There are like three maybe four things you need to know about the 2014 USA Cycling Professional Road National Championships (USACPRNC) in Chattanooga, Tennessee:

  1. Guys guys guys, that name, it's too long. Let's just call it The Nationals or the The National Championships. Sure, when talking to the uninitiated, in terms of cycling, which is basically ALL of #merica, The Nationals might be confused with USA Fencing National Championships in Columbus, Ohio, The National Croquet Championships in West Palm Beach Florida (#ballers), the National High School Cheerleading Championships (NHSCC)—the most prestigious cheerleading championship in the country—held at the Walt Disney Resort in Orlando, Florida, the US Synchronized Skating National Championships, the US National Biathlon Rollerski Championships, et cetera, et cetera, but who cares.
  2. USACPRNC is the most palatable display of American Pride we've ever witnessed, ever. It may lack the explosions, toplessness and acrid aftertaste of a 4th of July spent in the back of a pickup on the beach in Long Beach, Washington, but all that is nothing, n-o-t-h-i-n-g nothing, compared to the genius of Alex Howes': "I really want to win Nationals in May. I'm planning on hitting the Ardennes hard, and I'm hoping to be around in July. It'll be tough, but I think I can be good enough to win Nationals. The course in Chattanooga suits me well enough. California is right beforehand so I'll head straight from that to Tennessee. It's always been on my list, and I've always ridden well at Nationals. I just don't think there is anyone in the Pro Peloton who is as much of a True Patriot as I am, nobody can do that jersey justice like I can. I'm talking Eagles, Flags, Liberty, Barbecue, Everything American—I'm talking using guns to fight for gay marriage. Both sides of the spectrum. I've spent so much time abroad that I really love America for everything that it is. I've seen how things work all over the world, and I've learned to see a lot of the flaws in America, but I think I can do that jersey justice." While Alex is particularly eloquent and articulate, and he is, he really is, he is NOT unique when it comes to a raw and ruthless animal desire for spandex stars and stripes. Months before the race, in the days leading up to the race, in the morning near the start of the race, in the actual race, anywhere and everywhere, dudes be wanting to rep-re-zent, haaaaard. If nothing else, dozens of professional cyclists unabashedly aching to wear American Colors was the most relatable, reasonable and resonate-able iteration of pride I've ever experienced. Olympics Shlympics, The Nationals is where it's at. Also, special thanks to the town of Chattanooga for confiscating/hiding/camouflaging/whatevering all of your Confederate Flags, of which I'm sure there are hundreds on display on any given non-The Nationals day of the week.
  3. Alex Howes got third. I know what you're thinking—someone gets third at every race. And third is after second which is after first. And all of that is mostly true. But because of Manual for Speed's proximity (interviews, Human Athlete Visual Showcases, etc.) to Alex Howes, and friendship with Alex Howes, we have, over the last year and in particular the last few months, experienced, as though under a spell, a 'contact desire.' In fact Manual for Speed was NOT planning on covering The Nationals until receipt of an email dated April 10th, in which he wrote,

    First I want to win nationals and get a siiiiiic stars and stripes jersey. Second, I want MFS to make a Trading Card with me wearing said siiiic jersey inside of or maybe standing on top of a Sherman Tank. Then I want to distribute thousands upon thousands of siiiiiic Trading Cards at the Tour de France and possibly become a Worldwide Hero. MFS collects royalties.

    At which point we had no choice but to book tickets and rent a tank. It turns out Sherman Tanks are difficult to rent through Enterprise so instead we secured a Fiat 500, which may or may not have had a negative impact on Alex's race. At any rate, he told us to come, and we did. He told us he wanted to win, and he almost did. Dear Alex Howes, we're proud of you and we're sorry for not bringing a fucking Sherman Tank like you told us to. Based on that experience Manual for Speed would like to issue this statement:

    To whom it may concern:

    If you're not personally strong enough to be a professional athlete, we recommend you become invested in on either through friendship of fanship or similar. Follow their career, adopt their goals and desires, support them through emails, letters, social media, vibrations, intentions, etc., and experience contact pride when they do, or almost do, what they set out to do, cause it feels real good in your body and mind. Seriously.

