Entering its second year, the 2014 edition of the Winston-Salem Cycling Classic has dramatically upped the ante regarding the stature of the event as the two-day race now features UCI 1.2-rated road races (also part of USA Cycling's National Racing Calendar) for both men and women on Friday, April 18 followed by National Criterium Calendar/USA Crits events for both the men and women in the early evening on Saturday, April 19.
Interspersed between those events are USA Cycling-sanctioned criteriums, a gran fondo and plans for live, online streaming of select races.
"We heard a lot of feedback from participants last year who said these races were some of the toughest in America," said Race Director Ray Boden. "They loved the intense competition of our races and the downtown courses. Our goal this time is to make everything bigger and better."
Friday's road races, featuring one of only two UCI-sanctioned events for women in the United States this season (the other being the one-day Philadelphia Cycling Classic in June), will take place on an 11.4km circuit in downtown Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The 91km women's race, starting at 9:30am, features eight laps of the circuit and an $11,000 purse while the 171km men's event, following at 12:30pm, will be contested over 15 laps with a $13,000 purse up for grabs.
The road circuit consists of rolling terrain over the 11.4km parcours with the steepest climb on the route featuring a gradient of 10 percent. The women face 1,456m of climbing for their 91km race while the men's 171km event features 2,730m of climbing. The road circuit pays homage to the long-running Hanes Park Criterium as part of that race's route is included in the latter portion of the 11.4km course.
The event's Competition Director Kurt Stockton, who raced professionally and has directed several men's and women's pro teams, said the goal in the event's second year was to attract top talent and make the UCI 1.2 races a must-stop on the U.S. racing circuit.
"The Winston-Salem Cycling Classic has already confirmed the top tier of UCI-registered, U.S.-based men's and women's teams to compete against a quality foreign contingent, which no doubt will make for very dynamic and exciting racing," Stockton said. "As one of only two UCI events for women in the U.S., we wanted to give the women a chance to compete at an international level - with home soil advantage - and an opportunity to earn coveted UCI points."
Twenty-five teams have been invited for the men's road race, highlighted by both of the U.S.-based Pro Continental teams - UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team and Team Novo Nordisk - plus six U.S.-based Continental teams: 5-hour Energy, Astellas Cycling Team, Champion System-Stan's NoTubes, Hincapie Sportswear Development Team, Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies and Winston-Salem's own Team SmartStop.
Other Continental teams include Canada's Garneau-Québecor and Silber Pro Cycling Team plus the Puerto Rico-based Incycle-Predator Components Cycling Team. The Canadian elite amateur Jet Fuel Coffee-Norco Cycling Team has also received an invite and the remainder of the start list will be completed by domestic elite amateur teams.
Twenty-five teams will also contest the women's road race, headlined by a trio of U.S.-based UCI Women's Teams: Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies, TIBCO/To The Top and UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team. Three international squads will also compete - including the UCI team Estado de Mexico Faren plus national teams from Slovenia and Colombia - with the remainder of the start list completed by domestic elite amateur teams.
Saturday's pro criterium for women begins at 4:45 p.m. with the pro men following at 6 p.m., both on a 0.9-mile loop in downtown Winston-Salem. Saturday's pro criteriums serve as both the third round of the National Criterium Calendar as well as the fourth round of the USA Crits series. A 50-mile and 80-mile gran fondo in the morning and a special USA Cycling criterium in the afternoon precede both pro races. Live music from three bands will provide additional entertainment, Boden said.
"The three biggest criterium bike races in America will take place three weekends in a row, beginning with Charlotte the week before and wrapping up in Athens a week after our races," Boden said. "Within a couple years, I am confident that the Winston-Salem Cycling Classic will emerge as one of the premier cycling events in America."
More information on all events can be found on the official website, www.winstonsalemcycling.com.
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