Kristen Faulkner, Sean Quinn win US cycling road race championships in West Virginia

Kristen Faulkner rebounded from a second-place finish in the U.S. time trial championships, which cost her a spot on the American cycling team for the Paris Olympics, by dropping Ruth Edwards along with everyone else and rolling uncontested to the finish line to win the national road racing title on Sunday.

Faulkner finished 55 seconds ahead of Edwards, a former national champion, to win the stars-and-stripes jersey for the first time. Coryn Labecki outsprinted Lauren Stephens and Lauren de Crescenzo to round out the podium.

“I do one race at a time and really try to focus on it,” said Faulkner, who watched the automatic nomination for the Summer Games go to Taylor Knibb, who beat her by 11 seconds over a 42-minute ride to win the time trial title Wednesday. “Maybe in the big picture I knew I was coming to nationals this year, but it wasn't something I really honed in on.”

In the men's race, Sean Quinn and EF Education-EasyPost teammate Neilson Powless got into a break with time trial national champion Brandon McNulty, and wore him down just enough that Quinn was able to win the sprint for gold.

McNulty walked away with the silver medal and Powless earned the bronze.

“We had the goal of isolating Brandon and taking turns attacking him,” said Quinn, a 24-year-old from Los Angeles, who overcame a mechanical issue late in the race along with some cramping problems. “The last climb, I was starting to think, ‘OK, realistically, he looks pretty tired. I think I can win a sprint.’"

Faulkner primarily races in Europe, and she already has put together a big season. She won a stage at La Vuelta Feminina, one of the premier stage races in women's cycling, and Omloop van het Hageland, a premier one-day race in Belgium.

She decided to fly back to the U.S. to race nationals in an attempt to make the American team for Paris along with Chloe Dygert, who had secured one of the two available spots with her time trial world title last year. But when Faulkner was beaten by Knibb, who also will contest the triathlon at the Summer Games, she eyed a bit of retribution in the road race on Sunday.

The 31-year-old from Homer, Alaska, escaped along with Edwards, and the two worked well together until the last major climb on the new course around Charleston, West Virginia. Once there, Faulkner dropped Edwards and began to build a sizeable advantage, and she was able to roll down the long straightaway to the finish line with her arms outstretched in victory.

“I felt pretty confident,” Faulkner said. “I knew on the climbs I could have a really good attack on that last climb. It pitches up right at the end. I knew I didn't want to take (Edwards) to the line because she has a pretty good kick.”

Edwards tried to stick with Faulkner on the last climb, but her legs did not cooperate.

“My body was like: ‘Yeah, you’ve used this effort once today. Good luck trying to do it again,'” she said. “At that point, I knew I needed to keep a steady pace and make it to the finish line.”

Labecki won the sprint for bronze, joining her EF Education-Cannondale teammate Faulkner on the podium. It is the eighth time in the last nine U.S. road race championships that Labecki, the 2018 champion, has walked away with a medal.


Follow AP coverage of the Paris Olympics:

Dave Skretta, The Associated Press