With a dwindling UCI domestic calendar pushing riders to seek race opportunities in Europe or try their hand at gravel events, the national championships will come as a treat for many. It's a rare opportunity to see top domestic road stars and emerging talent race together for a chance to claim the coveted Stars and Stripes jersey.
Knoxville will play host to the championships for the fifth year in a row, offering the same familiar courses for each discipline, save for minor changes in the road race route. The event kicks off with the individual time trial on Thursday, followed by an evening downtown criterium on Friday. After a day off, the road race will complete the championships on Sunday.
Individual Time Trial
Thursday, June 23, is dedicated to the race against the clock. Just as in previous years, the event has attracted the best, and this year is no different. The women will have two laps of a fairly flat route totaling 23.3 kilometers and start at 9 a.m. ET. The men's event follows at approximately 12:30 p.m. and takes on 35km with three U-turns.
Defending champion Lawson Craddock (EF Education EasyPost) will be at the start house, along with Chad Haga (Team DSM), who finished second last year. Other riders to watch in the men's event include Joey Rosskopf (Human Powered Health), fresh from Tour de Suisse and Ian Garrison (L39ion of Los Angeles).
Chloe Dygert (Canyon//SRAM) won't be present to defend her 2021 TT title, but Amber Neben, who took second last year, will be racing, along with Leah Thomas (Trek-Segafredo). They'll be up against strong contenders like Emma Langley and Lauren Stephens (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB) and gravel star Lauren De Crescenzo (CINCH-RISE).
Always a crowd favorite in downtown Knoxville, the US Criterium Championships is set to take place in the evening, giving the riders a slight reprieve from the muggy summer heat. The elite women set off at 6 p.m. for a 70-minute race around a 1.7km technical circuit, and the men start at 7:40 p.m. for an 80-minute race.
The men's and women's events will see the return of last year's winners keen to defend their titles. In the men's race, Luke Lamperti (Trinity Racing) will start in hopes of securing his jersey for a second year, while the dominant L39ion of Los Angeles team have their hopes on Sam Boardman and Ty Magner. Project Echelon Racing also have cards to play in Brandon Feehery and Stephen Vogel.
In the women's field, defending champ Kendall Ryan (L39ion of Los Angeles) will be the rider to beat, after a strong showing at Armed Forces Classics a few weeks ago. She'll be flanked by sisters Sam and Skyler Schneider, excellent criterium specialists in their own right. If anyone can upset the L39ion of Los Angeles squad, it would be Coryn Labecki of Team Jumbo Visma. The multi-time national champion in various disciplines is coming straight from the Women's Tour in the U.K., where she had several top 10 finishes.
The riders return to downtown Knoxville on Sunday for the main event: the road race championship. The 11km route is almost identical to years past, crossing the Tennessee River over the Gay Street Bridge and tackling the decisive Sherrod Street climb before returning to the start/finish line downtown. The elite women have ten laps of the circuit for a total length of 105km, and the men have 17 laps, totaling 186km. The women's event starts at 9 a.m. ET and the men set off at 1:15 p.m.
All eyes will be on 2021 champion Lauren Stephens (EF Education TIBCO- SVB) to see if she can repeat last year's fantastic performance. The 35-year-old is coming off a hard crash at Unbound Gravel a few weeks ago, but has a team full of deep talent around her, which could make all the difference. Coryn Labecki (Jumbo Visma) will be hungry to best her second-place last year, as will Stephens' teammate, Veronica Ewers, who took third.
Other riders to watch include Lauren De Crescenzo and accomplished veteran Amber Neben. Both have focused solely on gravel racing this year, but know how to be there when it counts.
In the men's event, Joey Rosskopf (Human Powered Health) will return to stake his claim on the road title once again. Like many U.S. riders, it will be Rosskopf's first domestic road race of the year, and he'll have a stacked Human Powered Health team behind him. Rosskopf will take the line with Ineos Grenadiers' new young phenom Magnus Sheffield and Lawson Craddock (EF Education Easypost). Alex Howes will also set the gravel bike aside to see if he can repeat the performance that made him 2019 national champion. Fellow gravel privateer, Alexey Vermeulen, is another rider to keep your eyes on. The former WorldTour roadie turned six-figure privateer, has his sights set on success across some of the biggest U.S. road, gravel and xc mountain bike races.
“My goal is to have the ultimate privateer year. I want to be a full-rounded athlete. I want to win the Belgian Waffle Ride (editor’s note: he did!), I want to win U.S. Pro Nationals and I want to win Leadville or another mountain bike race because that is what’s interesting to people in the U.S. right now,” Vermeulen told Cycling Weekly back in May.
How to Watch
FloBikes will live stream the criterium and road race events in their entirety. The women's criterium starts at 6 p.m. and the men at 7:10 p.m. On Sunday, the women's road race will start at 9 a.m. and the men at 1:15 p.m. (all times EDT). The time trial will not be broadcast, however, live updates will be available via @USACycling on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
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