A strong field of American-only sprinters will be participating in the USA Cycling Pro Criterium Championships held on a brand new course on August 20 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Daniel Holloway (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth) is confident that he will be able to defend his title, noting that his team has several cards to play.
"I feel good about defending my title," Holloway told Cyclingnews. "I have a great team in Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth but I'm not the only guy on the squad that can win. We have more options than most of the teams."
Holloway won the jersey in Glencoe, Illinois last year after taking fourth place to three non-US citizens, but did not have many opportunities to show it off in the early part of the season.
"My season has been rough, started with injury and then a staph infection I didn't know about that caused severe saddle sores," he said. Having won two stages of the Tour of Americas Dairyland in June, the 24-year-old is getting back on track. "I'm starting to come around again to be back at the front of the field."
The USA Cycling Pro Criterium Championships has historically permitted international riders to participate. Last year, the first rider to cross the line was Canadian David Veilleux, who now races for Europcar. This year, however, USA Cycling will only permit American riders to contest the national title event.
The organisation made a similar change in the US Professional road championships in 2006 when it moved from Philadelphia to Greenville, South Carolina. With the popularity of criterium racing in the USA, it decided to adopt the US-only rule in the criterium championships as well.
"I don't think having Americans only will change the racing too much," Holloway said. "The field will be smaller and some strong guys are missing but I'm sure it will be a fast race no matter what."
Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth will field a full team of 13 riders that includes Jesse Anthony, the Nature Valley Grand Prix winner and stage one winner at the Tour of Utah as well as Andrew Bajadali, Colton Barrett, Daniel Bowman, Alex Candelario, Mike Creed, Jason Donald, Chad Haga, Julian Kyer, Reed Mumford, Michael Sherer and Tom Soladay.
Other full teams include Bissell, with a series of strong sprinters in Frank Pipp, Kyle Wamsley and Eric Young. Jelly Belly p/b Kenda's sprinters include former criterium champion Brad Huff, Ken Hanson and Bernard Van Ulden. Kenda/5-hour Energy will field Isaac Howe and Robert Sweeting. The field will also include Jamis-Sutter Home's Jackie Simes and Wonderful Pistachios' Sterling Magnell.
In addition, UCI Professional Continental teams UnitedHealthcare's Jake Keough and Team Type 1's Joe Eldridge will take the starting line.
The national championship event is held in conjunction with the Grand Cycling Classic, also an NRC event for women. Tibco-To the Top is currently the only full team registered to participate in the event with Sam Schneider, Joanne Kiesanowski, Ryan Kendall, Carmen Small and Jennifer Wheeler. The women's criterium national championships was held earlier this summer in Augusta, Georgia and won by Shelley Olds (Diadora Pasta Zara).
The course includes six-turns held in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids. USA Cycling Pro Criterium Championships will be held in this location for two seasons. The event was held in Glencoe, outside of Chicago last year, and Downers Grove the previous 23 years.
"I think Grand Rapids is a great city, and it looks like they have added three corners to the old course," Holloway said. "Seems it will be a touch more technical and a longer sprint than the old course. Its now only 80km instead of the normal 100km. It's flat which means it would be easier for guys to sit in, which isn't to much of a good thing. The old courses made guys work no matter what."