CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - All eyes were on Taylor Phinney and he never flinched.
The former Olympian roared to victory Saturday in the time trials at the U.S. cycling championships, his time of 37 minutes, 48 seconds for the 19-mile course through the streets of Chattanooga nearly a full minute better than that of defending champion Tom Zirbel.
"It's a big relief," Phinney said. "I came in with a lot of pressure put on myself, and I felt the pressure from everybody else who were looking at me as the favorite, as the only World Tour rider taking part in the time trial. But I felt great. I was motoring."
So was Alison Powers, who finally moved back atop the podium after three third-place finishes in recent years. She built on her impressive victory in the time trial at the Tour of California by posting a time 29 seconds better than Carmen Small, the defending women's champion.
The elite time trials highlighted the opening of the national championships. The men's and women's road races are Monday, with Freddie Rodriguez and Jade Wilcoxson defending their titles.
Phinney won the race against the clock in 2010, but had other priorities on his schedule the past few years. He returned this year intent on winning the stars-and-stripes jersey, and managed to deal with massive expectations that came with his impressive resume.
"It was a good course for me, a good course for powerful guys," said Phinney, who will race Monday and then depart for Europe, where he will compete in the Criterium du Dauphine in June with the hopes of landing a spot on his professional team for the Tour de France.
Zirbel wound up second in the time trial for the third time. David Williams finished third, Julian Kyer was fourth and Michael Olheiser finished fifth.
In the women's time trial, Powers built a massive gap by the time she hit the midway point, and then powered to the finish while getting constant updates on her positioning from her team.
She wound up stopping the clock in 42 minutes, 23 seconds.
"Last year I was third and was pretty disappointed," she said, "but the good thing with disappointment and not winning is you learn how to make yourself faster. I had a good plan for today's race and the course and it worked, and it's super rewarding."
Two-time champion Evelyn Stevens joined Powers and Small on the podium with a third-place ride. Tayler Wiles finished in fourth and Wilcoxson finished fifth.
"I won the national time trial championship in 2008, and since then I haven't been able to win it again, so it's really exciting," Powers said. "After so many years of disappointment and not wearing the stars and stripes, I think I appreciate it more, and I feel really honored."