It has been a goal of mine to win ever since I first went to Nationals in 2007. To win nationals - specifically the criterium. I've been on the podium and had multiple top tens but never earned the stars and stripes jersey. This year's team was Travis Lyons, Reese Levine and myself. The plan was to stay calm but follow moves in case a breakaway gets away since the course is only 1 kilometer long. If it came down to a sprint finish, Reese would start the lead out and Travis would take me into the 2nd to last corner—the spot I'd start my sprint—because it is only about 100 meters until the finish line after the last corner.

Fortunately, my 2014 results earned me a call up and start on the front row which proved to be critical because it was fast from the gun and everyone was immediately trying to form a breakaway. Reese, Travis and I stayed calm and followed a few moves but nothing really stuck longer than 5 laps. I followed a few moves in a row with about 20 minutes left. I knew, however, that a field sprint was eminent because there were many riders in the race and little time left. Perfect.

 A California Giant rider went to the front to set a strong tempo with about 7 laps to go and Travis and I were second and sixth wheels back, respectively. Our positions remained so until 3 laps to go when Cal Giant pulled off and everyone looked at each other. The front got swarmed and I had to move back up. Coming into 2 laps to go it was the four man team of Hagens-Berman that was leading out Eamon Lucas. After much jockeying with Team Hincapie Development, I was able to get onto Eamon's wheel. Coming into 1 lap to go, Eamon had 1 rider left in front of him and I was right on his wheel. His man took him into the 2nd to last corner and that’s where Eamon hesitated. I saw my opportunity and made a move for the line. I shifted down and sprinted into the last corner first and kept going as hard as I could all the way to the line for the win! 

I was so excited and happy that I couldn't believe it happened. Not only did I take home the win of stars and stripes, but Travis held on to place 11th, and Reese followed moves and learned a lot! I’m still lost for words but I can’t thank my teammates enough because I set this goal with them months ago and to achieve it is completely surreal. Of course, a HUGE THANK YOU to all of our sponsors in getting us to, and supporting us in Madison. We couldn't have done this without you! I am honored to wear the stars and stripes in all criteriums for the next year. Thanks for reading.

-James Laberge