  4. Chattanooga, Tennessee is the next Portland, Oregon. Which is code for saying that Chattanooga, or 'The Noog' as we like to call it, is possibly the best city in America in which to live. Portland has like 15 Whole Foods, 7 New Seasons and like 3-5 Coops; Chattanooga has just one Whole Foods. Portland has like eleven bridges, Chattanooga has six. The mountain biking in Portland sucks, the mountain biking in Chattanooga is likely amazing, like Totes Amaze amazing. Chattanooga is smaller and more manageable. The Noog is at the foot of the Smoky Mountains and Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Point is, the Noog is amazing if you're willing to eat mostly at home, and if you care about Mountain Biking as much as, if not more than, Road Biking.
  5. In terms of the race, it was really easy to spectate, like maybe one of the most walkable and enjoyable races in the history of races to watch/follow—it would be a great starter or beginner race to watch, and/or perfect for dates. They call it a road race but it seemed a lot like a circuit with a big hill in the middle of it.

Pre-Race

Moments before this photograph of George Hincapie and his fake family was taken, Manual for Speed spoke at length with 2013 National's winner Freddie Rodriquez about the shorts brand Chubbies.
Hi-vis X Realtree®
"I'm over it, but they're still paying me so I'm not over it. You know what? I'm not over it. I will never be over it. I wish I was over it, but I'm not."—Matt Cooke
This dude is talking about the best—like, unequivocally the best—Fried Chicken in The Noog. Apparently a friend of his, a local, recommended it. Also, in the course of doing some due diligence regarding his friend's opinion of the Fried Chicken Joint (FCJ), this dude learned that Yelp had over thirty reviews, almost all of which were very positive.
"These other clowns have support but I'm on my own. My Italians don't care about this race. Its always been this way, don't get me started."—Ted King

Downtown Chattanooga

Photo Credit: Brian Hodes
Because of this moment, Manual for Speed issued its latest series of hashtags; #philler #phillering #phillerism. Simply put, showing calm and poise, and maybe even a touch of lite disinterest or indifference, under intense physical/emotional/psychological duress is #phillering.
Overhead in The Noog at The Nats. Vol. 1: "Look honey, there goes the Pelican."
Overhead in The Noog at The Nats. Vol. 2: "Is that guy part of the Breakout?"
The dude on the left does marketing for an insurance company. The dude on the right is wearing white high top sneakers with wings. Both dudes claim The Noog is what's up.
This chiller was cool(ish) with getting his photo taken, but refused to move and/or change his position in any manner. This is 100% how I found him. After taking the photograph he wanted to know why all the racers were so skinny and weak looking. He kept asking me where all the strong guys are. Then, right before we parted ways he looked me up and down, more or less like he was seeing me for the first time, and said—"You need to let your hair grow, you're a Viking, you need to scare these Englishmen, they've been keeping you down for too long, they're scared of what you and your clan can do, show them your people mean business.” Then he walked off seemingly very satisfied, all-in-all, with our interaction.

North Shore

From the River Queen's PA system a kazoo version of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" could be heard on both the South and North shores of Chattanooga.
The bottom of The Wall.
This is a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera mounted to a tripod positioned over a hay bail acting as a barrier between the course and the area beyond the course, in the apex of a turn at the bottom of the wall.
#chillers
#chiller

Kent St. Wall

Dead Baby Hill.
Citizens of The Wall.

Finish

#phillering #phillersim
“Jim Stemper1 has just been nutttting himself all over the breakaway all day.”—Christian Parrett
Only 32 riders finished the race.

Post-Race

Jim Stemper sitting with medics post-nutting and finish—"I was right there man. It was right there."
Right after this autograph, Phil was asked to sign a copy of his book. He did so, soaking the cover and first few pages through with sweat.
When this photograph was taken "Summer" by Calvin Harris was playing.
Please note they're using Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and not champagne to celebrate on everybody's face with.
Man of the Mountain, Ben King
Mu-Wah!!!!!
  1. At the time, Stemper was in the lead group, less than 10 miles from the finish. []