By Jared Eborn — It was a day Tanner Putt has dreamed about for years.
The Park City cyclist – just 21 years old and not too far removed from spinning junior gears and holding his own against the best racers in the state – has pedaled mile after mile working for just a moment like he found in Wisconsin on July 3.
“I attacked on that last climb and we held it,” Putt said.
That last climb, at Blue Mound State Park during the USA Cycling National Championships, was the final strike in a series of assaults Putt said he and his Bontrager Cycling Team members made on the field that resulted in Putt crossing the finish line with his arms held high above his head as the new U23 national champion.
“It’s pretty cool,” Putt said, clearly satisfied with his result. “All spring I’ve been a domestique and I haven’t really been riding for myself. So this was one of the first races I was able to ride like this.”
Putt had a handful of teammates with him during the race. Nathan Brown, most notably, shared the final attack and finish line celebration.
“Going into the race we were going to try and get into one of the later moves. Going into about two laps to go and heading into that climb, I attacked and Nate went with me,” Putt said of the race strategy. “On the descent we got caught by two more riders and we kind of figured that we would stay away if we worked together so we did.”
Sensing some fatigue in their fellow breakaway riders, the Bontrager teammates seized the perfect opportunity to make the winning move.
“Nate attacked on the last climb again and I went with him,” Putt said. “We saw that they were a little tired so we knew we could get away from them.”
After serving as a domestique for much of the season, Putt was finally in a position to race with his own glory on the line. Brown sat up and raised his arms in celebration as Putt surged forward for the win.
“It was a great team effort and he gave it to me at the end and let me win,” Putt said, expressing gratitude for his teammate’s favor. “I think we’re even now.”
The race was hardly just a Tanner Putt show for Utah. Connor O’Leary, a Salt Lake City native and fellow Bontrager racer, crossed the finish line in sixth place, just 1:13 behind Putt. Lehi’s TJ Eisenhart finished eighth in the race, with Chris Putt – Tanner’s younger brother – registering a ninth-place showing.
“You see all these Utah kids and we kind of caught everybody’ eye. It’s great because we’re all good friends,” Tanner Putt said. “We ride together a lot and we know each other so I think it’s great that we had so many of us out there and that we all did so well.”
Putt was especially pleased to see his brother have such a solid result.
“He’s really strong but doesn’t have the racing experience yet. He’s getting there, though, and I know he’s got some teams that have started to notice him,” Tanner said. “I think it would be great if we were on the same team together.”