Roadies come to the track
The USA Elite National Track Championships will be held at the ADT Event Center velodrome at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles, California, between August 10-13. With a 200-strong start list, the field size has greatly increased compared with the 78 participants in 2004.
"USA Cycling is extremely happy with the large turn out of riders for this year's national championships, said Pat McDonough, USA Cycling director of track programs. "There's no doubt that the lure of racing at our wonderful indoor facility here in California has helped the numbers. I also think the newly implemented velodrome qualification events created some excitement and buzz that has brought new riders onto the track and ultimately here to Los Angeles."
Seven of last year's U.S. Olympic team members will take part in the Championships, including Erin Mirabella (La Habra, Calif.), Colby Pearce (Boulder, Colo.), Giddeon Massie (Colorado Springs, Colo.), Christian Stahl (Bethany, Conn.) Kristin Armstrong (Boise, Idaho), Christine Thorburn (Menlo Park, Calif.) and Jennie Reed (Kirkland, Wash.).
The presence of Armstrong and Thorburn, both of whom represented the USA on the road in Athens, is part of an initiative by USA Cycling to strengthen its track program as the first year of a new Olympic quadrennium comes to a close. More than a few riders have successfully made a transition from the road to the track, even if the reverse is far more common.
"The addition of some of our best road talent will make the endurance events exciting and who knows, we may have some surprises," said McDonough. "Track cycling is certainly tactical and it takes some time to understand the nuances, so I think the track veterans are still the favourites but the racing should be tough, aggressive and fun to watch.
In the endurance events, the women's individual pursuit will see Annette Hanson (Kenmore, Wash.) back to defend her title. But with the presence of Mirabella, Thorburn, Armstrong, Amber Neben (Irvine, Calif.) and Sarah Hammer (Temecula, Calif.), Hanson will have a tough task ahead of her in one of the events that most closely demonstrates USA Cycling's road-to-track initiative.
In the men's endurance events, the TIAA-CREF squad, that features some of the brightest young stars and future hopes of American cycling, will be well represented. Five members of the squad, Will Frischkorn (Boulder, Colo.), Blake Caldwell (Boulder, Colo.), Chad Hartley (Golden, Colo.) Todd Yezefski (Chicago, Ill.) and Nathan Mitchell (Phoenix, Ariz.) will join Pearce, the elder and experienced mentor of the squad, in the men's endurance events. The same outfit will also field a team pursuit squad.
Three-time defending U.S. National Criterium Champion and current Pan American Road Champion Tina Pic (Dahlonega, Ga.) will be looking to apply her sprint talents from the road to the track. As another road convert, Pic is one of the top American sprinters on the domestic road circuit, and like her pro road counterparts, is also hoping to gain national-level experience on the track this week.
In addition to Olympians and prominent road riders, several young riders will be looking to make their mark on the elite ranks. Sprinters Michael Blatchford (Chula Vista, Calif.), Ryan Nelman (Houston, Texas), Aaron Kacala (Racine, Wis.) and Kevin Belz (Irving, Texas) will give some of the more experienced riders like Massie and Stahl a run for their money in the sprint-oriented events.
Riders like Josh Kerkof (Hurst, Texas), Mike Friedman (Oakland, Calif.), Charles Huff (Springfield, Mo.), Bobby Lea (Mertztown, Pa.) and Guillaume Nelessen (Bellemead, N.J.) will likely challenge some of the more accomplished riders like Pearce and two-time Olympian Jame Carney (Durango, Colo.) in the endurance-oriented events.
More information: www.usacycling.org