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World championships: Lawson Craddock and Brandon McNulty looking for more in road race after quiet TT start

Lawson Craddock and Brandon McNulty are both upbeat about Team USA's chances in next week's road races.

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The road world championships got off to a quiet start for the Team USA men.

U.S. national champion Lawson Craddock and Brandon McNulty got the squad underway in the elite men’s time trial Sunday. The duo was never in contention for a medal spot and finished 18th and 22nd respectively over the 43.3km effort from Knokke-Heist to Bruges but remained upbeat about their performances.

Both riders will form part of the six-man team going for the rainbow stripes in Leuven in a week.

Also read: Filippo Ganna defends title after close battle with Wout van Aert

“It was tough. There was not much to the time trial, it was dead flat and dead straight. It’s just kind of sit on whatever pace you can hold and pray to God you can keep it,” Craddock said after the time trial.

“It was definitely a tough time trial and a long time to be in that position. The muscles were definitely screaming that last 10k. I’m happy to be here, and I’m happy to represent the US at any chance that I get. Regardless of the outcome, I was happy with my effort.”

Better suited to the hillier time trials, McNulty was pleased with his effort despite only finishing in 22nd place. With a week until the men’s elite road race, the 23-year-old thinks that his performance shows that he’s in the right place to give it a good go in Leuven.

“I’m happy with how it went. I’ll have to look back at it, but I gave it everything, so you have to be happy with it,” McNulty said. “It was a nice course with nice roads. For me, I would have liked a little bit more elevation, but I just had to give everything I could and focus on aerodynamics.

“I think we have a good team for next week. I’ve been focusing on the TT for now and now I have to shift focus. I will ride with the team a bit in the next week and we’ll give everything we can. I think the power was good [in the TT]. It was a long effort so that always bodes well for a race that’s nearly six hours. I’m looking forward to next Sunday.”

Embracing the underdog tag

Team USA will line up in the men’s road race as an outsider for the rainbow jersey with a relatively young squad of six. At 29, Craddock will be the second oldest in the team, while the 32-year-old Joey Rosskopf is the eldest.

Craddock is not concerned about the underdog tag and believes that the US team has more promise than it has had for a considerable time. Alongside Craddock, McNulty and Rosskopf will be Matteo Jorgensen, Neilson Powless, and Quinn Simmons.

Also read: World championships notebook: Tadej Pogačar back among mere mortals, and who’s more popular, Remco Evenepoel or Wout van Aert?

“Maybe we are considered the underdog, but I don’t think it’s going to affect our mentality going into the race. We haven’t really been on the radar for men’s elite cycling for a decade or so and I really feel like time is changing for us,” Craddock said.

“The group of guys that we have is really special and the talent that we have is unlike anything we’ve ever seen. I think this week is about taking the opportunity as it comes and creating that culture of wanting that rainbow jersey in our camp in the foreseeable future. I think we all believe that we can have it. It’s going to be tough, it’s never easy to win at this high level but why not give it a shot.”

For the rest of the season, just Craddock and Powless compete together on the same team at EF Education-Nippo, but the Texan says the team is focused on a common goal.

“We never race as teammates very often, there is a different dynamic, but this week is about creating this atmosphere of coming together as a team and racing as one. It won’t be like it has been sometimes in the past where we shoot a lot of darts at the board. We can collectively agree that we’re stronger as a team and we need to believe in that and act like that,” he said.