When asked about winning the historic race, the Boulder, Colo., rider immediately mentioned Lupus teammate and defending Johnson City Omnium champion Nolan Tankersely of Erwin.
Flautt knew Tankersley lamented not being able to defend his omnium crown since he was picked to race in the Philadelphia International Cycling Classic on Sunday.
So with the local champion gone, the 23-year-old Flautt won the 80-mile road race through Carter and Unicoi Counties in 3:34:41, for a winning margin of 1:19 over another Lupus teammate, Winston David of Greenville, S.C.
“We wanted to hold the fort down while he was racing in Philadelphia,” Flautt said. “I think we did that successfully. I can’t thank my teammate Jonah Mead-Vancort enough. He was amazing the first half of the race and then I attacked with another rider with about 30 miles to go.
“We had another rider tack onto us, but when we hit Roan Mountain, I got off on about a 2:25 gap and with seven miles to go, I attacked when it got steep. I was fortunate I was able to stick it and go all the way to the top.”
Flautt had extra motivation beyond doing well for Tankersley and himself. His dad is currently in the hospital and Flautt dedicated the race win to him.
David wasn’t in the breakaway pack, but using a steady pace, he charged his way past the other riders coming up the mountain to finish second.
“He attacked with the two other guys with 30 miles to go, so that gave me the chance to sit on everything,” David said. “I was going pretty easy up the climb, but I caught people as I went up. Since I saved energy, I had enough for a sprint for second.”
Sean Gardner from Blacksburg, Va., representing the Kelly team, finished third, just two seconds behind David.
In the women’s Pro race, Hannah Arensman of Valdese, N.C. completed a 55-mile course in 2:56:52, some seven seconds ahead of runner-up Karen Ostergaard of Asheville.
Although just 18 years old, Arensman is a cycling veteran and she had a winning strategy mapped out before the race.
“We started with the Masters men, so my plan was to stay with that group as long as possible,” Arensman said. “A lot of the women got shelled off that group. I got popped off with six other riders and that was the separating move to be honest. We stayed as a fast group to the bottom of the climb and then, it was just patience, not to just take off and blow yourself up.”
Ostergaard, 21 years her senior, has finished fourth, third and now second in the Roan Groan. While her goal now is to come back and complete the cycle, she wasn’t able to dictate Saturday’s race quite the way she wanted.
“She had a really strong sprint,” Ostergaard said. “I was hoping to get away on the climb, but she stayed right on my wheel. That was my best chance to get away on the climb because I couldn’t match her sprint.”
No one could match Johnson City rider Mason Caperton’s sprint in the Category 4 race. The 33-year-old had the distinction of being the first up the mountain after completing his 30-mile race in 1:41:40, only two seconds ahead of runner-up Van Morales of Morgantown, West Virginia.
Caperton was in a lead group of five riders coming up the mountain and he waited until the end was in sight to sprint past Morales.
“I didn’t go until I could see the finish line,” Caperton said. “He was strong and we had a head wind. I knew if I went too early, he would beat me. You come around, the road is exposed on the right side of the mountain and you catch some pretty tough head winds.”
It was a second victory on Roan Mountain for Caperton, who won the Cat 5 race two years ago.
While the head winds were tough, the climb itself wasn’t so bad for the runner-up, who was competing in his first Roan Groan.
“It wasn’t too bad since the pace wasn’t that hard going into it,” Morales said. “You just sat and saved it all for the climb. But when he went, I was like, ‘That’s a good wheel to follow.’ We were able to get ahead of everybody.”
It was a different kind of racing for another of the top Cat 4 finishers.
Devin Jones, a race car driver from Mooresville, North Carolina, who has competed in the NASCAR Truck Series, finished seventh in the Cat 4 race.
The Tupelo Honey Time Trials took place later in the day in Erwin with the Fountain Square Criterium scheduled for Sunday in Johnson City. Races start at 8 a.m. with the Pro 1/2 men’s race to start at 3 p.m.