2021 US Professional Road Cycling Championships – Preview


The U.S. Professional Road Cycling Championships return to Knoxville, Tennessee, after the 2020 hiatus due to the COVID-19 coronavirus, with six star and stripe jerseys distributed for professional men and women in three disciplines.

The rolling roads of the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains will host the road race and individual time trial events for the fourth time, and this is the third year that downtown Knoxville will host the Pro Criterium competitions. While there aren’t any significant obstacles with the mountain rise, it’s the repetitive pounding on hard-hitting climbs combined with the heat that creates a different kind of wall for riders.

The 2021 pitches are the largest since the races were held in Knoxville, with a total of 490 runners this year, which is an 8% increase.

The race begins at nearby Oak Ridge with the individual time trial on Thursday, June 27, followed by Friday night criteriums in downtown Knoxville, 63 women and 131 men at the start lines. After a day of rest on Saturday, 77 women will participate in the road race at 9 a.m. ET on Sunday, followed at noon by 151 men racing for glory,

Spectators are encouraged to attend the championships and watch two days of racing with USA Cycling’s new media partner, FloSports. The organizers encourage the fans present to wear masks when they are near the athletes, for example against a barrier on the course.

Live broadcasts of the criterium and road races will be provided by FloBikes with commentary from professional announcer and television producer Brad Sohner and former professional rider Lauren Hall. The Pro Road Championships will be the first of five championships that FloBikes will broadcast. Annual FloBikes membership as a pro subscriber is required, and the USA Cycling member will receive a 20% discount until July 29.

Lessons

The time trial takes place on the same course that was used in 2019, an 11.4 km course along the Melton Hill Reservoir in Oak Ridge. Most of the course is flat, with three technical U-turns and a few small hills on a loop around Chestnut Ridge Park before the quick return to the finish. The men will complete three laps of the 34.2 km loop, while the women will complete two laps over 22.8 km.

Criterium events return to downtown Knoxville from Gay Street, using the now familiar six-corner circuit that was previously used. After the first turn on West Hill Avenue, there is a small, sharp 7 percent step that leads to a left turn at the base of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

After another 90 degree turn on East Church Avenue, the race reaches the fast turns and 9% incline of State Street. After one block on Clinch Avenue, runners will reach Gay Street for the start / finish. Women will run for 70 minutes from 6:00 p.m. The men will leave at 19:25 for an 80 minute race.

The road course is also unchanged from 2019, with the riders once again tackling a tricky 12.71 kilometer circuit. After crossing the Tennessee River via the iconic Gay Street Bridge, cyclists will climb nearly a full mile along Sherrod Street, with gradients of up to 10%.

The back of the climb has a tight, twisty descent to the James White Parkway and back across the river. Past attacks have taken place in the last few miles using sharp angles on East Hill Avenue and Clinch Avenue. The women will complete nine laps for 113.5 km, starting at 9 a.m. EDT and the men will complete 15 laps for 190.7 km starting at 1:15 p.m. EDT.

Male suitors

2019 U.S. Road Cycling Championships Time Trial podium (left to right): Neilson Powless, Ian Garrison and George Simpson

The 2019 podium for the US Pro Time Trial Championship, with Ian Garrison taking on the Stars and Stripes jersey (Image credit: Wil Matthews)

Returning for action in Knoxville, the three men’s champions of 2019, while two titlists for the women return in the time trial and road races.

In the professional men’s road race, defending champion Alex Howes (EF Education-First) returns with teammates Will Barta and Lawson Craddock, who was named to the US team to compete in the road race at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, while Tejay van Garderen will focus his efforts the most on the time trial.

The Team DSM duo of Chad Haga and Kevin Vermaerke will compete in both the ITT and the road race. The Trek-Segafredo duo will be Kiel Reijnen and Quinn Simmons, the latter making his US Pro debut after being crowned ITT Junior Champion for the US and Worlds in 2019 at the age of 18.

Two former champions will be back on the start line on Sunday with new teams – 2016 winner Greg Brown, now with Groove Subaru, and 2018 winner and Tennessee native Jonny Brown, with Ireland-based EvoPro Cycling.

Many national teams are bringing big rosters to Knoxville which will help during the long hall of the road race. The Pro Continental Rally Cycling group will bring a stacked squad for all three disciplines, from two-time ITT champion (2017, 2018) Joey Rosskopf back in the race against time to Kyle Murphy in the review and Ben King, Gavin Mannion, Robin Carpenter and 2019 finalist, hometown favorite Stephen Bassett in the road race.

