Rally UHC Cycling had plenty to celebrate on Friday. It’s not every day you win national titles in two different countries in the same 24 hours.
Rob Britton delivered a fantastic ride in Saint-Prosper, Quebec, to take the Canadian time trial title, with defending champion and teammate Svein Tuft finishing second to secure the one-two finish. Only a few hours later, Emma White stormed to the American women’s criterium title in Knoxville, Tennessee.
That’s two national championship victories already secured, with more nationals racing to come in the weekend ahead.
A one-two finish in Canada
Britton and Tuft were the last two riders to hit the road at Canadian nationals, and that made for one exciting finale to the day’s time trialing action. Things started out well for Britton, but the rolling 34.1-kilometer course began to take its toll midway through. Nonetheless, he pushed hard to maintain his pace.
“The first eight kilometers were great for me. I could put my head down and get into a rhythm over the rollers. Then the middle 16 kilometers were agonizing,” Britton said. “The last few kilometers I knew I had to go all out on every single roller if I wanted to win.”
By the final few minutes of Britton’s ride it was clear that the win would come down to one of the two Rally UHC Cycling riders on the road: last year’s runner-up Britton, or the 11-time champion Tuft, putting in a big performance of his own shortly behind.
Britton hit the line with a time of 42:54. Just over a minute later, Tuft closed things out in 43:08, good enough for runner-up honors.
“It’s great that the jersey is going on next year with someone who will represent it well,” Tuft said. “Rob’s been making that progression year by year, and he really put it together today.”
Thanks to that combination of preparation and performance, Britton has earned a full year in the Canadian time trial champion’s jersey.
“The jersey is a representation of how far I’ve come since the beginning of my racing career,” he said. “I remember years and years ago when I was naïve enough to think I could win this, and it’s taken me over a decade to actually pull it off. I guess it shows that anything is possible if you work at it.”
White storms to a convincing criterium win
Nearly two thousand kilometers away, Rally UHC Cycling geared up for some criterium action at the U.S. National Championships.
A team-wide effort to apply pressure to the rest of the peloton paid off at the end of a hard-fought women’s race. Orange jerseys were constantly at the front throughout the race, ensuring rival attacks were kept on a short leash.
With none of the breakaway moves managing to find much space, the criterium headed into the final lap with a bunch finish still in play. White was ready for her moment, and still feeling fresh despite the rolling Knoxville course.
“Everyone else on the team gave 100 percent,” she said. “I really had no choice but to do this for them in the end.”
Erica Carney helped guide White into position for a tricky finale, where three late corners made it crucial to be near the front. White surged to the head of the peloton to be the first rider through the third-to-last turn, crested a small hill to hit the penultimate corner, and made it around the final turn still out front with the finish line in sight.
She wound up to top speed over the final few hundred meters and no one came close to catching her. White hit the line with a convincing margin to take the national criterium title.
“Crossing the line, I felt a wave of emotions,” she said. “On the forefront of my mind was ‘I’m so happy my mom is here to see this,’ ‘I love my team so much and owe this to them,’ and of course, ‘This is for Kelly Catlin.'”
At just 21 years old, White is still eligible for the under-23 title. Thanks to her big ride, she will spend the next year as the combined U23 and elite American women’s criterium champ.
The victory will serve as a hard-earned confidence booster as White and her teammates look ahead to the national championship road race less than two days away.
“This is a huge win for our team. We’ve had a really tough year,” she said. “It feels like a turning point — but we have more to give on Sunday!”
Don’t miss the beautiful images Wil Matthews captured from a great afternoon in Knoxville.