2021 Road Worlds Day7 1130x600
Team USA

Neilson Powless Takes Fifth in Elite Men's Road Race World Championships

By: Tom Mahoney  September 26, 2021

Powless’ placing is the best an American has finished in the Men’s Road Race World Championships since 1999.

Neilson Powless (Roseville, Calif.; EF Education - Nippo) did what no other American has done since Chann McRae in 1999 and placed in the top five of the UCI Road World Championships. After tackling the challenging 268-kilometer course, Powless was in a four-up sprint for the silver and bronze medals, after winner Julian Alaphillippe of France attacked as he entered the Leuven Circuit for the last time and stayed away until the end.

Powless attacked while on the field's second tour of the Flandrien Loop. An impressive feat when considering that it was 75-kilometers until the finish. While not strictly the game plan for today, he was happy with the outcome nonetheless. Powless said, “It was just an amazing experience being up there. I did as best as I possibly could have. It was unfortunate to lose Quinn [Simmons] to a crash. I think I saw a few guys going down in the Leuven circuits pretty far out when the race was on. So I was pretty disappointed to lose some teammates. But in the end, I think we rode a pretty great race, and I was so happy just to be racing at the front of the World Championships.”

Also finishing the entire route for Team USA was Lawson Craddock (Houston; EF Education – Nippo). He stayed with the main group for the entirety of the race, watching the front rider in the peloton to make sure no significant attacks were made to close the gap to Neilson’s lead group. Craddock finished in 57th. Only 68 riders crossed the finish line.

To Powless’s point, over half the field of 194 riders had left the race by the halfway point. Included in the reduction were four American riders: Robin Carpenter (Philadelphia, Penn.; Rally Cycling), ), Matteo Jorgenson (Boise, Idaho; Movistar Team), Brandon McNulty (Phoenix; UAE Team Emirates)), and Quinn Simmons (Durango, Colo.; Trek-Segafredo). Unfortunately, Carpenter and Simmons were both caught in crashes early on, and while they both immediately got back on their bikes, they couldn’t make off for the loss in position in the field.

Tejay van Garderen took on his new role as USA Cycling’s Team Director with Worlds being his first event. Tactics had to change on the fly numerous times because of the crashes, giving team directors a reason to have contingency plans to their contingency plans. Van Garderen said, “I kind of decided which guys I wanted to save for the final and which guys I wanted to have move a little earlier. Nielson, I wanted to put in that earlier move. We lost Quinn, and I had wanted to save him for the final. Unfortunately, he got caught up in a crash, but we had Nielson up there. He anticipated the big move, and I knew that if he got a little bit of distance between those big guys that he has a big enough engine that he's not going to get dropped. Coming off what he did at San Sebastian, I knew he had a good shot, very good result here, and he played it perfectly.”

Interestingly, all the team members were part of the USA Cycling development pipeline at some point in their careers. Most of the team spent time in USA Cycling’s team house in Sittard, NED, just an hour from the finish in Leuven. Powless talked about his experience in USA Cycling’s development program and said, “Yeah, I think just having access to all the races that USA Cycling was bringing us to when I was somewhere, you know, 17, 18, 19 years old, I started racing for the national team, had a house in Sittard, and we raced a lot in the Netherlands and Belgium. And I think that it really just opened my eyes to how difficult bike racing can be. You just learn so many tactics. I mean, they say, if you can make it in Belgium, you can make it anywhere. So I think for my development, it was just invaluable to be able to have the opportunities that I was given by USA Cycling to race there.”


1. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) 5:56.34

2. Dylan van Baarle (NED) +32

3. Michael Valgren Hundahl +32

5. Neilson Powless (USA) +32

57. Lawson Craddock (USA) +6:49

DNF. Robin Carpenter (USA)

DNF. Matteo Jorgensen (USA)

DNF. Brandon McNulty (USA)

DNF. Quinn Simmons (USA)

Full Results can be found here.