For the second-straight year, Parkite Tanner Putt will be sporting a stars and stripes jersey at the Tour of Utah.
The 22-year-old road cyclist successfully defended his under-23 national title at the 2014 USA Cycling Amateur and Para-cycling Road Nationals, completing the race in 3 hours, 20 minutes, 15 seconds, just ahead of teammate Keegan Swirbul (3:20:18) of the Bissell Development Cycling team.
The stars and stripes jersey Putt will wear at the Tour of Utah, which runs from Aug. 4 to Aug. 10 and ends in Park City, signifies that he won his age group's national championship.
Covering the same 140-kilometer course in Madison, Wisconsin, Putt finished about six minutes slower than he did last year, but, he said, it was a completely different race.
"Our team plan was to have somebody get into an early breakaway to force other teams to chase," he said. "Cycling is such a big team sport. There were a few really big teams that were at nationals.
"We were lucky enough to have one guy in the breakaway. It forced BMC (the other big team) to have to chase the breakaway, taking pressure off us."
Meanwhile, while Putt's teammate was busy wearing out the other teams, Putt was saving his energy for a final push.
"It was a pretty hilly course," he said. "I felt a lot of pressure going into the race, but I felt great that day and we had a strong team. Every guy on the team rode for me that day."
That teamwork culminated in Putt leading the charge up the final hill, closing the gap and overtaking the leader.
"Everything came back together on the final lap at the bottom of the 4K climb to the finish," he said. "I was so excited. Going into the race, I really, really wanted to win it was a big relief."
As an added bonus, Putt got to share the podium with a teammate (Swirbul).
"It was really good," he said. "We were first and second last year and first and second this year. It's great for the team."
Now Putt is pre-qualified for the world championships at the end of the season. But, before he starts preparing for that, his focus will shift to the Tour of Utah. He said his serious training for the race starts this week.
"I just took an easy week to recover," he said. "Now I just have to start putting in a lot of miles and a lot of intensity."
His Bissell Development Cycling teammates are in town training alongside him, as well.
"We're putting in some big hours," Putt said. "No racing until [the Tour of Utah], so we'll have to push each other in training."
The team is flying high after the great week in Madison, he added.
"It was definitely a big confidence booster for the team," he said. "Hopefully we can ride that through the Tour of Utah and the later part of the season."
He and his teammates have some lofty goals for the Tour, but they're confident they can make some noise when push comes to shove.
"I would really like to have a few good stage finishes maybe a couple top fives, top threes," Putt said. "We have some really good climbers and hopefully we can put someone in the top 10 overall."