Winters, California - Tyler Williams became the third Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team rider to earn a victory Saturday when he captured the Northern California Nevada Cycling Association Elite Road Championship.
Earlier in the day, Neilson Powless soloed to win the final stage of the Tour de l'Avenir in France and Jonny Brown won a two-up sprint at the Hotter'N Hell Hundred in Texas. The victories were the 29th, 30th and 31st on the year for the world's leading Under 23 development team.
Williams said he nearly made a cruicial mistake early in the 154-kilometer race that comprised four laps of a circuit.
"I attacked way too early several times and then there was a breakaway that went away on the first lap," he said. "On the second lap, I attacked on the climb - which was about 1.5 km long and 10 percent - bridged to the breakaway. But then we got caught."
A new breakaway of seven riders formed soon after, though, and eventually built a four-and-a-half minute advantage heading into the last lap. But Williams, who was riding without any teammates, said he was determined not to let the winner come from that move.
"A couple of us without teammates - Evan Huffman and Sean Bennett - joined me. So three of the biggest engines in the race were committed to bringing them back," he said. "Over the climb, there were only three of us left and we had 20 or 30 seconds. I don't know if they were playing games in the front, but it actually came back way faster than I thought it would."
Williams out-sprinted Huffman (Rally Cycling) for the win. Cameron Piper (Team Mike's Bikes powered by Equator Coffee & Teas) was third. As the top elite amateur, Piper earned the state championship jersey that professionals are ineligible to wear.
The victory was the second of the season for Williams. In February, he won the road race in the Chico Stage Race presented by Sierra Nevada. He also took home the bronze medal in the road race at the USA Cycling Under 23 national road championships in early July.
The 21-year-old who lives in Santa Rosa, California - but is originally from Bakersfield - noted that he won the Southern California equivalent of the state title in 2013.
"That makes this victory all the more special because I can't imagine many people have won both the SoCal and NorCal titles," he said.