USA Cycling has long counted on its women's endurance track squad to keep its medal hauls coming at the world championships and Olympic Games, but if an off-year Continental Championship is any indication, the newly revived men's endurance programme could equal the women if it continues on its upward trajectory.
At the Pan American Championships in Aguascalientes, Mexico, the men's team pursuit squad clocked a 3:53.86 en route to gold - the first time in history the country has managed to break four minutes.
Eric Young, Ashton Lambie, Gavin Hoover and Colby Lange shattered the country's previous record, which stood at 4:02.798. Their final mark was also an unofficial Pan American Championships record, but still four seconds shy of Australia's world team pursuit mark of 3:49.804, which was set at the Commonwealth Games.
"This is a huge result of our team, as well as me personally," said Lambie. "Pan-Am's last year was when I got my first Team USA jersey and it's been great to work with such a supportive program and team towards our goals. The result is just our first step towards bigger goals."
The results came pouring in one year after USA Cycling restructured its entire elite athletics programme, with Jim Miller leaving and Gary Sutton coming in as head coach. Jeff Pierce, the Director of Elite Athletics on the road and track said he felt something special was going to happen the morning of the qualifying heats.
"We witnessed some history with the men's Team Pursuit squad going under four minutes for the first time ever and smashing their own national record in the process. It was a beautiful ride and there's much more to come."
Indeed, there was. USA Cycling women's squad of Jen Valente, Kelly Catlin, Christina Birch and Kim Geist won the gold medal over Mexico and Canada in the team pursuit, notably without individual pursuit world record holder Chloe Dygert. Valente also won the gold medal in the Scratch Race, as did Adrien Hegyvary on the men's side.
Then, on Friday, Lambie went on to unofficially break the individual pursuit world record with a 4:07.251 - more than seven seconds quicker than second-placed Hoover.
"This is an absolutely stunning achievement and the world should get to know Ashton Lambie," said Derek Bouchard-Hall, President and CEO of USA Cycling.
Lambie, who came into the programme after making a name for himself in gravel racing, now stands to form the backbone of the USA team through 2020. "It's incredibly humbling to think about this past year up to today. It's been a lot of hard work, but trusting the process and making the right decisions day to day makes all the difference," Lambie said. "The support from my family, the team and my coach has been so important. It's amazing to have this result. I'm thankful as well to USA Cycling for all the support."
The USA now - when the record is ratified - stands to hold both men and women's individual pursuit world records in addition to Evelyn Stevens' Hour Record.
The success wasn't limited to the endurance squads - Madalyn Godby and Mandy Marquardt claimed the silver medal in the Team Sprint with a new best time of 33.35, while Godby broke another national record in the sprint qualifying, setting a 10.555 for the flying 200m.
With an eye on the next Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020, USA Cycling's management was understandably excited. "As we enter into the Olympic qualification time frame, it's great to start the Pan-American Championships with such strong performances in both endurance and sprint events right out of the gate," said Scott Schnitzspahn, Vice President of Elite Athletics for USA Cycling.
"The momentum from the first few days with multiple American records being broken and Pan-American Champion jerseys won has the team rolling towards a strong finish through the weekend."
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