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11 riders to watch at US Pro Road Championships 2021 women's events

Ruth Winder won stage 3 of the Women's Tour Down Under
Ruth Winder (Trek-Segafredo) has had two years wearing the national champions jersey, can she make it another (Image credit: Getty Images)

The top American cycling talent will unite at the USA Cycling Professional Road Championships held from June 17-20 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Amber Neben (Cogeas-Mettler Pro Cycling) and Ruth Winder (Trek-Segafredo) will return to defend their respective titles in the time trial and road race, however, Emma White (Rally Cycling) will not be on the start line to defend in the criterium. 

Cyclingnews takes a look at the riders to watch across the three professional national championship titles, all up for the taking for the first time in two years after a COVID-19 interrupted 2020.

The individual time trial

Chloe Dygert in action for the USA at the 2020 World Championships time trial in Imola, Italy, before her race-ending crash

Chloe Dygert at the 2020 World Championships (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Chloe Dygert (Canyon-SRAM)

Chloe Dygert will return to competition for the first time since a horrific crash in the time trial at the Imola World Championships resulted in an 80 per cent laceration to her left quadriceps. 

It has taken Dygert nearly nine months to recover but she has been training on the track and will return to competition for the first time in the individual time trial in Knoxville. 

Wearing the colours of her new team Canyon-SRAM, Dygert is a favourite to win the time trial, even if her form is unknown. She was an automatic qualifier for the track, road race and the time trial at the Tokyo Olympic Games, and told Cyclingnews that she would do anything to heal before the event at the end of July.

Amber Neben (Cogeas-Mettler Pro Cycling)

Amber Neben has recently been named to Team USA’s squad for the time trial at the Tokyo Olympic Games. She is a veteran of the sport and a specialist in the event. 

The two-time world champion will be looking for a fifth national championship title in the individual time trial. Neben has narrowed in her focus on the time trial as she prepares for the Olympic Games so will no doubt be in great form for the national championships and hoping to extend her winning streak, after having taken the title for three years running.

Leah Thomas (Movistar)

Leah Thomas moved up to the Women’s WorldTour ranks with Movistar this year and one of the main incentives was the team’s access to world-class time trial equipment with bike sponsor Canyon. She has also been able to spend time training with a former two-time World Champion in the time trial, Annemiek van Vleuten, gaining specific knowledge. 

She has won the race against the clock at the Pan American Championships and was seventh at the World Championships in 2019. Thomas told Cyclingnews that the time trial was an area that she wanted to focus on, so don’t be surprised if you see the 2019 third-placed finisher stepping up the podium this time. 

The criterium

Kendall Ryan

Kendall Ryan (L39ION of Los Angeles) at the Armed Forces Cycling Classic (Image credit: Doug Graham)

Kendall Ryan (L39ION of Los Angeles)

Kendall Ryan has been lighting up the American criterium scene with L39ION of Los Angeles, most recently winning races at the Armed Forces Cycling Classic and Tulsa Tough. 

She won the criterium title in 2015, during her nearly-decade-long term with TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank. Now with L39ION of Los Angeles, Ryan is focused on criterium and track racing and has a great shot at winning the stars-and-stripes jersey for her new team in Knoxville.

Skylar Schneider (L39ION of Los Angeles)

If it isn’t Ryan winning the championships then it could be her L39ION of Los Angeles teammate Skylar Schneider. Equally as powerful in the bunch sprints, Schneider won two races and the overall title at Tulsa Tough, making her the odds-on favourite in Knoxville based on recent performance.

Leigh Ann Ganzar (Rally Cycling)

The 2019 champion Emma White won’t be on the start line for the criterium, but is registered for the road race, as she is preparing for track racing at the Olympic Games. 

Her teammate, Leigh Ann Ganzar, then is the closest the race has to a defending champion, having surprised the nation when she won the 2018 criterium championship on the Knoxville course. The former distance runner has shown success in the pro ranks also winning Winston Salem Cycling Classic and a stage of Tour de l’Ardeche. 

