Events

Busche takes second career U.S. national road race title in rain-soaked Chattanooga

Matthew Busche rides away from Joe Dombrowski and a small group of chasers to win the 2015 national championship race

After earning himself a yearlong tenure in the national champion’s jersey back in 2011, Matthew Busche (Trek Factory Racing) will find himself in the stars and stripes again for the next twelve months courtesy of his victory in the 2015 USA Cycling pro road nationals. The Wisconsin-born 30-year-old broke clear of a small group of survivors of the day’s many challenges late in the race with Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale-Garmin), and then he left Dombrowski behind inside the final two kilometers to solo to victory after 179.3 long kilometers in and around Chattanooga, Tennessee. Dombrowski earned runner-up honors, with Kiel Reijnen (UnitedHealthcare) outsprinting Dombrowski’s teammate Alex Howes for the final spot on the podium to close out a day that started out hot and humid and ended up soaking wet, conditions that saw fewer than 25 riders finish the race.

A sizable breakaway group that included new national time trial champion Andrew Talansky, his Cannondale-Garmin teammate Ben King, and last year’s nationals winner Eric Marcotte (Team SmartStop) broke clear of the peloton early in the day and was given the opportunity to open up an advantage. Repeated trips up the Lookout Mountain climb whittled the group down as the day progressed, with Marcotte among the early casualties.

On the penultimate Lookout Mountain ascent, Talansky attacked a breakaway group that now numbered seven other riders. Talansky crested the climb alone and extending his gap over the ensuing downhill stretch, and the main breakaway group behind him started to splinter as a few riders tried to give chase.

As rain started to fall in Chattanooga, Talansky stretched his gap out to over three minutes before the final Lookout Mountain climb, but a UnitedHealthcare-led peloton set a high pace behind and began to close down the advantage, mopping up breakaway riders along the way. By the time Talansky had reached the slopes of Lookout Mountain for the last time, the peloton was within two minutes of him.

The tempo at the front of the pack reeled in all of the other breakaway riders, leaving Talansky alone up the road, but it also whittled the bunch itself down considerably, with riders like Tyler Farrar (MTN-Qhubeka) and Freddie Rodriguez (Jelly Belly), and a number of now-exhausted UnitedHealthcare riders, losing contact on the ascent.

Only a small selection of about ten riders, most of them climbing specialists, remained in the lead chasing group over the top of Lookout Mountain, with Phil Gaimon (Optum-Kelly Benefits Strategies) and Gavin Mannion (Jelly Belly) doing much of the pace-making. The chasers brought the gap to Talansky down under a minute on the ensuing descent, now soaked by rain, and a stretch of flat roads leading into the first of three trips through a short finishing circuit.

Talansky managed to maintain a gap into the final 30 kilometers, with riders from rival teams unable to organize in the chase behind, but his advantage dwindled gradually as he began to lose steam. A number of crashes on the wet roads saw riders in the small chase group hit the deck, among them Phil Gaimon and Joe Dombrowski, though Dombrowski was able to quickly remount and rejoin the chasers. Chris Horner (Airgas-Safeway) made attempts to break clear, but was unable to distance those behind.

After spending about half of the day’s racing riding solo off the front, Talansky was caught by the small group while making the penultimate trip up the short but steep Kent Street climb, but he slotted in to help teammates Dombrowski and Howes. Nearing the start/finish line for the final lap on the circuit, the compact group leading the race was down to seven riders, but seven became six when Kiel Reijnen suffered an untimely flat near the line.

With less than 8km to go, Busche, Dombrowski, and Mannion got away, but Busche and Dombrowski quickly dropped Mannion on the last trip up the Kent Street climb.

Reijnen was able to rejoin the chase group behind, but Busche and Dombrowski were able to maintain a significant advantage into the final few kilometers. When it was clear that the victory would come down to the two-way battle between them, Dombrowski attempted to get clear of Busche with around 2km to go, but Busche closed down the move before launching a powerful counter-attack of his own. Dombrowski was unable to follow, and Busche quickly left him behind.

The Trek rider sailed into the final kilometer solo, and crossed the line with plenty of time to celebrate with both arms in the air. Dombrowski rolled across the line five seconds down for second place, with Reijnen outsprinting Howes for third, 19 seconds back.