Two American cyclists conquer streets of Charleston and clinch Olympic team berth

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Two cyclists competing in this week’s USA Cycling Pro Road Nationals have qualified for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris.

Over 100 athletes representing multiple countries completed the 33.7-kilometer course in downtown Charleston Wednesday. About 50 of those athletes were racing for a spot on the Paris 2024 Olympic Games team.

First up, at the top of the Women’s Elite Time Trial race was Taylor Knibb of Boulder, Colorado and Trek Factory Racing. Her time of 41:54.69 was good enough to become National Champion and qualify for the Olympics.

“I’m in shock. I’ll be perfectly honest, I’m just in shock,” she said after finding out she won.

Knibb qualified for the USA Triathlon team at the Paris test event last year. Now, she’s officially heading to Paris to represent USA Cycling.

A new bike and new setup helped Knibb perform better this year. She said the Charleston route is a more flat course but very few hills thrown in and that’s more her speed.

“Last year there were so many turns but only four times did I have to get to race-pace,” said Knibb, “There are so many incredible riders out here, it was such an incredible day riding with them.”

Kristen Faulkner (Homer, Alaska; EF Education-Cannondale) posted a 42:05.88 and Amber Neben (Lake Forest, Calif.) finished with a 42:44.53 to round out the podium.

Spurts of heavy rain wouldn’t slow down the Elite Men where over 28 athletes made an attempt to make the USA team. Finishing with of a time of 37:42.08, Brandon McNulty (Phoenix, Ariz.; UAE Team Emirates) beat second place finisher Tyler Stites (Tucson, Ariz.; Project Echelon Racing) by just under a minute. Neilson Powless (Houston; EF Education – Easypost) finished out the podium with a third place time of 38:44.17.

McNulty qualifies for his second Games appearance. He said this victory ranks towards the top for his career which has included many runs in Europe.

“It’s always special to win a National Title, but this one had a bit more importance to qualify for the Olympics. This is a big one for me,” McNulty said in a drenched suit after the game.

The last few kilometers were the toughest but McNulty said he pushed through and it paid off in the end.

“I knew there was a headwind in the final stretch, I knew that would be the last big push, and I was dying,” he said. “Then luckily, I had a couple guys to catch in front of me to keep me motivated and pushing.”

Both cyclists said they enjoyed the cycling on Charleston’s roads. McNulty called it a “simple course.” Knibb said she’s looking forward to being in the city for the next four years.

Brandon McNulty

Podium Results for the U23 Women’s Time Trial:

Betty Hasse (Providence, R.I.; CCB p/b Levine Law Group): 45:38.85
Chloe Patrick (Carson, Calif.; Cynisca Cycling): 47:51.28
Ella Brenneman (Gibsonia, Pa.; CCB p/b Levine Law Group): 48:00.55

Podium Results for the U23 Men’s Time Trial:

Artem Shmidt (Cumming, Ga.; Hagens Berman Axeon): 38:52.17
Troy Fields (Hendersonville, Tenn.; Team California P/B Verge): 39:52.27
Owen Cole (Chapel Hill, N.C.; UAE Team Emirates Gen Z): 39:52.29

Racing resumes Thursday starting at 6:30 p.m. for night one of the twilight criterium featuring Junior Women, Junior Men, and U23 Men who will take the course first.