There are like three maybe four things you need to know about the 2014 USA Cycling Professional Road National Championships (USACPRNC) in Chattanooga, Tennessee:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Kent St. Wall
- At the time, Stemper was in the lead group, less than 10 miles from the finish. [↩]