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Brendan Rhim came into the division 2 collegiate national championships as the odds-on favorite, heavily marked thanks to a spring campaign that saw the Furman University freshman seemingly win at will.
But marking someone is one thing; actually hanging on is another. When Rhim attacked over the top of the rolling Asheville, North Carolina road race course’s major climb with 40 miles to go, only one rider could follow. Within five miles, Rhim had shed him too and was alone off the front.
“The field was totally shredded. When I went it was already down to about 20 guys because the pace had been so hard up the climbs,” Rhim said. “Everyone was pretty much blown at the top of the hill. The last 10km were very painful, but I made it work.”
Rhim, 19, won the road race alone. He won the criterium, too, just a day later, and was part of the championship-winning team time trial team, giving him and his Furman University squad a near clean sweep of the men’s D2 events. The only event Rhim didn’t win was the individual time trial, where he was second behind Colorado Mesa University’s Spencer Oswald.
The young Norwich, Vermont native’s victories have extended beyond collegiate racing. He bested some of the top racers in the country at the Redlands criterium in April, racing for the Cal Giant development team. He won there out of a breakaway, just ahead of a charging main field that included national champions and former WorldTour riders. He took home the green sprinter’s jersey for his efforts throughout the week.
“We have not seen the limit of Brendan’s potential,” said Furman University coach Rusty Miller.
“Beyond his physical gifts, it’s his demeanor that will see him to the top of the sport. In the race he will rip off your head and stomp on your skull, but before and after that he’s grinning like the buddha, unperturbed by anything. I have never seen an athlete with such control of his competitive streak, much less in one who is still a teenager. His calm presence keeps the whole team at ease,” Miller said.
Getting away from the northern Vermont winter, which severely limits outdoor riding, has been a key to his recent step up, said Miller.
“His junior victories in the National Criterium Championship and the Tour L’Abitibi showed talent, but it was coming to Furman and being able to train through the winter that made possible his stunning spring campaign.”
Rhim wants to make the jump to a Pro Continental team next season but is staying focused on one goal at a time.
“As of right now, it’s too early to really say what next year looks for me,” he said. “We still have U-23 nationals coming up, which will determine what [I do] next year, and the summer and fall. I do know that I will most likely be going to Europe sometime in the summer with the national team.”
Regardless of his results over the next few years, he will stay in school. Finishing his four years at Furman is still the plan, he said.
And then what? The European peloton awaits, according to Miller. Rhim agrees. The WorldTour, he said, is “definitely a long term goal.”