Spending hours of a road race alone is becoming an increasingly familiar theme for Team USA’s Ben King, who, at the drop of the flag in the Worlds Under 23 men’s event, shot off the front by himself.
“Everyone was motivated, and for most of us, it is the last race of the season. And the world championships – any championship event – is an opportunity, so we were all motivated, we all wanted to end on a good note,” King said.
With 159 kilometers left to race, King, in a similar vein to what he did at the USPRO Championships two weeks ago, methodically built a lead of more than six minutes before the field began to react.
“I started this race a little bit angry,” he told VeloNews. “A close friend of mine got mugged and abused last night. I was feeling a bit reckless, and it was kind of nice to be out there, just venting that on my own.”
In an ironic twist, trying to chase after him – also on a solo mission – was another Ben King – this time from Australia – and with both being Trek-Livestrong team-mates, accustomed to one another’s riding style. And if that wasn’t enough, chasing after them was yet another
King, Hong Kong’s King Lok Cheung, also on his own.
However, the latest owner of the stars-and-stripes jersey said he wasn’t being reckless without a reason.
“It wasn’t a selfish, reckless thing to do, just because I was mad and (to) just go out there and waste all my energy for the team,” he said. “The team plan was to have me aggressive from the start.”
With two laps remaining in the 10-lap race, when the Australian and Hong Kong Kings were swept up and the American King was eventually caught by Italian Moreno Moser (the nephew of the great Francesco Moser) and had settled back into the peloton, he checked on his US team-mates, who all looked relaxed and comfortable, having taken an armchair ride thus far. “Taylor (Phinney) said (to me) that if he makes it until two to go that he’ll be good, and I got caught till two to go,” King the American said.
“And the fact that I was out there at the front, just took all the pressure off them – they could just relax, eat, drink, save energy. The race seemed fairly docile – but there were teams definitely putting in a concerted effort on the front.”
Unfortunately for the U.S. team, Phinney, with his Petacchi-like sprint, was not as well suited to the uphill drag to the finish as Australia’s Michael Matthews and John Degenkolb of Germany, and with a massive bike-throw at the line, ended up in a dead-heat for third with Guillaume Boivin of Canada.
In hindsight, should the Kings have waited for company, then?
“Maybe I should’ve been a little bit more patient and gone with someone, but then again, when a few guys tried to come across to me and I was told to wait – and I did wait – I lost about a minute to the field in that lap, and they weren’t closing on me. So I think I do better alone,” the American King said.
Asked if he found it a surprise that one Ben King was chasing another, Phinney replied: “No – those are two of my trade team teammates.
“They’re a special breed,” he said with a grin. “They like to be off the front in very small groups, if not by themselves. They’re both just legends and a little bit special, but in a good way.”