Some of the best Americans from WorldTour teams – Neilson Powless (EF Education-Nippo), Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar), Brandon McNulty and Joe Dombrowski (UAE Team Emirates), Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) and former champion Larry Warbasse (AG2R) Citroën) – will not compete this year.

The most notable runner not to have his passport stamped on his home soil is Powless, who won a bronze (2019) and a silver (2017) in road racing and reversed the medals – silver ( 2019), bronze (2017) – in the time trial. In Jorgenson’s case, he had to deal with illness and fatigue in his first Giro d’Italia, then returned to the United States to run 99 miles of the 200-mile Unbound Gravel, and had some time free at his home in Idaho to rest.

The reigning men’s time trial champion is Ian Garrison (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and he will have to outdo other WorldTour riders Van Garderen and Brent Bookwalter of Team BikeExchange. Van Garderen, who won bronze at the 2018 ITT Worlds, hasn’t competed at the US Pro Championships since 2012, when he won silver in ITT. Bookwalter, who will also compete in the road race, has finished on the ITT podium four times (2012, 2013, 2017, 2018), and no worse than fourth in his other two appearances (2011, 2016).

The criterium will start with 131 riders, led by the double king of critics Travis McCabe, who returns with Best Buddies Cycling. Among his four teammates is another returning statesman for more, Eric Marcotte, who won the 2015 Pro Crit title, and Michael Hernandez, the 2019 U23 criterium champion. With a target on a second title ( 2011) is Eric Young (Elevate-Webiplex Pro Cycling), who will have five teammates supporting him to improve his second place in the last three consecutive events.

2018 Pro Crit champion Ty Magner returns with the most dominant team on the US criterium circuit this year, L39ION of Los Angeles. The team swept the men’s podium at Tulsa Arts Crit during Tulsa Tough weekend, and Cory Williams won the omnium title. However, Knoxville’s roster is missing team co-founder and 2018 US amateur critic Justin Williams. Joining Cory Williams and Magner will be Tyler Williams.

Female pretenders

Emma White from USA Cycling in the new Tokyo Olympics competition clothing made by Cuore.

Emma White, pictured in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games kit for the US team, will focus on road racing in Knoxville (Image credit: USA Cycling / Casey Gibson)

On the women’s side, the majority of riders represent US-based programs and not the WorldTour, but there is no shortage of talent. Ruth Winder (Trek-Segafredo), who will be part of the five-rider road team representing the United States at the Tokyo Olympics, will be hard to knock down as she returns from Europe with a victory over Brabaantse Pijl, second at Naavarra Women’s Elite Classics, and seventh overall at the Ceratizit Festival Elsy Jacobs. She will have Taylor Wiles as a teammate this year, who could also compete for the win.

As with his last outing in Knoxville, Winder will have to stand up to Coryn Rivera (Team DSM), who finished second four times (2015-2017, 2019) and won the crown in 2018.

Other main contenders include Leah Thomas (Movistar), Alexis Ryan (Canyon-SRAM), Shayna Powless (TWENTY 24 Pro Cycling) and Emma White (Rally Cycling). White has finished third in this event over the last two editions. She won the review title in 2019, but will focus solely on road racing ahead of her maiden trip to the Olympics to compete on the track.

Persevering Amber Neben, now 45, is chasing her fifth national time trial title. She was just named to the United States squad to compete in the ITT at her second Olympics (2012) and is a wild card in road racing, an event she won in 2017. She will face competition from Winder, Wiles and Thomas.

Like the men’s criterium field, look for Los Angeles L39ION teammates Skylar Schneider and Kendall Ryan to make some noise like they did last weekend at Tulsa Tough.

Ryan won the title in 2015 and was a bronze medalist in 2019, while Schneider, who had focused on road racing for many years in Europe, made her first appearance in criticism for a national title. DNA Pro Cycling brings together a team of six riders, including Maggie Coles-Lyster, second behind Schneider in two of the three critical events in Tulsa.

With White absent from the six-rider squad for the Rally Cycling, the orange colors will be portrayed by 2018 critic winner Leigh Ann Ganzar. And like Neben in the ITT, don’t count six-time critical champion Tina. Pic, who returns at age 55 with Colavita-HelloFresh Pro Women’s Cycling.


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