She spent the spring racing overseas with Rally Cycling but will return with a strong support team that also includes Madeline Bemis, Holly Breck, Katie Clouse, Krista Doebel-Hickok, and Heidi Franz. The team is also stacked for the road race where sheer strength in numbers could see them have a successful weekend of racing at the National Championships.

Megan Jastrab (Team DSM)

Megan Jastrab joined Team DSM on a two-year deal but made it clear that her focus was on competing in the Team Pursuit and Madison at the Olympic Games in 2021. Jastrab’s track training will perfectly complement her goals of winning the title in the criterium in what will be 70 minutes of high intensity competition. She is also registered to compete in the road race where she will likely play a role in supporting teammate Coryn Rivera.

The road race

MUR DE HUY BELGIUM APRIL 21 Marianne Vos of Netherlands and Team Jumbo Visma Pink UCI Womens WorldTour Leader Jersey Coryn Rivera of United States and Team DSM Ruth Winder of United States and Team Trek Segafredo during the 24th La Fleche Wallonne 2021 Women Elite a 1302km race from Huy to Mur de Huy 204m FlecheWallonne FWwomen UCIWWT on April 21 2021 in Mur de Huy Belgium Photo by Bas CzerwinskiGetty Images

Two of the favourites, Coryn Rivera (Team DSM) and Ruth Winder (Trek-Segafredo) at Flèche Wallonne (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Ruth Winder (Trek-Segafredo)

Ruth Winder will line up as the defending champion but also as the odds-on favourite to win after a successful Spring Classics campaign that saw her win Brabantse Pijl, come seventh at Flèche Wallonne and second at Navarra Women’s Elite Classics. 

Her aggressive and powerful performances during the one-day racing season saw her secure a spot on the women’s road race squad at the Tokyo Olympic Games. She won’t have the backing of a full team but she will line up one of the most powerful domestiques in the sport, Tayler Wiles, who is a winner in her own right.

“To be the National Champion, it’s not something I truly believed I would get, and to have that is super, super special to me," Winder said. 

"Being able to wear it [stars-and-stripes jersey] throughout the pandemic for another year, I hope I have been able to do the jersey proud. It’s a bit odd to have worn it another year. Nationals and the Olympics combined are two huge goals, and to have achieved them both it’s really cool.”

Coryn Rivera (Team DSM)

Coryn Rivera has won 72 national championship titles during her cycling career. In fact she has spent more time wearing the stars-and-stripes jersey than any of her competitors and will no doubt want to bring the elite women’s road title back to Team DSM. 

Rivera had a later start to her season after a personal family matter kept her at home in California for much of the Spring Classics but she returned to the Ardennes Classics prepared to earn her spot at the Tokyo Olympics Games, which she did. 

She has since been preparing for a mid-season peak ahead of the National Championships and Olympic Games, so expect to see Rivera in top shape. Rivera last won the elite women’s road race from a reduced group sprint on the same Knoxville course in 2018. 

She is one of the fastest sprinters in the field, but also a capable climber and not afraid to create a breakaway, making her one of the most versatile riders in the field.

Alexis Ryan (Canyon-SRAM)

The Ryan family is full of talent, and while Kendall is the favourite for the criterium, her sister Alexis is one of the favourites for the road race. 

Alexis Ryan has stood on the podiums at some of the biggest races in the world: Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Tour of California, Giro d’Italia Donne and Ronde van Drenthe. She moves fluidly between support and leadership roles at Canyon-SRAM. 

She won’t have teammates in the road race but she is savvy enough to surf the peloton, aggressive enough to try a breakaway and fast enough to sprint for the win.

Lauren Stephens (TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank)

TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank will have a full team racing in the elite women’s road race and while Kristen Faulkner is an unknown due to a recent knee injury, her teammate Lauren Stephens is ready to lead the team to victory. 

Stephens recently won Unbound Gravel 100, opting for the shorter version in order to save her legs for the National Championships. A strong spring campaign saw her racing deep into the finals at Trofeo Alfredo Binda, Gent-Wevelgem and Brabantse Pijl. She was on the long-list for the Olympic Games but didn’t make the final selection, which could make winning the National Championships title the next major goal.

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Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in bike racing from the grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all cycling disciplines, edits news and writes features. Currently the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten coordinates global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.