Carmen Small admits that she is not as physically prepared as she would like to be heading into the USA Cycling Professional Championships time trial on Saturday in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The defending champion is realistic about her chances of success and has instead targeted a top performance at the time trial world championships on September 23 in Ponferrada, Spain.
"My circumstances are different than they were last year," Small told Cyclingnews. "My preparation over the winter, heading into this season, wasn’t the best. My big goal this year is the time trial world championships. I already have that spot and I don’t necessarily need to peak twice during the season."
At this time last year, Small had focused on top performances in the time trial at the 2013 Pan American Continental Championships and the Chrono Gatineau, two international events where she could showcase her ability against the best time trialists. It also gave her a chance to prepare for a winning performance at nationals in order to qualify herself to compete at worlds.
"I was on a different level with my fitness last year," Small said. "Nationals was crucial to solidifying my Worlds spot, so I put more emphasis on it than I have this year. Having said that, I will still go out and try my hardest."
Despite not being in her best time trial form, she has had a successful season with recent wins at the Tour of the Gila’s second stage and Tour of California women’s circuit race. Her seventh-place performance at the Tour of California time trial, however, wasn’t of the caliber expected of a national champion.
"I wasn’t psyched with my performance in California but I needed to be realistic and keep things in perspective about what the end goal is."
For Small, the end goal is a podium performance at the time trial world championships and a gold medal at the team time trial with Specialized-lululemon.
In order to achieve her goals at worlds, she plans to return to Europe for the Giro d’Italia Internazionale Femminile in July and remain in the Tuscan town of Lucca to train for the two events until late-September.
"I won’t come back to the States after the Giro," Small said. "I’ll just stay over there and do all of my preparation for individual time trial at Worlds. I’ll combine that preparation with the team time trial training, which is always a good way to get the fitness level up. We will have a lot of specific time trial training."
The US team has three spots for the women’s time trial. Small qualified for her worlds spot after securing a third place during last year’s event, behind Ellen Van Dijk from Holland and Linda Villumsen from New Zealand. Evelyn Stevens qualified for the second spot after winning the time trial at the 2014 Pan American Continental Championships held earlier this month in Puebla, Mexico. That leaves one spot left and it could go to the winner of the national championships.
"Nationals is a qualifier but there are some other types of criteria," Small said. "I don’t know who would want it but I think my teammate Tayler Wiles has been time trailing very well and has a chance at it. If Evelyn or I win the national time trial this year, then it will change the selection procedure for that spot."
Riders to watch for during the 30.9km time trial on Saturday are Alison Powers (UnitedHealthcare), who won the Tour of California women’s time trial, and her teammate Mara Abbott along with Stevens, Alison Tetrick and Amber Gaffney (Twenty16 Pro Cycling) and Robin Farina (Spy Giant Ride p/b MRI), among others.
"The course is such that the strongest person on that day will win," Small said. "It’s a pretty challenging course because it has technical elements and it’s constantly changing in terrain —the best person will win."