Race preview: 2022 USA Cycling Professional Road National Championships
Rosskopf and Stephens set to defend road titles as the action starts Thursday with the elite time trials.
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It’s officially summer in Knoxville. Soon, frantic soigneurs will target gas stations and grocery stores across the city, requesting ice and nylon tights in alarmingly high quantities. The locals are likely used to it by now. It’s the fifth year the USA Cycling Professional Road National Championships has rolled into town, and, each year, temperatures have soared into the triple digits.
This year, the forecast is no different and the competition is guaranteed to match the thermostat. Multiple US WorldTour riders and pro-conti teams have made the long trip home form Europe for the first time this season, keen for a shot at the stars and stripes jersey.
Fortunately, most cycling fans can watch the race from their temperature-controlled homes thanks to FloBikes, which will broadcast the men’s and women’s criterium and road race from start to finish. Thursday’s time trial won’t be aired – however, USA Cycling will provide live updates on their social channels: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
The Oak Ridge individual time trial will kick off proceedings on Thursday, June 23. It’s a relatively flat, smooth, out-and-back 11.6km roadway located 30 minutes west of downtown Knoxville. The women will take on two laps of the course for a total distance of 23.2 kms, and the men tack on one extra lap for 35km. Racing starts at 9 a.m. for the women’s field, and the men will follow at approximately 12:30 p.m. ET.
Who to watch
Last year, winner Chloe Dygert (Canyon-SRAM) completed the course in 30:11, and Lawson Craddock (Team BikeExchange-Jayco) clocked a 41:33 to win the men’s event. Craddock will be returning to defend his title and will come up against tough competition from the likes of Chad Haga, Joey Rosskopf (both Human Powered Health), and Ineos Grenadiers’ Magnus Sheffield.
The women’s field will have a new owner of the stars and stripes as Dygert continues to rehab a nagging leg injury after a gruesome 2020 crash at the TT World Championships. Second last year, accomplished veteran Amber Neben will be a contender, as will Leah Thomas (Movistar) who finished third. Lauren Stephens (EF Education TIBCO -SVB) will also have her eye on the jersey, as will Lauren De Crescenzo (CINCH Rise).
The criterium championships is the following day. Knoxville is the home of the University of Tennessee, and it’s made clear by the number of spectators who turn up for the evening revelry. The majority of the crowd may know zero about criterium racing, but you’d never know it by the festivities set up around the 1.77km circuit. It’s a party, for sure. The women start at 6 p.m. and have 70 minutes of racing around the hard and fast technical circuit, and the men follow at 7:40 p.m. for 80 minutes.
Who to watch
The crit will be L39ion of Los Angeles‘ playground, as both men’s and women’s squads are bringing stacked rosters to the start. Kendall Ryan, who dominated Armed Forces Classic a few weeks ago, has her sights set on defending her title with crit specialists Sam and Skyler Schneider as quality support. They’ll have to contend with Coryn Labecki (Jumbo-Visma), who is racing solo, but knows how to use it to her advantage.
On the men’s side, Luke Lamperti (Trinity Racing) is back, hoping to repeat his surprise win in 2021. L39ion has their money on Ty Magner, Project Echelon has Stephen Vogel and Wildlife Generation’s Brendan Rhim is in good form after winning Armed Forces Classic.
Saturday is a day off before the road race finale on Sunday. It’s what everyone’s been waiting for, and for some, the biggest objective of the year. The course is held over an 11km circuit that the pro men will tackle 17 times for a total of 185km. The women cover ten laps totalling 110km.
Who to watch
The heat, coupled with the number of times the riders have to scale the dreaded Sherrod Street climb, has traditionally made this event a battle of attrition. Last year, Joey Rosskopf won out of a select breakaway of seven, and Lauren Stephens claimed a solo victory ahead of Coryn Labecki. Both will be back to defend their jerseys this Sunday.
Other riders to watch in the men’s event include Human Powered Health’s Robin Carpenter and Kyle Murphy, who took third last year. Magnus Sheffield (Ineos) is also a strong contender, as is Lawson Craddock (BikeExchange-Jayco), who took fifth in 2021.
How to watch
Flobikes will offer live streaming of Friday’s criterium and Sunday’s road race for both men and women’s events. Coverage starts at 6 p.m. on Friday and 9 a.m. ET on Sunday. The time trial won’t be broadcast. USA Cycling will give live updates via on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. VeloNews will have comprehensive reports, news, results and photo galleries from Casey Gibson throughout the championships.