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23-year-old Brandon McNulty Rides to Sixth Place in His First Olympic Games

July 24, 2021

On the first day of the Olympics, McNulty’s decisive move led him to a finish line sprint.

TOKYO – The Men’s Road Race kicked off the cycling events for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The riders headed to Musashinonomori Park to take on the 243-kilometer course. The race went to Mt. Fuji, gaining a total of 4,865 meters of elevation. The field of 128 riders competed on the first point-to-point course in Olympic history, passing through three prefectures as they traversed to the Fuji International Speedway.

Riding for Team USA, Lawson Craddock (Houston; EF Education – Nippo) and Brandon McNulty (Phoenix; UAE Team Emirates) took to the starting line. The race began with a ceremonial neutral start out of Musashinonomori Park, where rounds took a relaxed pace for 9.6 kilometers. Once the race started in earnest, a group of 8 riders attacked and got an early lead on the field. The lead group included representatives of South Africa, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Greece, Romania, Venezuela, Burkina Faso, and Azerbaijan. The group would push their lead to over seventeen minutes at one point, but once the race passed the halfway mark, the peloton reeled the leaders in.

By the race’s second pass through the Fuji International Speedway, the field was all back together. As they started the climb towards Kagosaka Pass, McNulty’s trade teammate, Tadej Pogacar (SLO), attacked the field; with McNulty and Michael Woods (CAN) able to respond, the trio pulled away to form a slight lead of 15 seconds. The group of three was joined by powerhouses like Richard Carapaz (ECU), Wout van Aert (BEL), and Rigoberto Uran (COL) to form a group of 13, becoming the deciding move in the race. As the group marched up and over the pass McNulty attacked this group and pulled away, with Carapaz bridging to join him. The two worked together to build a lead of forty seconds on the remaining lead group. Before the five kilometers to go, Carapaz pulled away from McNulty and ultimately claimed the Olympic victory, the first in Ecuadorian history. McNulty ended up in a bunch sprint against van Aert and Pogacar and claimed fifth in the final standings. McNulty’s finish is the best showing the U.S. has had since Taylor Phinney (Boulder, Colo.) finished fourth in the Men’s Road Race in 2012 at the London Games.

When McNulty reflected on how this result ranks in the Olympic history books, he said, “Wow. It’s crazy. I think within the USA Cycling program, every year and every generation is getting closer to being kind of at the top of the sport. It’s a big honor for me to be the first big result of the Olympics in a while. It’s super, super big for me.”

Fellow American teammate, Craddock, stayed with the main group the final ascent but missed the lead group move with McNulty. Craddock crossed the line celebrating his teammate and is looking ahead to the Time Trial. “The experience was incredible. It was a pretty challenging race, and with the heat, it was a tough day. It sounds like Brandon [McNulty] had a hell of a ride. I think there’s a lot that we can be proud of today. Brandon’s showed that he’s had a bright future for quite a while now. I think today was just confirmation of that. I’m really proud to be his teammate and be with him over the last week. I’m excited to see where it goes from here for us.” He finished 80th on the day.

UP NEXT

On Sunday, Team USA takes on the Women’s Road Race in Japan. The team of Chloé Dygert (Brownsburg, Ind.; CANYON//SRAM Racing), Coryn Rivera (Tustin, Calif.; Team DSM), Leah Thomas (Santa Clara, Calif.; Moviestar Team Women), and Ruth Winder (Boulder, Colo.; Trek-Segafredo) will take on women from 40 countries around the globe to contest a 137-kilometer race that will pass through the Japanese countryside to end at the Fuji International Speedway. Read more here about how to watch.

More from Brandon McNulty and Lawson Craddock:

After McNulty’s incredible ride, he said, “Wow, I’m completely empty. I’m quite happy with how it went. I’m sad not to get a medal when I was this close to it, but it was more than I could have expected to be in this group.”

McNulty talked about his bold move on the climb, “I think any move with Tadej [Pogacar] is gonna be good. I’ve been racing with him last month, so I knew the level he was at, and I knew if I could have the legs to follow him that I was in a good position. I think it was good for me to kind of get ahead on the climb too, and then the group caught up. On the descent, I was with the front group and then just followed the moves. Then I actually made my own move, and it was the one that stuck, and unfortunately, I couldn’t follow [Richard] Carapez at the end, but I’m super happy.”

When McNulty reflected on how this result ranks in the Olympic history books, he said, “Wow. It’s crazy. I think within the USA Cycling program, every year and every generation is getting closer to being kind of at the top of the sport. It’s a big honor for me to be the first big result of the Olympics in a while. It’s super, super big for me.”

Like many competing in today’s road race, McNulty recently just came off the Tour de France. Mcnulty said, “At the tour, obviously, I was working for Tadej [Pogacar]. So when he won the Tour de France being on that team was special. Then I kind of knew coming here I was either going to be incredible or be completely empty, but ended up being the former, and I had some of the best legs I’ve ever had.”

Craddock crossed the line celebrating his teammate and is looking ahead to the Time Trial. “The experience was incredible. It was a pretty challenging race, and with the heat, it was a tough day. It sounds like Brandon [McNulty] had a hell of a ride. I think there’s a lot that we can be proud of today. Brandon’s showed that he’s had a bright future for quite a while now. I think today was just confirmation of that. I’m really proud to be his teammate and be with him over the last week. I’m excited to see where it goes from here for us.”

When asked about his hope for the Time Trial, he said, “I mean just the best day possible for me, really. Even though personally, if the result wasn’t there today, I was pretty happy with the feeling. It gives me a lot of confidence for the Time Trial. Now it’s just full gas recovery and getting the most out of myself.”

McNulty is also gearing up for the race against the clock. “The Time Trial has always been my specialty, but I’ve also always been kind of growing into a climber as well for the general classification. Hopefully, I can recover well and have similar feelings in the TT in a few days.”

Both of the riders for Team USA had family and friends at the NBC Watch Party back in the U.S. and could feel their support the whole way in Japan.

McNulty said, “I hope they enjoyed it. I knew they were all watching. So I really raced my heart out knowing that they were behind the camera, so I’m super, super happy to race with them watching.”

Craddock owes a lot of his success to his support system back at home. “It’s incredible being here. The experience of competing in the Olympic Games riding amongst the world’s best while they’re at their best is pretty special. It takes a village to get here. It’s a lifelong dream, not only for me, but my family, my parents, my brother, and my wife and kids; everyone played such a huge part in allowing me to achieve my goal and allowing me to focus on the task at hand. For me, that’s extremely special, and I’ll remember today for the rest of my life.”

View the USA Cycling Olympic Team Press Kit for detailed rider information, quotes, and photos.

Learn more about how to watch all cycling events, along with information on each discipline: BMX RacingBMX FreestyleMountain BikeRoadTrack.

Visit USACycling.org for more information on events, membership programs, donations, and follow @USACycling across all channels for the latest on Team USA.

For media inquiries, please contact Angelina Palermo at apalermo@usacycling.org and Tom Mahoney at tmahoney@usacycling.org.

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