Racing in the USA Elite Road National Championships in Augusta on June 22, Magner nipped Keough at the finish line to win the Men’s Under 23 Criterium and his first-ever National Championship jersey for his team, BMC/Hincapie Sportswear. Keough had sat up on his bicycle and started celebrating what he thought was a win before Magner sped past him in a photo finish.
“It was huge and really awesome to win that race, especially in my home state,” said Magner, a 2009 Spalding High graduate. “I had been close to Luke all race and he later told me that he looked over his shoulder and didn’t see me. I guess I was in his blind spot. All I kept telling myself was to finish strong and overtake him.”
Magner, who joined BMC/Hincapie Sportswear this year, finished third in that race in 2011 but he was confident he could win it all this year.
“I felt great the entire day and the team and I knew I could do well this year,” said Magner, 21. “The bike felt great and I was ready to go.”
Magner said winning the 40-mile, 7-corner course the 2012 Criterium came down to the “field sprint” portion of the race, which is the way a cyclist ideally wants to win. With a National Championship Stars-and-Stripes jersey on the line, Magner knew what he had to do as he closed in on Keough during the last 100 meters of the race.
“It came down to either crashing or finishing the race, one of the two,” he said. “Luckily it worked out for me that Luke started celebrating before the finish line and I was able to sprint past him.”
Magner said it was great for himself and for his team to win a national title this year, which is always the team’s goal. He said things are really going well for him at the moment.
“The sponsors are great, the team gets along really well and I won a national title for my team,” he said. “I’m just doing my thing, living the dream.”
Magner will continue to live the dream for the rest of the summer before breaking for the winter months. He is scheduled to leave his home base in Athens, Ga. to race in Boise, Idaho, Friday and then heads to Oregon for a week-long race after that. He will even travel to China with his team for three weeks in September. His next foray back into Georgia will be to race at the 2012 Grant Park Criterium, held in Atlanta on Sunday, Aug. 19.
Magner won the 2011 Grant Park Criterium last summer, separating from a three-man breakaway to win the race in dramatic fashion.
As for future plans, Magner said he will honor his contract with BMC/Hincapie Sportswear and go from there. He said it is his dream to one day ride in the Tour de France, but he’s in no rush.
“I’d love to do the Tour de France one day, but I’ve got plenty of time for that,” Magner said.