It was hard to tell who was more shocked by the outcome of the Elite Men’s Criterium on Friday – the winner or the man who couldn’t catch him.
Adam Farabaugh, 23, made a last-lap attack and held off a furious charge to the finish led by sprint specialist Justin Williams to win by just more than a bike length in the USA Cycling National Championships.
Farabaugh, who concentrates more on time trials and road races, opened an eight-second gap with one lap to go and won by less than a second with a time of 1 hour, 43 minutes, 22 seconds.
“I don’t know how I stuck it on the last lap,” said Farabaugh, a recent graduate of Penn State. ‘It was so far.”
Williams, 23, is a veteran champion of numerous criteriums and needed another 100 feet to catch Farabaugh on the hot home stretch down Broad Street.
“It’s one of those things where he had like the perfect gap,” said Williams. “It’s close enough where people think if I jump across I can (catch him) but far enough where he had enough room that if he dug really deep he could stay away. He dug really deep and stayed away. We were pretty much next to him at the line. So it was as perfect as it could be. Just his day.”
The criterium covered 50 laps on the six-turn, one-mile course through downtown Augusta, and several breakaways were easily covered until Farabaugh made his attack just before the final lap. Despite not being accustomed to racing in the summer heat of Georgia, Farabaugh decided to go for broke in the final two miles.
“I was hurting,” he said. “I was trying to lead out my teammate at the end because I didn’t think I had it in my legs. I don’t ride in the heat too well. Coming through one to go that was a good gap. After that I was like I’m never going to be able to stick this. I knew the back stretch was pretty windy. I just put it in a big gear, put my head down and didn’t really look back because I didn’t think I was gonna have it. Kind of looked back once at the start/finish and could see them coming. So it was just everything I had to the line.”
The announcers had been pegging Williams as the predicted winner for most of the race.
The Los Angeles resident had won four criteriums already this year and finished second two other times in May. The CashCall Mortgage team leader was dejected after coming less than a second short in the national championship.
“I built my season around this race,” Williams said. “I had my team here and for the first time in a long time I didn’t have to do anything. It’s just really tough for me and the team. They rode their (tails) off and I didn’t deliver. ... If I went out before the second-to-last corner I would have caught him, but I just waited too long on the straightaway.”
Eric Marcotte, of Elbowz Racing, was third and Frank Travieso, of Team Coco’s, was fourth. Travieso rode up to Williams after the race and said, “We started too late.”
Farabaugh, who joined the XO Communications team this year and is competing in only his second nationals, had no expectations after a disappointing effort in Thursday’s time trials and was more concerned about his upcoming road race on Sunday. He barely skidded past a crash in turn six with 13 laps to go that caught more than 50 riders.
“I just said to myself this is a national championship, give everything you have,” he said. “Don’t leave anything on the road. It’s all a mind game at that point. It’s whatever your legs have left and how hard you can push yourself. At that point it was just everything I had.”
The victory was a boost to his fledgling pro career.
“It means a lot,” he said. “I’ve raced a lot since February and March and all that training and a lot of racing is finally starting to pay off. Past few years I’ve been in school and finally just graduated in December. So to start getting some results in the national championships this soon is huge and a great step for my career.”