Ahead of the 2022 UCI Road World Championships, Cyclingnews is taking a deep dive into the key teams for the elite road races. Here, we put the USA team under the microscope.
The United States of America have not won an elite road race title in the more modern-era of professional cycling. Greg LeMond was the first elite men's winner from the country in 1983 when the race was held in Switzerland. The three-time Tour de France winner claimed the rainbow jersey again in 1989 in France.
Coincidentally, LeMond was also the country's first male road world title winner when he became junior world champion in 1979. Lance Armstrong is still the 1993 world champion thanks to the statute of limitations.
The country's women have been more prolific, with Audrey McElmury becoming the USA's first road world champion in 1969 in Brno, Czechoslovakia. Beth Heiden won the title in 1980. The most recent podium finisher was Megan Guarnier in 2015.
- Veronica Ewers (EF Education-Tibco-SVB)
- Kristin Faulkner (BikeExchange-Jayco)
- Heidi Franz (InstaFund Racing)
- Emma Langley (EF Education-Tibco-SVB)
- Skylar Schneider (L39ION of Los Angeles)
- Lauren Stephens (EF Education-Tibco-SVB)
- Leah Thomas (Trek-Segafredo)
- Scott McGill (Wildlife Generation)
- Kyle Murphy (Human Powered Health)
- Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost)
- Magnus Sheffield (Ineos Grenadiers)
- Keegan Swenson (Santa Cruz)
Neilson Powless, who was four seconds away from leading the Tour de France this summer, was fourth on two stages and later on the podium at the Maryland Cycling Classic, is the most likely leader for the men's team. He was fifth in last year's Worlds, making the winning move when riders like Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert didn't. He showed his class with a victory in the Donostia Klasikoa San Sebastián last year.
Powless might have shared leadership with Magnus Sheffield after the 20-year-old won the Brabantse Pijl in the spring, but a crash in the time trial and the entire team missing the Mixed Relay because of it puts a question mark on the Ineos rider for the road race.
Lawson Craddock was to be the third WorldTour rider but missed his flight because of visa issues. Quality riders like Quinn Simmons, Brandon McNulty and Matteo Jorgenson have begged off a trip to Australia to chase after points or recover from long seasons.
National road race champion Kyle Murphy is a strong climber and has won stages in the Volta a Portugal, but the stars and stripes won't likely be giving him protected status in a much stronger, deeper field.
One rider who could surprise is Keegan Swenson. A glance on the rider's official UCI palmarès reveals nothing stunning, but the 28-year-old has had stand-out seasons in gravel and mountain bike endurance events, winning all but one race of the Life Time Grand Prix, including Unbound 200 and the Leadville Trail 100 MTB, so 266km on the road will be no problem for him.
On the women's side, the team is also missing some key riders, with Krista Doebel-Hickok and Coryn Labecki out with injuries, but the top-ranked riders Kirsten Faulkner and Veronica Ewers will get strong backing from experienced riders like Leah Thomas, Lauren Stephens and US road race national champion Emma Langley.
Faulkner has two stage wins and the mountains classification at the Giro Donne on her palmarès this season, plus a stage and second overall at Tour de Suisse. She put in a good showing in the elite time trial in Wollongong with sixth and is carrying strong form into the elite women's road race.
Skylar Schneider takes the place of Rivera as a sprinter. Although most of her results are from the domestic calendar, the 24-year-old won a stage of the Thüringen Ladies Tour as a teenager and finished second to Elisa Balsamo, the defending elite women's world champion, in the junior women's Worlds in Doha in 2016.
Strengths & Weaknesses
The United States do not have a team like the Belgians, Dutch, or Italians and while Powless is a rider of pure class, he's not been consistently on the level of a Wout van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel, Julian Alaphilippe or Tadej Pogačar.
But the team's performance in Wollongong is important for the next Olympic Games cycle and next year's Worlds. The team will need to get results and experience toward the 2023 unified Worlds in Glasgow before Paris.
The road race men's course, with upwards of 4,000 metres of climbing, is suited for Powless and Sheffield – and maybe even Swenson if he can deal with the speed. They'll be taking an aggressive early stance to get riders into the early move so their protected men will still have teammates deep into the race.
The women have to be on the attack and follow the top riders. Faulkner has found success on intense courses but she'll need to get rid of quicker sprinters like Marianne Vos and Demi Vollering (Netherlands), Elisa Balsamo and Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy), and Kasia Niewiadoma (Poland).
It will fall to riders like Thomas and Stephens to mark the inevitable attacks from rouleurs like Ellen van Dijk, Marlen Reusser and Annemiek van Vleuten, and for Franz, Langley and Ewers to be in the early moves. Schneider will be in the team's pocket if the race comes together for a bunch sprint.
The long season and the intense WorldTour points hunt have put a big damper on the US men's team, while injury, illness and attrition have also hampered the women's team. However, in Powless and Sheffield, the men have top-five potential and if the women's race descends into chaos, the country has several very good options for an opportunistic attack to gain a medal.
The fans' enthusiasm is hurt by the time zone difference, with most of the races taking place in the middle of the night for all but the west coast. But there will undoubtedly be plenty of late-night watch parties in California – especially in the Oneida Native American tribe of which Powless is a member.
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Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Managing Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. As former elite-level road racer who dabbled in cyclo-cross and track, Laura has a passion for all three disciplines. When not working she likes to go camping and explore lesser traveled roads, paths and gravel tracks. Laura's beat is anti-doping, UCI governance and data analysis.