2011 UCI world road championships, elite men, Ben King
Ben driving the front as some appreciative Great Britain riders urge him on. Photo: Graham Watson | www.grahamwatson.com

Editor’s note: Ben King is a first-year professional with Team RadioShack (Related: Ben’s previous VeloNews diaries)

Teams rising, folding, combining, and trading riders around on annual contracts makes it difficult for die-hard cycling fans to commit themselves to one team. On the other hand, we were born with a predetermined national team. Spectators and riders bring vibrant team pride to world championship events.

After a special neo-pro season supporting Team RadioShack to a number of victories, USA Cycling chose me to help Tyler Farrar at the elite world championships in Copenhagen, Denmark. Despite Cavendish’s speculation, I had confidence in Tyler, a grand tour stage winner.

USA, however, pitted a young team against Cav’s British team stacked with grand tour stage winners. Five of us brought less than two years of Pro Tour experience. Last year, Phinney, Talansky, and I raced the U23 Worlds. The U.S. federation took a risk with us, but we’re building a team and in the foreseeable future as we exchange youthful enthusiasm for experience our threat will increase.

Honored to be selected for the team, I prepared for a 170-mile battle against 210 riders that USA Cycling’s Jim Miller said could cost 6,000 calories. It took almost an hour for a break to establish. I followed attacks from the sprinter teams, but it was the teams without sprinters hoping to make the race hard. There seemed to be a terminal velocity on the circuits, which we held for most of the race allowing the protected sprinters a comfortable draft and smooth pace.

Unsure of my ability to aid in the finale, I asked Tyler if I should pitch in up front. He said, “Ask Sayers (our director).” I dropped back to the car and Sayers told me to wait a lap or two. With 145 km remaining I slithered to the front and swapped steady pulls with GB and Germany.

2011 UCI Road World Championships, elite men, Ben King
Ben gives the thumbs up after 170 miles. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

Soon teams started hurling riders off the front upsetting the rhythm. We lifted the pace and lost the Germans. During one pull, I overshot a corner and barely held it up on the curb without causing trouble. I felt amateur and embarrassed. When I got back to the front, I apologized. More than once I gave what I thought might be my last ditch effort. The Brits shoved me back into the rotation offering a “good job” or “nice pull.” Their sportsmanship impressed me and they were pulling like oxen.

Timmy Duggan took over after my last pull, and I sagged to the back of the peloton. We lost Talansky, Louder, and Busche behind a mass pile up. I got to the front once more, took a single hard pull, but late in the race the speed ramped up and the head of the peloton became less welcoming. I had no strength left to fight. After that I managed to stay in the front group. Taylor did what he could to position Tyler in the sprint. As the sprinters unleashed, I craned my neck to see the finish on the big screen

Tyler finished 10th, a mediocre result but a step in the right direction and a result we can build on. Tyler also thinks so, and next year he expects to compete for the home team on a similar style course at the Olympics — and now, for a fact, at the 2015 Worlds in Richmond, Virginia. Go USA.