:06.
Clouse, however, was not about to let a second place finish be her best result.
Adding to her increasingly impressive collection of national championship jerseys, Clouse powered away from the field in the Women’s 13-14 Road Race to win a repeat championship and followed that up with a Women’s 13-14 Criterium championship a day later.
Utah’s cycling power wasn’t limited to the asphalt, however. Utah’s mountain bikers also had impressive races in June and July.
Saratoga Spring’s Makayla Weist captured the national title in the Women’s Cat 2 19-29 downhill race. Joseph Foresta claimed first in the Men’s 14-under Dual Slalom race as did Syracuse’s Doug Cheney (Men’s Cat 2/3 40+) and South Jordan’s Sophia Foresta (Women’s Cat 1/2/3) during the races in Angel Fire, New Mexico.
In the Mountain Bike Marathon races in Sun Valley, Idaho, Ogden’s Zan Treasure won a national title in the Men’s 55-59 field and Axtell’s Nicole Tittensor took top honors in the Women’s 19-29 race.
When the USAC Mountain Bike National Championship cross country races took place in Macungie, Pennsylvania from July 17-20, 2014, Utah once again showed its stuff with Clouse leading the way.
Arguably one of the brightest lights in America’s cycling future, Clouse won her third national championship in three weeks with a strong showing in the Women’s 9-16 Short Track Cross Country race. Championship Number Four came a day later in the Women’s 13-14 Cross Country competition where Clouse opened up a gap against the field and never looked back – winning by 85 seconds. Park City’s Mila Leger Redel was third in that race.
Haley Batten continued the Park City onslaught with a victory in the Women’s 15-16 Cross Country race while Sienna Leger Redel took third.
Sydney Palmer-Leger added a Stars and Stripes jersey to her collection with a crushing win the Women’s 11-12 Cross Country field with a margin of victory of 2:24.
“Going into Nationals I felt really strong,” Palmer-Leger said. “I have been training with my teammates (Summit Utah Devo) and racing with the Cat 1 15-18 women at the Pro XCT races throughout the summer and they have all pushed me to become a better mountain biker. I felt really strong going into my race at Nationals. I felt confident in the technical sections so my strategy was to get out in front early on and just maintain my lead. Once I had a large enough gap, I just rode steady.”
Palmer-Leger said she is honored to wear the jersey.
“Winning a National Championship title and wearing the stars and stripes jersey is such an honor. It such a great feeling to know that on that day it all came together perfectly,” she said. “It’s just awesome, not only for me but for my family, team and coaches. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Perhaps the most impressive performance of the bunch, though, belonged to Park City’s Keegan Swenson. The youngster continued his impressive career with a 16 second victory in the Men’s U23 Cross Country race.
“It’s great. The year’s been kind of up and down for me so far,” Swenson told USA Cycling after his win. “I’m really happy to come out on top finally. It’s a great feeling.”
Swenson said he hopes his USA title propels him to bigger and better things over the remainder of the season.
“There’s a couple of World Cups left,” he said, “so I’d like to, if I can, sneak in a couple of Top 5’s there and get on a podium there. That’s the big goal.”
Batten topped off Utah’s string of wins by adding a second title to her resume with a victory in the Women’s 15-18 Super D race.