KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Larry Warbasse admitted he may have had the best two weeks of his professional career.
Amber Neben may have had the best two days.
Warbasse emerged from a three-rider breakaway for a career-defining win at the U.S. road national championship Sunday on the heels of his stage victory at the Tour de Suisse, while Neben won her second road national title one day after claiming her second time trial gold.
''I'm in disbelief. It's been the best two weeks of my life,'' Warbasse said after completing the 110-mile route, which consisted of 14 laps highlighted by a nasty ascent up Sherrod Road.
''I had a really great race in Suisse a couple of weeks ago and yesterday I felt pretty bad in the time trial,'' Warbasse said. ''I was pretty disappointed. I told some friends, `I guess I work well with disappointment,' so hopefully tomorrow will be good.' And honestly I didn't feel good the whole day.''
Well, until he reached the finish line.
An early breakaway comprised of Daniel Eaton, Ian Garrison and Sean Bennett was reeled in by the main field with about four laps remaining, putting the stars-and-stripes jersey up for grabs. It was at that point that Warbasse joined Neilson Powless and Alexey Vermeulen in the decisive breakaway.
The 26-year-old Warbasse tried to jump ahead with about a mile left, but Powless and Vermeulen stuck with him. The trio wound up sprinting for the gold medal with Warbasse crossing first, followed by Powless and Vermeulen - and a hard-charging peloton led by Robin Carpenter.
''I don't think I was the strongest,'' Warbasse said, ''but I was the smartest.''
Neben was the strongest and smartest this weekend.
After winning gold in the race against the clock on Sunday, she lined up as a relative dark horse in the road race. But the reigning time trial world champion showcased brilliant tactics and some veteran poise to put herself in position when the early breakaway was caught.
''The break had been away and it was really quiet in the pack and I thought, I don't know if anyone is going to chase this back,' and then it started,'' Neben said. ''We caught the majority of the break except for one rider, and as soon as she sat up, I knew for me I wasn't going to be able to stay with those girls if they attacked. ... So I had to go early and I just went for it.''
Neben's attack prevented the field's best sprinters from having a shot at the gold. She crossed the finish line all alone, while Coryn Rivera took the sprint for second and Ruth Winder took third.
''One of the highlights,'' Neben said of the weekend. ''Winning worlds, you can't top that, but back-to-back national championships is really totally unexpected and I am beyond words right now.''