First-time Olympian Brent Bookwalter finished 16th Saturday for the United States of America in the men’s road race at the Olympic Games. The Grand Rapids, Michigan, native crossed the line 3:31 behind gold medal champion Greg Van Avermaet of Belgium. Jakob Fuglsang of Denmark took the silver medal and Rafal Majka of Poland took the bronze.
Here are Brent’s post-race comments:
Do you consider this result better than your 19th place at the world championships last fall in Richmond?
“It is better than my worlds finish and really, it does not surprise me, I am content with it. It is a different feel here and the course was different than what we have had in the last few years at the world championships. Overall, I am encouraged that I am still progressing and finding new opportunities for myself. I am pushing myself to new limits. Today was one of those days and a big step in that process.”
How was the course?
“It was definitely one of the more demanding and definitely dynamic one-day courses I have done. It really tested us in every way. The cobbles, the wind, the short climbs, the long climb. It had everything. Plus, the distance and six-and-a-half hours of riding. That is a full day of racing.”
How were you feeling throughout the race?
“Halfway through, I was still trying to kind of find my legs and just really stay on top of myself. I knew with the Tour de France in my legs that I was going to need a little more time to open up. I kept telling myself that I didn’t need to necessarily feel better. I just had to maintain. With the distance and depth of the race, it was going to be a race of attrition. I kept telling myself to stay strong. I had some tough moments mentally, but kept fighting back. Ultimately, I was proud with what I was able to leave out on the road and that was everything I had in me.”
When did you lose contact with the pack?
“The final time up the climb, the group wasn’t that big at that point. But there were some really good, explosive climbers still in there. Some of them kind of went for broke at the bottom. I didn’t have the acceleration and just rode my own pace all the way to the top. Then I was able to join up with another group on the downhill and rode in to the finish with them.”
Your teammate on your trade team, BMC Racing Team, won the gold medal. What did you think of Greg Van Avermaet’s victory?
“I didn’t know what was happening the last 20 kilometers up the road. But I was very happy to see Greg with a big smile on his face and bringing home the gold medal back to the BMC Racing Team. It could not have happened to a more deserving guy. He has always been a great leader and a good influence on me. It is a great day for him.”
Finally, how was the atmosphere around the course?
“It was a cool environment – a unique combination of cycling fans and sport fans and just passionate Olympic spectators who were likely locals. I heard a lot of “GO USA” shouts from people who probably weren’t even Americans. Also a lot of shouts of my name. We raced from the urban streets to the coastline to the deep jungle and even over cobblestones and there were people all over the course who definitely made it a memorable experience.”
Bookwalter will compete in the individual time trial at the Olympics, along with fellow American teammate Taylor Phinney, on Wednesday.