By Kirsten Robbins
Having the Olympic Games just around the corner has left the US women's individual time trial wide open and a new champion difficult to predict. The 33-kilometre event will kick off the US national championship weeklong event on Wednesday August 6 in Irvine, California.
Three of America's top time trialists, three-time national champion Kristin Armstrong, Christine Thorburn and Amber Neben will not be competing in their specialty event at the national championships. Their pursuit of gold in Beijing, has left the event open for a new successor.
The stars and stripes skin suit could fall on the back of any number of strong time trialists including Katheryn Curi-Mattis (Webcor), Mara Abbott (Columbia), Katharine Carroll (Aaron's), Alison Powers (Colavita-Sutter Home)
The time trial will be contested on an out and back course totalling 33-kilometres. Riders will stage at Aliso Creek bike way and follow the bike path to Santiago Canyon Road. The undulating terrain has 1287 feet of climbing with the majority leading to the turn-around point.
According to USA Cycling officials, "The road surface is in excellent condition with a wide and well defined bike lane on both sides of the Santiago Canyon roadway that riders are expected to stay on."
For the men, the professionals will have their own championships at the end of August, so the amateur elites will battle it out for the stars and stripes without being crushed by the big names not heading to Beijing. Instead, last year's winner, Karl Bordine, will have to contend with a strong group of competitors which includes Garmin-Chipotle trackie Colby Pearce and cyclo-cross star Andy Jacques-Maynes.
Saturday's 123-kilometre road race will see some one hundred elite women from around the country lined up in pursuit of the prestigious championship title. Last year Mara Abbott won the stars and stripes jersey out of a two-woman breakaway against Armstrong. The youngster out sprinted the veteran on a decisive climbing circuit.
Abbott will no doubt be looking to win the championships for a second time but must contend with multiple other riders in good form. Key riders to look out for in the road race include Meredith Miller and Kristin Sanders (Aaron's), Katheryn Curi-Mattis and Janel Holcomb (Webcor), Kori Seehafer (Menikini), Stacy Marple (Cheerwine) and Alison Powers (Colavita-Sutter Home).
This year the championship could also land on the back of a sprinter given the course is significantly flatter quality. The 31-kilometre, four-lap course will suits riders like Tina Pic (Colavita/Sutter Home), Brooke Miller (Tibco), Laura Van Gilder and Kelly Benjamin (Cheerwine), Jen McRae (Advil-ChapStick) and Rebecca Larson (Aaron's). The course offers 1050 feet of climbing per lap. USA Cycling officials consider this a very fast course that incorporates two steady and gradual climbs per lap plus a short one kilometer climb to the finish line.
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for complete coverage of the US National Championships.