After a year's absence of national championships in all disciplines, USA Cycling is planning for a June return of the high-profile US Pro Road National Championships. Knoxville, Tennessee is due to host the road, time trial and criterium championships for professional men and women for a fourth time in five years, from June 17 to 20.
“USA Cycling has been working closely with our local organizing committee and medical partners to finalize our COVID protocols for the Pro Road Nationals in Knoxville. We will soon be releasing details for teams and athletes, to include COVID testing protocols as a requirement for participation,” said Chuck Hodge, chief of racing and events for USA Cycling.
“Despite the unknown everyone is facing with COVID, and the normal challenges of putting on a race, we are feeling very good about the planning around the PRO Championships and having a return to safe high level racing in the US."
Athlete registration for Pro Road Nationals is expected to open April 26, 2021. USA Cycling is looking at final qualification standards for participants, since there was a complete absence of Pro Road Tour events from 2020. All athletes who are members of UCI trade teams will automatically qualify for the championships. The path for top amateurs, many of whom relied on results from PRT events, will be given expanded opportunities, according to Hodge, which will be announced by early April.
“I’d love for Nationals to be happen again in the US. It’s a really fun event, and especially for American cycling, it would be really good compete here again,” said Ian Garrison, who won the men’s time trial title in 2019 while riding for Hagens Berman Axeon. He had three opportunities to wear the stars-and-stripes jersey in Europe with Deceuninck-QuickStep, including the Vuelta a España in 2020, but no races in the US.
Knoxville had received the rights to host the championships for two additional years following the 2019 edition, so after a one-year absence due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, USA Cycling resumed plans with Visit Knoxville, the convention and visitors bureau for the city and managing arm of the Knoxville Sports Commission, for the championships in 2021 and 2022.
The routes are expected to be the same as the ones used in 2019, beginning with the individual time trial in neighboring Oak Ridge, Tennessee on Thursday, June 17. The women will compete on two laps of the 11.2-kilometre circuit while men will race three laps.
Gay Street in downtown Knoxville will serve as the start and finish for the criterium events on Friday, June 18 and the road races on Sunday, June 20. The road race uses a circuit of approximately 13 kilometres to cross the Tennessee River and take riders up the 1km climb with a 10 per cent gradient along Sherrod Road. In 2019, women completed nine laps while the men did 15.
All title winners from 2019 continue to wear the champions’ jerseys this year after the cancellations last season. Women’s road race winner Ruth Winder (Trek-Segafredo) said it “just feels weird” to still wear the stars and stripes.
“I don't feel ashamed to be wearing it but it just does feel odd. But then, I didn't race a full normal season in the jersey last year, and I remember being at the beginning of the year and thinking, heck, I don't get to race the normal spring.” Winder told Cyclingnews earlier this spring.
“I really hope that the national championship can go on and I would love to help either Tayler [Wiles] try and go for it or take another opportunity for myself. I would much prefer Nationals happen and it not happen.”
USA Cycling is focused on athlete and staff safety, with other facets of the operation still “a moving target”, according to Hodge, from operations to broadcasting. Local organisers are currently developing measures related to public access along the courses as well as hospitality facilities. Final details regarding broadcasts of the races, including live streaming and regional broadcast coverage with ABC affiliate WATE-TV, are also in development.
The return of Pro Road Nationals mark USA Cycling’s first national championships in more than a year across all disciplines. Collegiate BMX and Collegiate Road National Championships for 2021 were to have taken place in March and May, respectively, but were cancelled for a second consecutive year. USA Cycling noted in a statement that “universities and colleges across the country have travel restrictions in place”, and many athletes would not be able to participate.
2019 USA Cycling Pro Road Nationals - Individual Time Trial champions
- Elite Men - Ian Garrison (Hagens Berman Axeon)
- Elite Women - Amber Neben (Cogeas Mettler Look)
2019 USA Cycling Pro Road Nationals - Criterium champions
- Elite Men - Travis McCabe (Floyd's Pro Cycling)
- Elite Women - Emma White (Rally UHC)
2019 USA Cycling Pro Road Nationals - Road Race champions
- Alex Howes (EF Education First)
- Ruth Winder (Trek-Segafredo)
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