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Amber Neben (HTC-Highroad) had a strong ride for fourth place today.
The nation's top cyclists will compete for the Junior, Under 23 and Elite stars and stripes jerseys at the USA Cycling Elite Road National Championships held at a brand new venue in Augusta, Georgia. The five-day event held from June 22 and concluding on June 26 will include disciplines in road, time trial and criterium racing.
According to USA Cycling, there are more than 1000 riders expected to attend the events, making it one of the largest cycling events in the country. "All the field here are phenomenal and this is shaping up to be the biggest turn out that we have ever had for this event," said Andrea Smith of USA Cycling.
"We typically have around 850 riders here," she said. "I think the time of year helps, there is a bigger density of population in driving distance, you can fly into Atlanta from anywhere on God's green earth for fairly inexpensive and there are a lot of strong, young cycling groups in the South."
The Women's Elite peloton is raring to go with a full line-up of world-class talents including defending road champion Mara Abbott and her teammate Shelley Olds (Diadora Pasta Zara), two-time former world time trial champion and Olympic gold medalist Kristin Armstrong and her teammate Alison Starnes (Peanut Butter & Co Twenty12) along with another former world time trial champion and current National Race Calendar (NRC) leader Amber Neben (HTC-Highroad) and her teammate and defending national time trial champion Evie Stevens.
Other notable contenders for the road race and criterium include Amanda Miller (HTC-Highroad), Jennifer Purcell (Danbury Audi), Carmen Small and Meredith Miller (Tibco-To the Top), Robin Farina (Now Cycling/NOW), Janel Holcomb and Theresa Cliff-Ryan (Colavita Forno D'Asolo), Nicole Evans (Primal MapMyRide), Kristin McGrath (Peanut Butter & Co Twenty12), among others.
"The quality of the women's field is fantastic and it is going to be fun to see Kristin Armstrong come back and she has made this a target for her season," Smith said. "Neben is also riding well and there are also a lot of younger riders out there too. What will be really fun about that race is that there will be a lot of strong teams and a lot of tactics."
The Under 23 women's field might be small in numbers but full of quality riders such as Taylor Wiles, Katie Antonneau and Coryn Rivera (Peanut Butter & Co Twenty12), Maureen Kinsella (VanderKitten), Lauren De Crescenzo (Fulton Flyers Cycling Club), Amanda Coker and Jerika Hutchinson and Jacqueline Kurth (Kenda).
Some of the more well-known riders in the Under 23 men's category are currently competing for UCI Continental teams including Rob Bush, Max Durtschi, Danny Summerhill, Anders Newbury and Rob Squire (Chipotle Development). There are also Joseph Dombrowski, Lawson Craddock, Nathan Brown and Carter Jones (Trek-Livestrong). Other riders to watch are Lawrence Warbasse (BMC Racing Development) and Joey Rosskopk (Team Type 1 Development). Craddock will be one of the riders to watch out for having won four Junior national titles in the road race, time trial, criterium and track pursuit last year.
"Lawson is going to be a big rider to watch because he did so well last year as a Junior," Smith said. "It will be interesting to see the dynamic of him moving into the Under 23 field and I think a lot of eyes will be on him. But, there are a ton of strong riders."
The Junior women and men's categories road race will kick off the program with the individual time trial on Wednesday, June 22. On Thursday, June 23, the individual time trial events include Junior men 17-18, Men's Under 23, Elite/Under 23 Women combined, Elite Men, along with continued Junior women and men categories from the previous day and Paracycling events. The 30 kms time trial course is an out-and-back held along Scotts Ferry Rd.
"All eyes are going to be on the time trial because we have some of the best time trialists in the world," Smith said. "The winner of the U23 men, Elite women and the Junior 17-18 men and women will qualify for an automatic nomination to the worlds team in Copenhagen, Denmark in September. There are only two spots so that is the big hang up, only two spots at worlds and this event will decide one of them."
"The course is fairly straightforward with a few gently rolling hills," she said. "The start-finish area, the riders will ride across the face of the dam and the on the other side is Lake Strom Thurmond. I think it will be really picturesque."
On Friday, June 24, the sprinters will have a day to shine during a series of criterium championships events. The rectangle shaped circuit is 1.2 kilometres in length and caters to the savviest specialists. The Men's Elite field will compete for a total of 80kms, followed by the Men's Under23 category that will race for 60 kilometres and the Women's Elite/Under23 combined fields that will compete for 50 kilometres.
On Saturday, June 25, the racing will continue with a series of road races for Paracycling categories along the Men's Under23 168 kilometre road race. The racing will conclude on Sunday, June 26 with the marquee events at the Women's Elite/Under23 120kms road race followed by the Men's Elite 168kms road race.
The road race circuit is 23.5 kilometres in length with a total elevation gain of 433 metres per lap. "The road race course has some really big rolling hills," Smith said. "First lap you're fine, maybe second lap too, but all of a sudden on the fourth of fifth lap it gets hard. It is a course that slowly tires you out. There is a tough roller with one kilometre from the finish that could be where the winning moves will be made."