Lauren Winner
National Championships

Decisive Moves Set Stephens and Rosskopf Up for Success at Pro Road

By: Tom Mahoney  June 20, 2021

TEAM TIBCO-SVB and Rally Cycling made sure their riders were there at the finish

The final day of the 2021 USA Cycling Pro Road National Championships were held on Sunday, starting in downtown Knoxville. The event saw record numbers of participation, being the first major American road event since the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Lauren Stephens (Dallas; Team TIBCO-SVB) and Joey Rosskopf (Decatur, Ga.; Rally Cycling) would both make definitive moves in the last 24-kilometers of their events to take home the stars-and-stripes.

Racing started bright and early on Sunday with the Elite Women’s race. The 70-rider field began their race on Gay St. in downtown Knoxville at 9:00 a.m., rolling out onto the 12.6-kilometer course for nine laps, totaling 114.6-kilometers. Early in the race Holly Breck (Montclair, Calif.;) Rally Cycling), Margot Clyne (Boulder, Colo.; DNA Pro Cycling), Lauren De Crescenzo (Broomfield, Colo.; Clinch Elite), Clara Honsinger (Portland; Team TIBCO-SVB), and Daphne Karagianis (Nederland, Colo.; LA Sweat) would attack and able to maintain their lead over the pack for the next three laps, with four laps to go, the leaders started to break apart, and De Crescenzo time trial away from the other four. At one point, she was over two minutes ahead of the main peloton.

With two laps to go, Stephens attacked as the peloton was passing through the feed zone and connected with teammate Honsinger, who was coming back to the field from the early break. Together, they were able to launch Stephens even farther forward, where she soon overtook De Crescenzo. The field reacted a hair too late and was in chase mode for the remainder of the race. Teammates Coryn Rivera (Tustin, Calif.; Team DSM) and Megan Jastrab (Apple Valley, Calif.; Team DSM), along with defending champion Ruth Winder (Boulder, Colo.; Trek-Segafredo), came to the front to reel Stephens back in, but Stephens proved just too fast. In the end, Stephens won in a time of 3:11:19. Rivera sprinted it out with newcomer Veronica Ewers (Seattle; Fount Cycling Guild), claiming the silver in the end. Ewers rounded out the podium.

“We had four riders coming into this race, and we had four strong riders. I said last night that we didn’t have any fluff. We were confident with many different scenarios. So, we knew we needed to make this race hard. And that was our goal,” said Stephens about her team’s strategy coming into the race. “Coming out in lap one, we had riders on the attack, and the second attack was clear, and that break stuck. That breakaway stayed out there most of the day. Eventually, it was absorbed back into the field. I bridged across to Clara [Honsinger] just before we saw one to go. She took me all the way to the bottom of the climb, where we closed to Lauren [De Crescenzo]. From there, it was all up to me.”

“I was more riding a support role for Coryn [Rivera], and we really wanted the team win. Lauren just went in, like right for it, in the feed zone,” said Jastrab about the last lap. “It was a little bit of an iffy move for us to chase because Coryn needed water, I needed water, and we weren’t riding with radios. I tried to pull it back as much as I could with one to go and just buried myself, but it just wasn’t enough to bring it back.”

Jastrab finished eleventh in the Elite Women’s field, but she earned herself another jersey to add into her closet as the highest placing rider under 23 years of age. A fellow collegiate teammate from Milligan College, Marjie Bemis (Corona, Calif.; Robinson Forensic p/b Milligan Cycling), joined Jastrab for the U23 podium. Oregon native Gabrielle Lehnert(Eugene, Ore.; LUX/Sideshow p/b Specialized) took home the bronze medal.

As the midday sun beat down and the thermometer rose, the Elite Men lined up for their start. The 146-rider field, the largest field for this event in at least the last 15 years, started with a bang, with an attack within the first six kilometers. A group of eight, consisting of Lawson Craddock (Austin; EF Education-Nippo), Gage Hecht (Parker, Colo.; Aevolo), Chad Haga (Fort Collins, Colo.; Team DSM), Colin Joyce (Pocatello, Idaho; Rally Cycling), Ty Magner (Athens, Ga.; L39ION of Los Angeles), Magnus Sheffield (Pittsford, N.Y.; Rally Cycling), Tejay van Garderen (Los Olivos, Calif.; EF Education-Nippo), and Matthew Zimmer (Des Moines, Iowa; Project Echelon), were able to get a lead of almost thirty-seconds. They maintained their lead for half of a lap before being joined by the foursome of George Simpson (Fort Collins, Colo.; Project Echelon), 2018 winner Jonathan Brown (Covington, Tenn.; EVO Racing), Jack Bardi (Tacoma, Wash.; Gateway Racing Devo), and Alexey Vermeulen (Pinckney, Mich.; Canyon-Shimano – Q+M) before being absorbed by the field. Within a lap, Sam Boardman (Washington, D.C.; L39ION of Los Angeles) and Kyle Murphy(Townsend, Vt.; Rally Cycling) attacked off the front and pulled away from the peloton. Simpson bridged over to the leaders with ten laps remaining. The trio maintained their lead through much of the race, getting their lead above the field to over four minutes.

“Luckily, I was with Sam Boardman, who is the world’s strongest bike racer, and then George [Simpson] came up, and honestly, it was just smooth riding with them. I think we probably saved energy and didn’t have to ride hard on the hill every lap. I just decided to try to hang out there as long as possible to give our guys a free ride,” said Murphy about being on the front for almost half of the fifteen-lap event.

The field allowed the trio of leaders to maintain their lead for the next five laps. A chase group of six, Brent Bookwalter(Ashville, N.C.; Team Bike Exchange), Gavin Mannion (Fort Collins, Colo., Rally Cycling), Craddock, Haga,Sheffield, Rosskopf, and Vermeulen, began the process of reeling the leaders back. The groups merged with three laps to go, creating a sustainable group of nine. The group would fend off multiple attacks, but Rosskopf attacked right before the final lap and dangled in front of the remaining riders for the lap. He maintained his position through the last 12.6 kilometers and claimed the U.S. title as his own.

“We divided the team into the first and second half of the race. Just to give an opportunity to a few guys to try to float as much as possible, you know, without taking themselves out of the race. But just save, conserve, conserve, conserve until the second half,” said Rosskopf. “It worked amazingly, and so it’s hard to win this because if you don’t have the numbers, all the strongest guys are just staring at each other.”

This is Rosskopf’s third professional national title and first in the road race. He previously won the time trial in 2017 and 2018.


Elite Women

1. Lauren Stephens (Team TIBCO-SVB) 3:11:19

2. Coryn Rivera (Team DSM) +1:06

3. Veronica Ewers (Fount Cycling Guild) +1:06

U23 Women

1. Megan Jastrab (Team DSM) 3:15:27

2. Marjie Bemis (Robinson Forensic p/b Milligan) +2:02

3. Gabrielle Lehnert (LUX/Sideshow p/b Specialized)

Elite Men

1. Joey Rosskopf (Rally Cycling) 4:38:12

2. Brent Bookwalter (Team Bike Exchange) +0:03

3. Kyle Murphy (Rally Cycling) +0:05