As the world's top professional cyclists stole the headlines Sunday with their performance in Paris-Roubaix, the "Queen of the Classics" and arguably the most prestigious single-day bicycle race in the world, the sport's future - including a five-man American contingent - contested the junior version of the race. USA Cycling's Junior Development Program fielded a team of five riders for the Paris-Roubaix Juniors, a shorter version of the pro race specific to 17- and 18-year-olds.
Ben King form Charlottesville, Virginia, was the lone American finisher in the grueling event, crossing the line in 81st place, 14.48 minutes back from the winner, Fabien Taillefer of France. The 130km course included 16 of the 26 treacherous cobblestone stretches that makes Paris-Roubaix the most sought after victory of the spring.
King's four teammates, Taylor Phinney (Boulder, Colo.), Ryan Zupko (Chandler, Ariz.), Nolan Froese (Colombia, Mo.) and Taylor Kuphaldt (Yuba City, Calif.) ultimately did not finish despite their strong efforts. All of the American youngsters rode hard in the day's dusty and unusually warm conditions, but crashes and punctures prevented additional results for the remainder of the American squad.
Prior to Paris-Roubaix Juniors, the U.S. team competed at the Ster van Limburg, a four-day stage race in Belgium. King was also the top finisher for the squad in that event, placing 28th overall, 38 seconds off the pace of winner Matthias Allegaert of Belgium.
Now, the Junior National Team will return home for a few weeks before heading back to Europe to continue their pursuit of international experience as they compete in the following events:
May 3: Wortegem-Petegem - Belgium
May 9-13: Course de la Paix - Czech Republic
May 18-20: Ronde van Axel - The Netherlands
May 26-28: Three Days of East Flanders - Belgium
June 3: Tour de Condroz - Belgium
June 7-10: Pays de Vaud - Switzerland