Odds are on the tough-to-beat Felt-Holowesko Partners-Garmin team to defend the US U23 National Road Championships in Bend, Oregon on Wednesday. The young squad took on the professional teams in last week’s Cascade Cycling Classic where they captured three jerseys and several podium places.
"We are going to go out and have the strongest race we can by racing with our best guys up at the front," said the team’s directeur sportif, Chann McRae. "We want to try to eliminate as many guys from the peloton as possible and see what we can come away with."
Last year, Felt-Holowesko Partners-Garmin swept the podium with Kirk Carlsen taking the stars and stripes jersey. This year the team will be up against young heavy hitters who also race for professional team counterparts like Tejay Van Garderen (Rabobank), Chris Barton (BMC), Cody O’Reilly (Bissell), Danny Finneran and Alfredo Cruz (Rock Racing), Jacob Keough (Kelly Benefit Strategies) and Ryan Baumann (Trek-Livestrong).
The U23 championships are held on the same course as the Cascade Cycling Classic finale however, it includes an additional two laps for a total of nearly 200 kilometres. "The field won’t have as much depth and the course is going to be longer," McRae said. "We saw how much it split apart during the last road race at Cascade. It’s going to be about a lot of attrition that day and who ever has the endurance are the ones who are going to win the race."
The Cascade Cycling Classic’s sixth and final stage saw Taylor Sheldon and Alex Howes place second and third respectively. Their teammate Peter Stetina took second place in stage two’s mountaintop finish, captured the event’s best young rider jersey and the best climber jersey. The squad’s young sprinter Raymond Kreber won the best sprinter competition.
"We didn’t have the other jerseys as a goal in the beginning," he continued. "The points just started to show up so we decided to go with them. We want to teach these guys how to be victorious in races and turn them into ProTour riders. They are learning quite fast so we are pleased with that."
Felt-Holowekso Partners-Garmin will field a team of seven at the U23 national championships that includes defending champion, Kirk Carlsen, Peter Stetina, Caleb Fairly, Taylor Sheldon, Peter Salon, Alex Howes and Dan Summerhill.