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Brandon McNulty lights up Olympic Games road race with top-10

Sixth place in elite men's road race best since Taylor Phinney was fourth in 2012 for USA Cycling.

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Brandon McNulty lit up the elite men’s Olympic Games road race Saturday to finish sixth in what’s USA Cycling’s best result since Taylor Phinney was fourth in 20212 London.

McNulty’s sixth Saturday makes him just the ninth U.S. elite men’s racer to finish in the top-10 in Olympic Games competition in the road race since 1984. No U.S. rider has medaled in the elite men’s road race since Alexi Grewal won gold in Los Angeles.

“Wow. It’s crazy. I think within the USA Cycling program, every year and every generation is getting closer to being kind of at the top of the sport,” McNulty said. “It’s a big honor for me to be the first big result of the Olympics in a while. It’s super, super big for me.”

The Olympic Games rookie hit the final circuit on the Fuji International Speedway alongside eventual gold medalist Richard Carapaz. The Ecuadorian surged with about 6km to go to solo home the victory.

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McNulty, hot off riding in support of Tour de France winner Tadej Pogačar with UAE-Team Emirates, was reeled in by a chasing group with just under 5km to go.

McNulty hitched a ride on the chase group, and he made a valiant late charge, and settled for sixth at 6:06.33. Wout van Aert (Belgium) and Pogačar (Slovenia) rounded out the medals.

The spectacular ride surpassed expectations for the two-rider USA Cycling team, and confirmed that the Arizonan is at the elite of international racing. Lawson Craddock placed 80th for Team USA in 6:21.46.

“The experience was incredible. It was a pretty challenging race, and with the heat, it was a tough day,” Craddock said. “It sounds like Brandon [McNulty] had a hell of a ride. I think there’s a lot that we can be proud of today. Brandon’s showed that he’s had a bright future for quite a while now. I think today was just confirmation of that. I’m really proud to be his teammate and be with him over the last week. I’m excited to see where it goes from here for us.”

Both riders will compete in the elite men’s time trial on Wednesday.

Top U.S. finishers in elite men’s Olympic Games road race since 1984:

1984: 1. Alexi Grewal, 5. Davis Phinney, 6. Thurlow Rogers, 9. Ron Kiefel

1988: 4. Bob Mionske

1992: 14. Lance Armstrong

1996: 4. Frankie Andreu, 12. Armstrong

2000: 8. George Hincapie, 13. Armstrong

2004: 18. Tyler Hamilton

2008: 11. Levi Leipheimer, 17. Christian Vande Velde

2012: 4. Taylor Phinney

2016: 16. Brent Bookwalter

2021: 6. Brandon McNulty