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USA Pro Challenge time trial a milestone for Daniel Eaton

Daniel Eaton (Axeon) was surprised to find himself in the hot seat at the USA Pro Challenge Breckenridge Time Trial on Friday. Eaton calmly watched the remaining riders finish as a television crew lay waiting to catch his look of victory or disappointment.

Eaton was surprised to find himself in the hot seat watching the race unfold.

Rob Britton (Team SmartStop) soon crossed the finish besting Eaton's time, as the 22-year-old packed up his gear and quickly left for his team bus. Race leader Rohan Dennis (BMC) went on to win the stage, while Eaton finished 38 seconds down in fourth place.

"It’s pretty unreal actually," Eaton said as he waited for the GC leaders to finish. "I came into the day hoping for a good time, feeling good, rolled through the finish and heard my name was in the hot seat and I couldn't believe it."

Friday's race was a milestone, but Eaton counts his win at the 2015 USA Cycling U23 Time Trial Championships as his biggest result to date.

"I think the U23 time trial win was still bigger for me, but to be able to do that ride with the level of competition was really big for me, a really big boost of confidence," Eaton said. "Just the fact that I'm feeling better at this race each and every day is really big for my moral, the future of my racing career and what kind of racer I will be."

Eaton's win at the U23 National Championships secured him a spot at the World Championships this September. Friday's performance has since made him a dark horse for a podium spot in Richmond.

"For me, I like racing the time trial but I don't specialize in it. I like the road as well," Eaton said. "To win it may not be super realistic but to podium, after the ride yesterday, is looking more and more real."

Eaton's future is uncertain. The 22-year-old Arizona native will age-out of the Axeon program this year and said there was nothing official he could disclose regarding his team for 2016. Axeon team director Axel Merckx is optimistic Eaton will find his way.

"He's coming to maturity and I think he's ready for something bigger," Merckx said. "I'm hoping he will be able to pick up a good team where he can really keep showing his potential like he showed it yesterday."

Axeon picked up Eaton in 2014 as a stagiaire for the Tour of Utah. Since then his steady progress under Merckx has demonstrated he can survive, and excel, at professional races like the Amgen Tour of California, Tour of Utah, and USA Pro Challenge. After Saturday's time trial, Eaton spent the last half of stage 6 chasing down the day's breakaway as the rode into Fort Collins.

"I have been taking it day by day, year by year," Eaton said about his future in cycling. "This is only my fifth season racing, it has all progressed really quickly. I'm just taking each opportunity as it comes, training as hard as I can, racing as hard as I can and see what happens."

Watch the video below to see Eaten discussing his time in the hot seat and to subscribe to the Cyclingnews video channel, click here.

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