By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor
After the inaugural year of the Americans-only format for the professional road and time trial U.S. national championship, the promoters of the event, Medalist Sports, has announced a few changes to the 2007 event. While most of the courses will be similar, a few important changes should result in different outcomes this year.
As previously reported, on Saturday, the country's top time trialists will battle against the clock on a virtually identical course to 2006, from one residential development to another along rolling-to-hilly roads. However, according to Jim Birrell, the finish of the course has been altered to remove a difficult turn near the finish, the same one that likely cost 2005 champion Chris Baldwin (Toyota-United) a repeat win when he in the final kilometre. The new route will take the cyclists in a more straight-forward way to the finish line, ensuring faster times than last year.
When Cyclingnews mentioned the removal of what some have names 'Baldwin Corner' to Baldwin at the Tour de 'Toona last week, he laughed and joked that he had wasted the last year preparing for technical 90-degree turn this year. Still, he thinks the course will still crown a worthy champion. "I think the course is a very appropriate time trial course for a championship event. It's not too extremely flat or too hilly. It's a happy medium of a few rollers with a few sticklers at the end. It's not as much as a climber's time trial and it's not just for the big power guys, either."
The road race course will undergo bigger changes -- but not to the course itself as much as to how the course is utilized. The race will again ascend the steep and technical Paris Mountain climb, but only four times compared to the five times of last year. Birrell noted that the change was in response to the attrition of last year's peloton, wanting more than just 31 finishers. While this shortens the race, the addition of smaller opening circuits that will give the spectators more of a chance to see the racing action will make the loss minimal, now 177 km or 17 km shorter.
"Adding more circuits to the road race allows spectators to enjoy more racing in the downtown area," said Medalist's Chris Aronhalt. "This section of the course covers 3.5 miles of downtown streets, including two sections through Cleveland Park. Spectators can see the action as often as six times, or have the flexibility to watch the start laps in one section and move to a second location for the finish laps."