In his last world championships as an under 23 rider, American Lawson Craddock saw one chance to finally don the rainbow jersey slip away after a long spell in the hot seat as fastest rider in the UCI road world championship U23 individual time trial.
Craddock has been second and third in the discipline at the world championships as a junior, but even with those palmares he was not expecting to finish as high as the eventual fifth place he took. Australia's Damien Howson won the day over Yoann Paillot (France) and Lasse Norman Hansen (Denmark).
"It was a brutal time trial," he said. "I don't think it was one that suited my strengths, so I'm ecstatic with fifth.
"I haven't put as much focus as I have into the road race [this year]. I've had a lot of good time trial results in the past, but I feel like I've become more of a road racer. I'm really focused on Friday [road race] and I think I have a lot more to give."
Although Craddock will still be eligible for the U23 ranks in 2014, he has signed with the WorldTour team Argos-Shimano after taking the best young rider's spot in the Tour of California and seventh overall in the USA Pro Challenge. However, he still hasn't given up hope of winning a rainbow jersey, and hopes that the U23 road race on Friday will be his chance.
"I've stood on every step of the podium of the world championships except the top step. Ever since I signed with Argos-Shimano, this is what I've been focusing on. I'm going to go out there and give it my all and leave everything on the road, and hopefully that's not any more skin."
Craddock ended his time trial today with less skin that he started with, and blood running down his left leg after his race was briefly interrupted by a crash in a roundabout before the second time check, about 25km into the 43.46km test. He didn't think it was a real factor in his final placing, however.
"I think before I was even falling [our mechanic] was out of the car and helping me up. I think I minimized the time loss and don't think it would have changed much, but it is always a bummer to crash in a world championship, especially in the time trial where it's nobody's fault but your own."
Staying upright will be one of the keys to the U23 road race on Friday, where the USA has decided to field a cohesive unit consisting solely of riders from the Bontrager Continental team: Craddock, Nathan Brown, Gavin Mannion, Nathan Wilson and U23 champion Tanner Putt.
"Some people weren't happy about [the team selection], but if you look at our results, and [the fact] we've ridden together all year ... it's a really good team, I think one of the strongest collective teams USA has brought to the world championships."
Craddock has his eyes on the Yates brothers, Simon and Adam, who have just completed the Tour of Britain with Simon Yates in third overall, and Belgium's Jasper Stuyven, another Bontrager rider.
"It's going to be an incredibly hard race, and I think we're well suited for the task. We've done our research and we've done the work, now it's time to put it to good use and you can bet that we will."