USA Cycling recently tapped Portland's Jacob Rathe as one of four riders chosen so far to represent the United States at the Junior Men's World Championship Road Race Aug. 9 in Moscow, Russia.
Having already notched top-10 finishes this season in European stage races against world-class competition as part of the USA Cycling Junior National Team, Rathe (Hammer/CMG Racing) was a natural pick for the Moscow squad. He'll join Nathan Brown (Covington, Tenn./Hot Tubes), Gavin Mannion (Dedham, Mass./Hot Tubes) and Lawson Craddock (Houston, Texas/Hot Tubes) in the red-white-and-blue kit on the Russian roads in August.
Rathe said the race has been a target the entire season, and he hopes his preparation will put him in position to get another good result.
"I should be going really good," he said. "After my long trip over there this spring I rested, and now I'm going again."
The 18-year-old rider, who graduated from Lincoln High School in January and plans to attend Portland State University this fall, said he believes his experience at the World Championship Road Race last year in Capetown, South Africa, will give him a little edge.
"I've done many other junior races of that caliber," he said. "But a one-day World Championship race is definitely unique."
With four spots already filled, USA Cycling has the option of choosing two more riders for the worlds team, but it could also decide to stick with the four already going.
Rathe leaves for Europe July 26 and will compete in a Belgian stage race before heading to Moscow for worlds. But first he and his Hammer/CMG teammates will compete in the Tour of the Red River Gorge July 14-17 in Lexington, Kentucky. The invitation-only UCI 2.1 Junior 17-18 elite race draws the nation's best competition and possibly some of the European talent Rathe could face in Moscow.
The United States has had limited success in this event in the past. Greg Lemond won the gold in 1979, Jeff Evanshine hit the top podium spot in 1991, Mariano Freidick grabbed silver in 1993, but the podium's been clear of the stars and stripes ever since.
Unlike the results from five or six years ago, when U.S. teams simply hoped to survive races with elite international juniors, Rathe and the rest of the USA Cycling Junior National Team have been in the thick of action in some of Europe's most prestigious junior races. A top 10 finish -- maybe better -- isn't out of the question.
But even after finishing second to teammate Austin Arguello at the June 8 Mt. Tabor Senior Men's race -- reverse of the order Arguello and Rathe finished the previous week -- the confident-yet-earnest Oregon rider was hesitant to predict whether he'd be peaking at the right time to hammer the world's best juniors in Moscow.
"Well, I'll know when I am," he said.