Coming down from an adrenalin-filled day fighting off the peloton in the 2016 Tour of California's closing kilometres, Holowesko-Citadel's Robin Carpenter told Cyclingnews he was looking forward to another tactical day this weekend at the USA Cycling Pro Road Championships in the team's home base of Winston-Salem.
After a week of coming up empty-handed in California, the breakaway specialist made it into the day's move and spent most of the sunny-but-windy afternoon in a group of seven circling around the agricultural fields outside of Sacramento.
Carpenter and Axeon-Hagens Berman's Krists Nielands were the sole survivors of the move as they started the last of three short finishing circuits in the state capitol, but the sprinters' teams weren't going to be denied, and they pulled back the escapees two corners before Mark Cavendish soared across the line for the final stage win of the race.
Disappointing, yes, but the success of finally earning a day off the front and the growing confidence in his form had Carpenter looking ahead to the next races.
"I came into this race pretty rested with the expectation that it was going to be really, really long and fatiguing," Carpenter said in the shade of a street tree lining Sacramento's Capitol Mall. "A lot of guys say they come out feeling better than they went in, and that's definitely true for me. I'm looking for a couple of easy days and then we'll hit the national time trial, road race and then the whole Winston-Salem weekend."
Carpenter has reason to be excited about riding for a stars-and-stripes jersey in Winston-Salem. It's basically in the backyard of Holowesko-Citadel director Thomas Craven and team owners Rich and George Hincapie, and the team has found success there in the past when Toms Skujins won the NRC road race there last year.
"I'm really excited about a lack of a 15-minute climb every lap," Carpenter said of the road race route, which lacks a climb to equal Lookout Mountain on the Chattanooga course used in previous years.
"I think it's going to leave the race much more open and a little more tactical," he said. "That's great for us, I think we can really do something there. It will be interesting, because it's not just going to be a game of watts per kilo for most of the race. There will be a lot of guys left in there towards the end that I think [Cannondale] won't expect to see, and it's going to be interesting."
Although the course doesn't have a major feature like Lookout Mountain, Carpenter said, the rolling terrain and southern heat can make it deceptively selective.
"It's going to be a great race to watch, for sure. It will be hard to see who can get those guys – their teammates and their helpers – into the early breakaway. I see it happening like Winston-Salem last year, where there's sort of an early break that roles and maybe a team takes control," he said.
"But it will probably be hot and it's 190km, and there's some narrow rolling roads, especially on the far west side of the course, so there's going to be some tired legs at the end. It's going to be strategic, for sure."