Anaheim, Calif. — Rock Racing’s Justin Wiliams won a thrilling photo finish Thursday to capture the USA Cycling Under-23 National Criterium Championship in Anaheim, Calif.
Williams edged out Jake Keough (Kelly Benefit Strategies presented by Medifast) while 2007 United States Cycling Federation national elite men’s criterium champion Daniel Holloway (Felt-VMG/Garmin-Chipotle) was a close third.
“They started to sprint, and I was cramping, but I could feel myself gaining on them, so I just waited, waited and waited,” Williams said. “In the final 50 meters, I decided to start to come around. Holloway had the right side open at the line, so I just dove in there as fast as I could before he closed it, and I had a really good bike throw at the end.”
The 19-year-old’s victory in the 37-mile (60 km) race on a 1.05-mile (1.7 km) course near Angel Stadium of Anaheim caps a season in which the Los Angeles native said he has learned a lot from Rock Racing teammate Rahsaan Bahati.
“I’m grateful (my team) has put me in a lot of the big races and a lot of the big criterium series,” Williams said. “So, I’ve just been trying to learn and today I got my shot. I was the go-to guy and I just used it to my advantage.”
The victory was Williams’ first national title on the road after winning the keirin and team sprint races at last year’s USA Cycling Junior Track National Championships and the keirin, match sprint and team sprint races in 2006.
Williams credited teammates Austin Carroll, Brock Curry and Adam Switters for helping him earn Rock Racing’s 31st win of the season. Last year, Williams was unable to compete in the criterium after crashing in the road race and nearly breaking his femur.
“At the end (today), Austin was keeping me out of trouble and riding toward the front, so I decided to just follow him,” Williams said.
In the junior men’s 17-18 criterium, Rock Racing’s Danny Finneran took the bronze medal in the 31-mile (50 km) race that was won by Weston Luzadder (Nova Cycle Sport Inc.). Gavin Mannion (Hot Tubes Development Team) was second.
— RRC —
All Photos Copyright: Vero Image
Justin Williams of Rock Racing earned the right to wear the stars-and-stripes jersey while Jake Keough (right center) was second and Daniel Holloway (left center) was third at the Under-23 National Criterium Championship.