U.S. encouraged by Bookwalter and Howes as road worlds conclude

PONFERRADA, Spain — The American team left Ponferrada with encouraging performances by Brent Bookwalter and Alex Howes in Sunday’s 254.8-kilometer elite men’s road race. Both finished within 14 seconds of the winner. Bookwalter was 25th, and Howes finished 30th in a rainy race that exceeded six hours of riding.

An early four-rider break that included Ukraine’s Oleksandr Polivoda, Croatia’s Matija Kvasina, Lithuania’s Zydrunas Savickas, and Colombia’s Carlos Julian Quintero built up a 15-minute advantage on the peloton after four of 14 laps, but the gap began to come back down as Poland pushed the pace.

When the four leaders were caught with just over three laps to go, only Bookwalter and Howes remained in the race for the U.S. squad. Howes had recovered from a crash to catch back on to the main field.

“It was a tricky course with some really nasty downhills,” said Howes. “I was feeling pretty good up until a little fall with like four to go or so. I had to do some chasing but the boys helped me out, helped get me back up there.”

“We had four guys that we wanted to get into the race as deep as possible and see where it shuffled out,” Bookwalter said. “None of us are really proven at this level at 250km, but I think we’re all getting better each year. I thought the race was really hard. We were down to only a couple guys with a few laps to go so Alex and I were just trying to hang tough. I think he was actually probably better than me, and then he was unfortunately caught up in that little bit of a crash so that took a lot of energy out of him.”

Poland’s Michal Kwiatkowski made the decisive attack in the final lap, and he managed to stave off the hard-charging field and claim the rainbow jersey ahead of Australia’s Simon Gerrans and Spain’s Alejandro Valverde. Bookwalter was in a group just seven seconds behind Kwiatkowski, with Howes coming in 14 seconds off the winning time.

“I felt like I had one speed. I could peg it at basically threshold the whole time, and guys would attack and kind of come back, and guys would move up the field and come back, and I was just grinding along at the same speed,” Bookwalter said. “It wasn’t quite enough to get into position to go for a top 10 or a good result, but I gave it everything I had all the way to the very last meter.

“It was just fast the whole day. It definitely ramped up at the end but not as much as some of the other worlds that I’ve done in the past. This one was just fast and hard all day. Those guys obviously had an unbelievable acceleration at the end. We were so deep into the race and everyone was so tired. That’s one of the things that make these one-day races so beautiful and dramatic is it really takes every last ounce out of you.”

With the world championships returning to U.S. soil for the first time in 29 years in Richmond, Virginia for 2015, Bookwalter spoke about the inspiration that will give to the American riders.

“We’re really inspired to have a chance to race worlds in Richmond next year,” he said. “We have a great group of guys here and a few guys that aren’t here. We’ve been kind of building up to this for a long time with this group of guys, this generation, and we’re really excited to put on a good showing in Richmond.”

The U.S. team wrapped up the world championships with four medals in the team time trials and two more in the individual time trial, including a silver medal by Adrien Costa in the junior men’s time trial, and a bronze medal by Evelyn Stevens in the elite women’s time trial.

In the team time trial competition, Tejay van Garderen, Carmen Small, and Evelyn Stevens each won gold medals racing with their trade teams, while Alison Tetrick earned a bronze medal with her Astana BePink women’s team.

Other top-10 performances by the U.S. during the week included fifth-place efforts from Zeke Mostov and Emma White in their respective junior time trials, a sixth-place finish by Shelley Olds in the elite women’s road race, and an eighth place by Alison Powers in the elite women’s time trial.

Original Article: http://www.velonews.com/2014/09/news/strong-showing-bookwalter-howes-road-worlds-conclude_347660#T01rBpR1iMsTEs3x.99