LIMA, Peru - You couldn’t miss the man and his mustache. Making headlines throughout the track cycling world, breaking a world record just two years into his professional career, Ashton Lambie has redefined the future of men’s track cycling in the United States.
So, what does he believe he adds to the Pan American Games U.S. men’s team pursuit squad?
“I bring down the height average,” Lambie joked.
“And the width average,” added teammate John Croom. “But he picks the speed up. In all seriousness, he really adds everything to the team. Sure, we can’t go to many amusement parks together, but he really keeps us on the edge and pushes us.”
That extra push helped Team USA claim a gold medal in men’s team pursuit, falling just short of setting a new Pan American record. Minutes later, American teammate and 2016 Olympic silver medalist Jennifer Valente concluded her Pan American Games campaign, roaring to a gold-medal finish in women’s omnium.
“This is definitely a confidence boost going into our build up to Tokyo,” Valente said. “It was a good benchmark to see where I’m at and what I can improve on.”
To the common spectator, areas of improvement looked few and far between for Valente. Entering the omnium points race with a 10-point lead, she raced out to the front of the peloton, head on a swivel, seemingly sensing her competitors’ positions around her as she darted in and out of traffic.
Valente would eventually lap the field twice, securing 82 points in the race to reach a 198-point total. As she completed her cooldown laps around the track, she raised both arms above her head, fists clenched, her face calm. Mission accomplished.
A six-time world championships medalist and seasoned competitor, Valente stepped off the podium already looking ahead. You always have to enjoy the victories, she said, but for her, the track cycling season and the road to Tokyo has just begun.
For as future-oriented as Valente was following her victory, the U.S. men’s team pursuit squad was equally wide-eyed, soaking up their moment in the spotlight.
“Honestly, it hasn’t hit me yet,” Croom said. “I’m still trying to soak it in. It’s really an honor to ride with these guys, and this is one of my first international team pursuit competitions. So, to ride with these guys has been something awesome.”
The team led its race from the start and never looked back. Opening up a four-second lead over second-place Colombia, the U.S. men sprinted across the finish line a mere second short of the Pan American record.
Croom, the 2018 national time trial champion, was joined by two-time world championship competitor Adrian Hegyvary, 2019 world championship team member Gavin Hoover and American track cycling phenom Lambie. The majority of the team has raced together since 2016. Lambie was a later addition.
“He popped up mid-2017,” Croom said with a smile. “And thank god.”
A long-distance cyclist by trade, Lambie once held the record for the fastest cycling ride across Kansas. He discovered the sport of track cycling in 2016 at the only USA Cycling-certified grass velodrome in the country, located in a pasture outside of Lawrence, Kansas. Less than two years later, he set a new world record in individual pursuit at the 2018 Pan American Track Cycling Championships.
“This is the first event I’ve been to with other events,” he said. “The whole town is so into it. It’s just been super fun.”
And as he walked aside his teammates amid a successful evening for USA Cycling, Lambie gazed up at the stands of the velodrome in Lima, mesmerized. A smile formed beneath the hairs of his mustache.