USA Cycling reveals tougher pro national championship course in Chattanooga

USA Cycling announced a tougher proposed course route for the 2014 Volkswagen USA Cycling Professional Road National Championship race in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The elite men and women will face a new short, steep climb on the road race circuit when they compete for the stars-and-stripes jersey on May 26.

The Lookout Mountain climb will continue to be featured as it was in 2013, but the downtown Chattanooga loop will include a one-block-long climb that kicks up to 20 percent. The climb will be on both the 5.4-mile short finishing circuit as well as the longer, 16.5 mile loops that make up the bulk of the race.

Both races will roll out on a 5.1-mile circuit, the women circling town three times while the men complete four laps. The racers then head out onto the long lap, which begins with a flat section on Broad Street before climbing up Ochs Highway, ascending 1100 feet (300m) over 2.75 miles (4.4km), passing through Lookout Mountain to Scenic Highway before returning back to Chattanooga.

Once in Chattanooga, riders will head north across the Tennessee River at the Market Street Bridge before hitting the "wall" on Kent Street. They will then return via the Veterans Bridge to complete the lap.

Last year, the women's race proved to be one of the most dramatic championships finales in recent memory, with world-class climber Mara Abbott holding a solid lead on the way to the finish before succumbing to a puncture. She was passed by a group containing eventual winner Jade Wilcoxson.

Wilcoxson was excited at the changes to the course. "I thought last year's course was perfect, for obvious reasons," Wilcoxson said, "but the addition of a short, steep climb to the downtown circuit will make the race even more exciting for both racers and spectators. There's nothing like suffering up a steep climb while rowdy spectators are partying by the roadside and cheering you on."

The championships will kick off on May 24 with the men's and women's individual time trial, which will once again be held outside the factory of title sponsor Volkswagen. New for 2014 is a one-year lease on a new 2015 Volkswagen GTI for each of the four winners.

The time trial course will feature rolling terrain with few turns, with riders completing two out-and-back runs of 9.5 miles each for a total of 19 miles. Last year the titles were won by Carmen Small and Tom Zirbel.

"We look forward to returning to Chattanooga after an extremely successful event last year," said USA Cycling President & CEO Steve Johnson. "The races last year were some of the most exciting I have seen in a long time and the course modifications for 2014 will add a new challenge for the riders and make for great viewing for the spectators. We are once again proud to have Volkswagen as the title sponsor for the event."

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