Carmen Small doesn’t consider herself one of the favorites in the individual time trial at the 2015 UCI Road World Championships this week in Richmond, Virginia.
Who could blame her?
She returned from Europe earlier than planned, missing a time trial that would have served as a nice tune up.
Then she got sick once she returned to the United States, which hampered her training.
“My confidence level is not that high right now,” Small said Saturday in a phone interview with The Durango Herald.
That being said, Small will race in a wide-open field on a long course.
The 30-kilometer event is the longest time trial of the season other than the national championships, and that leaves a lot of uncertainty.
Small rode the course in a practice lap Saturday.
“It’s an interesting course. I personally really like. It has a bit of everything. There’s some technical aspects to it, there’s a nice little kicker, as well,” she said. “It will be interesting, and then it’s long. I think it’s going to be hard to actually predict the winner because of the length. It’s kind of unknown.”
Lisa Brennauer of Germany is the defending world champion in the event, and two-time Olympic gold medalist Kristin Armstrong has returned from retirement to put her wheel on the starting line.
More than a World Championship will be on the line when the race is contested at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.
The top three finishers automatically qualify for the event at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“It’s not like I’m not going to go out there and not try my hardest. It’s a long day; anything can happen,” Small said. “In the past, I’ve shown myself as a solid time trialist, especially over that length. I’m definitely looking at it as an opportunity to make the Olympic team. Next spring is going to be really important.”
The world championships aren’t the be-all, end-all in terms of qualifying for Rio.
International cycling federations will look at a cyclist’s performances in World Tour events, which is a change from using World Cup event performances as a measure.
The specific criteria hasn’t been made available to the public, though.
Because of that alternative Olympic possibility, Small is looking forward to the 2016 season.
She re-signed with Bigla Pro Cycling, who she raced with this year in Europe.
“The past two years I’ve been on a European team, so I’ve based myself over there. I prefer that, definitely. It seems to work well for me,” Small said. “This year was a little bit different because I started out doing track over the winter and made the transition back to the road. It’s kind of been a crazy season in that aspect that I’ve had a lot of changes.
“I’m actually really looking forward to next season. I’ll go early (to Europe) and do spring classics and stay there for the majority of the year. I’m looking at next year to be pretty solid when it comes to results and showcasing my performances.”
Small won’t be Durango’s only representative at the World Championships.
Christopher Blevins will compete at his second world championship event of the year in the junior road race.
He took 40th in the junior cross country race at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in September in Vallnord, Andorra, giving him a rare appearance in the event in both mountain biking and road racing.
“It was my goal from the beginning of the year (to race at both). I was really close to being an automatic selection throughout the spring with a couple of European races,” Blevins said in a phone interview with The Durango Herald. “It’s an incredibly strong team. It made the mountain bike worlds experience better because I broke my chain three pedals in, which kind of derailed my podium hopes.”
He’ll ride with five other Americans through eight laps of a 10-mile circuit when the race begins at 7 a.m. Friday.
Blevins hasn’t seen the course in person, but he’s done his research. He’s still in Durango tending to schoolwork for his classes at Durango High School.
“I looked it up a lot,” the son of Field and Priscilla Blevins said. “It’s all urban. It’ll be technical and force you to stay toward the front to avoid crashes and other hold ups.”
He can trust the team he’ll be riding with.
Jonny Brown (Covington, Tennessee), Adrien Costa (Bend, Oregon), Jack Maddux (Fresno, California), Brandon McNulty (Phoenix, Arizona) and Ethan Reynolds (Boise, Idaho) all raced with Blevins in Europe.
“I really got to know them well,” Blevins said. “They’re some of my best friends. On the bike, it’s been an incredible season as far as teamwork goes.”
Even though he’ll be there to compete, Blevins recognizes the caliber of event he’s attending.
He’ll take his chance to watch the best cyclists in the world and be a fan, too. It’s the first time the road worlds have been held in the United States since 1986 in Colorado Springs. More than 1,000 athletes from 70 countries are expected, and Blevins will join in with the expected crowd of 450,000 spectators, when he’s not racing.
“This obviously hasn’t happened in 30 years coming to America,” Blevins said. “No matter what happens, it’ll be an unbelievable experience.”