POWLESS CAPTURES US UNDER 23 TITLE
Louisville, Kentucky – Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team's Neilson Powless captured his first national title Friday after sprinting to the win from a three-man group at the US Under 23 national road championships.
“It feels pretty incredible to finally earn the jersey. This jersey has been on my mind ever since last year when I finished second in both the time trial and road race to Geoff [Curran],” Powless said. “Then at pro nationals, I just barely came up short both days and again was on the podium yesterday at the time trial. So to finally get on the top step is almost too much to put into words.”
The win concludes a remarkable week that saw Powless finish third at the Under 23 national time trial, second at the US professional national road race and third at the US professional national time trial.
The 20-year-old celebrated his fourth win of the season by outsprinting Gage Hecht (Aevolo Cycling Inc) and Brendan Rhim (Holowesko-Citadel Racing Team) aboard his Specialized S-Works Tarmac to the finish line on the 177-kilometer course.
“It was a stressful day with a very positive outcome. National championships are always a tricky balance between individual goals and team ambitions, and I feel they all showed their maturity and rose to the occasion,” Axeon Hagens Berman Sport Director Jeff Louder said. “Neilson has been so close to the win over the past week, and this is a tremendous result for him and the team to secure the national championship jersey. “
From the start of the technical race, Axeon Hagens Berman and Aevolo Cycling battled it out. With lots of attacks and resets at the front, the fast speeds shed riders early into the 23-lap course.
“We entered the day knowing that we either won as a team or lost as individuals,” Louder said. “Our plan was for each of the riders to take opportunities when they arose.”
It was on the seventh lap that the race’s decisive move occurred when Powless, Michael Hernandez (Aevolo Cycling Inc) and Miguel Bryon (Holowesko-Citadel Racing Team) got clear and earned a maximum gap of 1:25. On the final laps, Rhim, Hecht and Willem Kaiser (Gateway Harley-Davidson Trek) bridged up with Axeon Hagens Berman’s Will Barta and Jonny Brown soon following. Realizing its strength in numbers, Axeon Hagens Berman was the first team to launch attacks from this group.
“When it came down to the final laps, we knew that Neilson was our fastest guy with the most experience up front,” Louder said. “Jonny left it all on the road in service of Neilson today and I couldn’t be prouder of him.”
With 1.5 laps remaining, Powless attacked for victory and only Rhim and Hecht were able to hold his wheel. The trio fought until the line on the 7.7-km circuit with all finishing in the same time.
“Sacrifice is what got me on that top step. Jonny dropped and came back more times than I could count on the final two laps and every time he set me up for an attack or put a dig into the other guys,” Powless said. “In the end, it was him who rode me into the final corner and got me in the best place for the sprint. From there, I fought all the way to the line against Gage.”
With this win, Powless added to his impressive results this season which includes stage wins at the Giro Ciclistico d’Italia and Le Triptyque des Monts et Chateaux, a win at G.P. Palio del Recioto and third overall at Le Triptyque des Monts et Chateaux.
In all, Axeon Hagens Berman riders have won 12 races on the season.
By: Fitzalan Crowe Photo: Chad Childers