- Associated Press - Friday, May 23, 2014

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) - Peter Stetina and Taylor Phinney are setting their sights on the stars and stripes.

After putting together a strong showing at the Tour of California for their pro team, BMC Racing, the duo is headed to Tennessee this weekend for the U.S. championships. Phinney will race in Saturday’s time trial and be joined by Stetina for Monday’s road race.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” said Stetina, who finished sixth overall in California. “I don’t know the route very well but I know there are some pretty steep hills. I can go uphill really well and Taylor is pretty lean right now and packs a killer sprint.

“I think we have a solid team to take home the stars and stripes.”

Tom Zirbel is the defending men’s time trial champion and Carmen Small won last year’s women’s race, giving them the honor of wearing the starts-and-strips jersey this past season.

Both of them will be back in a loaded field for Saturday’s race against the clock.

In the road race on Monday, Freddie Rodriguez will be back to defend his surprising title from a year ago, while Jade Wilcoxson is back to defend her championship in the women’s race.

The time trial course certainly suits Phinney, a former Olympic pursuit star who capture the title in 2010. He tends to favor mid-length courses, and this year riders will complete two out-and-back laps on a course that has just four turns and covers only 19 miles.

He’ll be pushed by Zirbel, who had twice finished second before breaking through a year ago, in a field missing seven-time winner David Zabriskie and perennial contender Brent Bookwalter.

“We are definitely looking for a win with Taylor,” BMC Racing’s Max Sciandri said.

The women’s time trial should be wide open. Small is the defending champion, but former Olympians Amber Neben and Evelyn Stevens have also won in recent years, while Alison Powers is coming off an impressive win in the time trial at the Tour of California.

The road race Monday begins with a circuit through Chattanooga, then takes riders on a climb into the Tennessee hills. The men’s and women’s race could both be thrown into chaos as they ride up Lookout Mountain, though they are likely to come down to a sprint through the city streets.

This is the second straight year that USA Cycling has had the men’s and women’s races in the same location. It also marks the second straight year they will share in equal prize money.

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