Lewis wins U23 Road Championship


The day's long breakaway of Brad Armstrong, Steven Cozza and Sheldon Deeny. (photo: Beth Seliga)
Champion, Pa. (July 10, 2006)—A dramatic and tactical U23 road race capped off a two-year comeback for Craig Lewis (Greenville, S.C./TIAA-CREF) after the 21-year-old captured his first national championship in Monday’s 176-kilometer race at the 2006 USA Cycling National Festival at Seven Springs.

Lewis, a promising young pro whose career was put in jeopardy after a horrendous crash at the 2004 Tour de Georgia left him with two punctured lungs and 47 broken bones, marked his triumphant return with an emphatic stamp over a solid 125-rider field of emerging world-class cyclists. 

Lewis was part of a two-man TIAA-CREF chase group that caught an early breakaway on the fourth and final lap of a 44-kilometer circuit before dropping the rest of his competitors and cruising to a win 52 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Brent Bookwalter (Comstock Park, Mich./Priority Health).

The U23 event is one of the highlights of the two-week long national championship cycling festival and features aspiring young pros who hold hopes of ascending up the ranks to a roster spot on a major professional cycling team.  Monday, a veritable who’s who of American riders between the ages of 19-22 lined up for a shot at a stars-and-stripes jersey that designates a USA Cycling national champion.  Among the teams well represented were the USA Cycling U23 National Team, the TIAA-CREF squad and several other developmental teams.

Lewis and Peterson bridged up to the leaders to create the final selection. (photo: Beth Seliga)

Midway through the race, the day’s most significant breakaway of Steven Cozza (Petaluma, Calif./TIAA-CREF), Brad Armstrong (Burleson, Texas/Orbea) and Shelden Deeny (Fort Collins, Colo./USA Cycling U23 National Team) had amassed a six-minute advantage on the remainder of the field.  After it became clear that the lead group would not be reabsorbed by the peloton, Blake Caldwell (Boulder, Colo./TIAA-CREF) and Booklwalter put forth the first serious efforts to bridge up to the leaders, but with the trio working well together to keep its distance, only Bookwalter was able to make the jump as Caldwell folded amidst the pace. 

Behind, Lewis and TIAA-CREF teammate Tom Peterson (Boulder, Colo.) put together a two-man chase group of their own and quickly became a serious threat to the success of the original breakaway and Bookwalter.  After nearly 14,000 vertical feet of climbing throughout the day, Lewis and Peterson made contact with the foursome at the 2788–foot summit of the course’s signature climb, reshuffling the deck and creating a lead group of six.

Although TIAA-CREF had the numerical advantage, it was USA Cycling’s U23 National Team member Deeny who attacked first.  The move was caught and countered by Bookwalter who was also quickly reeled in.  The next significant threat came when Cozza attacked.  The current U23 national time trial champion instantly became the favorite after opening up and maintaining a sizeable gap, but Bookwalter and Lewis responded with another effort. 

Spent from his earlier move to bridge up to the original breakaway, Bookwalter fell off the pace as Lewis caught and passed Cozza in the closing kilometers.

“It was a hard day today,” explained Lewis after earning his first career national championship.  “Tom was amazing.  We just hit it and got a good gap and we just kept rolling it.  At the end, we had Steven up the road, Brent was forced to do all of the work and he dragged me into within 10 kilometers to go and I just went from there.”

Bookwalter and Cozza each tried their hand at an attack in the closing kilometers. (photo: Beth Seliga)

Perhaps the strongest rider in the group was Bookwalter, but TIAA-CREF had the advantage and was able to utilize more team tactics. 

“They (TIAA-CREF) rode a great race,” commented Bookwalter afterwards. “Craig and Tom were strong. Basically everyone else was outnumbered. I took a chance when I bridged across to those three.  I was kind of crossing my fingers, hoping they’d (Lewis and Peterson) crack, but they just caught us and missiles started firing.”

Lewis began his promising career as a member of the USA Cycling Junior Development program before signing with the TIAA-CREF outfit.  At the 2004 Tour de Georgia, Lewis collided with a car during a downhill section at the stage four time trial in Rome, puncturing both his lungs and breaking 47 bones including his shoulder, collarbone, wrist, ribs, vertebra, femur, skull, nose and jaw.

Second and third-place finishers Bookwalter and Cozza were also groomed by USA Cycling.  Bookwalter is currently part of the USA Cycling U23 Development Program and his heading back to Europe in a few days, while Cozza spent the 2005 season racing for the Belgian-based U23 program.

U23 podium L to R: Armstrong, Bookwalter, Lewis, Cozza, Deeny. (photo: Beth Seliga)

Deeny, the top finisher currently on the USA Cycling U23 National Team placed fifth, 4 minutes, 13 seconds behind Lewis. 

“The three of us worked pretty well together,” Deeny said of his breakaway effort.  “I kept pulling through but then I started really cramping up on the last lap.  I never cramp up, and I was pretty shocked that it happened. But I did what I could. Every time I stood up I couldn’t really respond to any attacks so they left me and Armstrong in the dust.”


2006 USA Cycling National Festival

Day Five Results


U23 Road Race

1.       Craig Lewis (Greenville, S.C./TIAA-CREF) 5:08:02.40

2.       Brent Bookwalter (Comstock Park, Mich./Priority Health) +0:52.70

3.       Steven Cozza (Petaluma, Calif./TIAA-CREF) +2:53.80

4.       Brad Armstrong (Burleson, Texas/Orbea) +4:13.90

5.       Sheldon Deeny (Fort Collins, Colo./USA Cycling U23 National Team) +4:13.90


Click here for COMPLETE RESULTS.


About USA Cycling
Recognized by the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Union Cycliste Internationale, USA Cycling promotes American cycling through its 54,000 members and 2,000 annual events. USA Cycling associations include the BMX Association (BMX), National Off-Road Bicycle Association (mountain bike), U.S. Cycling Federation (road/track), the National Collegiate Cycling Association and the U.S. Professional Racing Organization (professional men’s road). For more information visit www.usacycling.org or contact, USA Cycling Director of Marketing and Communications, Andy Lee at 719-866-4867.



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