LUGO, Spain (VN) — The U.S. world championship men’s road team will be named in the coming days. One rider is already assured a spot: Dimension Data’s Ben King.
His two stage wins so far in the Vuelta a España guaranteed him a starting spot on the four-rider roster for the men’s road race, scheduled for September 30.
“It’s a real honor,” King said Thursday. “The wins here at the Vuelta made me an automatic. I got an e-mail the other day saying welcome to the team.”
The mountainous course in Austria certainly won’t see the U.S. men’s team among the list of pre-race favorites. With only four starting spots, the squad will be outgunned by teams like Italy, Spain, and Colombia, who will have the maximum eight starters.
With two stage victories in the first half of the Vuelta, King has emerged as the strongest rider among the potential American team. Officials are expected to announce a full roster soon.
Other riders on good form include Sepp Kuss (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing), both racing at the Vuelta. Ian Boswell (Katusha-Alpecin) and Joey Rosskopf (BMC Racing), who are also at the Spanish grand tour, suggested the climber-friendly course in Austria would be too challenging right now for their fitness levels.
King’s attacking style and top fitness put him first in line to lead the U.S. team.
“I am building my resume here at the Vuelta and I hope to keep the momentum going,” he said. “We only have four this year. It was a pretty competitive selection.”
King, 29, also said he hopes to see the 23-year-old Kuss selected for the worlds team. Kuss has been impressive so far in his grand tour debut with LottoNL-Jumbo. Kuss said Thursday he’s not sure if he will race the worlds and said his priority for the remainder of the Vuelta will be helping captains George Bennett and Steve Kruijswijk.
King said current rules outlining team allotments for national squads often work against the U.S. men’s peloton. Without a big winner in sprints or stage races, U.S. riders simply do not rack up the points needed to gain more starting spots.
“I think an issue for the States among the pros racing in Europe right now is that we’re riding for other people, and we’re not scoring points to qualify for spots for the major international events,” King said. “I hope we will have more spots for the Olympics. That is really my next biggest long-term career goal, to earn that spot.”
More grand tour stage wins will certainly bolster King’s chances, and it would help the U.S. team potentially earn more starting spots in international events moving forward.
The U.S. men’s team will be aiming to improve on its best worlds finish since 2015 on home roads, when Alex Howes was 12th and Bookwalter was 19th.
The last time the U.S. men’s team posted a top-5 result in the road world championships was in 1999, when Chann McRae was fifth behind Oscar Freire. Lance Armstrong won the world title in 1993, took fourth in 1998, and was seventh in 1994. The best U.S. results came from Greg LeMond, who won in 1983 and 1989 and was second in 1982 and 1985.