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Kyle Murphy surges to men's US Pro road race title

Kyle Murphy (Human Powered Health) won the men’s road race title at the USA Cycling Pro Road Championships in Knoxville, Tennessee on Sunday. 

Murphy, the bronze medalist in 2021, hit out with 3km to go and went into time trial mode for the solo victory, winning in a time of 4:27:48. Tyler Stites (Project Echelon) and Magnus Sheffield (Ineos Grenadiers) came to the line together three seconds back with Stites coming around Sheffield to take the silver.

It was an exciting adventure for the breakaway that led the majority of the 186km (115.6 mile) race. Among a foursome from the original seven-rider breakaway that looked set to hold a 45-second lead on the final lap was Kent Ross (Wildlife Pro Cycling), Gavin Mannion and Ben King for Human Powered Health, Hugo Scala, Jr (Project Echelon Racing). 

King, in his final year after 15 years in the pro peloton, would lead the chase group across the line for fourth, his team putting six riders total in the top 20. US Pro Crit Champion Luke Lamperti (Trinity Racing) finished fifth. 

It was a textbook game plan for Human Powered Health, with two riders in the breakaway and then using an attack from Robin Carpenter in the closing miles to launch the counter-attack by Murphy that took him to the top step of the podium.

“It was awesome. I got on the radio and said, 'Let's get this one for Joey'. He's the man. I'm pretty confident he'd walk away with the jersey today if he was here," Murphy confirmed to Cyclingnews, giving glowing remarks to the 2021 road race champion and teammate who could not travel to Knoxville to defend his title due to a positive case of COVID-19.  

“It was a chaotic last few laps. We were patient and suffered on the highway [James White Parkway section] but we came here with numbers and that is the place to use them. It was our race to lose. We had the numbers and it was a homecoming. What a great environment in Knoxville."

The 30-year-old Murphy was surrounded by 20-somethings on the podium, a 24-year-old Stites, who was fifth in the US Pro time trial on Thursday, and 20-year-old Sheffield, who was the silver medalist in the TT.

“I had my teammate [Hugo Scala, Jr] up in the break and I had a free ride most of the day. The three WorldTour guys were driving the pace at the very end. There were so many Human Powered Guys that they kept attacking, but I took the field sprint for the race,” Stites told Cyclingnews before receiving his medal. 

“I was second behind Luke [Lamperti] into that corner and I got him at the line. This is my fifth time here and I finally had a good ride and I’m so happy about being the silver medalist and I have an incredible team.”

For Sheffield, he was happy the chase group made the catch with enough real estate to make something happen.

“There were some interesting dynamics in the race today, so we had to be really patient, but the way the circuit is here it can come back pretty quickly. Human Powered [Health] had some guys off the front in the final kilometres, but we were able to catch all but one, and that's the one that mattered the most,” the Ineos rider said.

How it unfolded

After a rest day on Saturday, the championships continued on Sunday in Knoxville, Tennessee. The men’s course followed a now-familiar circuit used from the past four years, but it was shortened by 1.8 kilometre, so two additional laps were added to the menu for the men to make the full 17 laps of the 10.9km (6.8-mile) circuit roll into 186km (115.6 miles), which is just 4.7 fewer kilometres than before.

From the start in downtown Knoxville, the peloton headed across the Tennessee River for the 1km climb of Sherrod Road, with gradients of 10%. After an out-and-back section on James White Parkway, the course returned toward Gay Street using the tight, punchy trio of corners that proved decisive in the Friday night US Pro Criterium Championships. 

Representing the new guard and the old guard, Ben King (Human Powered Health) was part of the first attack of the day along with a pair of young Kelly Benefits Strategies Elite Cycling teammates Patrick Welch and Spencer Miller. 

King stayed out front and was soon part of a breakaway which clipped away at the front with 106 miles to go, an advantage of 35 seconds. The seven riders had almost a minute on the peloton after the second lap: King, Christopher Uberti (3T/Q+M Cycling), Kaler Marshall (Expeditors Elite Cycling Team), Michael Hernandez (Best Buddies Racing), Matthew Riccitello (Hagens Berman Axeon), Lance Haidet (L39ION of Los Angeles) and William “Cooper” Johnson (Aevolo Cycling).

Some of the big names in the peloton of 105 chasers behind included Gavin Hoover and Ty Magner of L39ION of Los Angeles, Michael Garrison (Hagens Berman Axeon), Cole Kessler (Israel Cycling Academy), Scott McGill (Wildlife Pro Cycling Team) and Luke Lamperti (Trinity Racing).

Two laps later the deck has been shuffled with the composition at the front consisting of seven riders – King still there but now with teammate Gavin Mannion, Kent Ross (Wildlife Pro Cycling), Zach Gregg and Hugo Scala Jr for Project Echelon Racing, Jared Scott for Aevolo and Hernandez for Best Buddies.

With less than 60 miles to go the gap was up to 2:45. On the ascent of Sherrod Road in the chase group, more riders began to drop back, including Alex Howes (EF Education-EasyPost).

Halfway through the contest raindrops began to fall from the overcast skies, views of the Great Smoky Mountains to the east obstructed by lowering clouds. However, the rain storms never materialised.

With six laps remaining, a stable of WorldTour riders led the chase behind, Magnus Sheffield (Ineos Grenadiers), Sean Quinn (EF Education-EasyPost) and Lawson Craddock (Team BikeExchange-Jayco), European-based Lamperti in the mix and waving to the riders behind to help with chase.

The escapees started to lose some time with less than 40 to go, the gap down to 1:35, and Hernandez the first one to be dropped from the break. The Best Buddies rider then rolled to the start/finish and was one of more than 20 others to pull off the course and call it a day.

Just four more ascents on the menu, a chase group tried to form, but were reeled back into what remained of the peloton and had 1:50 make up to the leaders. On the climb, the sun began to shine and a wind began to pick up but the weather conditions were of no help to Gregg who was dropped from the breakaway, leaving King, Scala, Scott, Mannion and Ross. 

With three laps and 20 miles to go only 22 riders remained in the main group giving chase. On the penultimate lap, Scott lost touch with the leaders making it a quartet in the lead. In the chase group behind, Lamperti jumped ahead to take matters into his own hands.

With 11 miles to go, King attacked his companions. Scala’s leg began to cramp and he dropped away, but recovered over the next two miles to reconnect with the Human Powered Health duo and Ross. 

The gap was down to 45 seconds for the final lap. Craddock, Sheffield and Quinn led the chase with Lamperti in the group for company and a full stable of Human Powered Health riders – Chag Haga, Robin Carpenter, Keegan Swirbul and Kyle Murphy.

And with four miles to go the catch was made of the breakaway to set up a series of attacks from a group of 12 riders. Human Powered Health had the numbers in the bunch to continue an endless assault. It was Murphy who made the winning move with just under three miles to go.

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Jackie Tyson
Jackie Tyson

Jackie has been involved in professional sports for more than 30 years in news reporting, sports marketing and public relations. She founded Peloton Sports in 1998, a sports marketing and public relations agency, which managed projects for Tour de Georgia, Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and USA Cycling. She also founded Bike Alpharetta Inc, a Georgia non-profit to promote safe cycling. She is proud to have worked in professional baseball for six years - from selling advertising to pulling the tarp. She has climbed l'Alpe d'Huez three times (not fast). Her favorite road rides are around horse farms in north Georgia (USA) and around lavender fields in Provence (France), and some mtb rides in Park City, Utah (USA).

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