The Verizon U25 Cycling Team is racking up results — and pageviews — while preparing a new generation of young riders for the pros.
Wet and wild would not even begin to describe the conditions for Sunday’s U.S. criterium national championships in Downers Grove outside Chicago. Torrential rains soaked the elite amateur men's field and thunderstorms delayed the pro men's race by an hour. The slick course caused crash after crash, turning the races into survival contests and dashing the hopes of favorites.
The Saturday evening before the national criterium championships in Downers Grove, Illinois, is traditionally reserved for pro-am races for the men and women, half of the distances of the main events on Sunday. But with money on the line the racing is an odd combination of sprinting for dollars while saving something for Sunday’s big event ? or doing one’s best to avoid disaster the night before the title match.
Other than the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, few countries award a national championship jersey for criterium racing. The UCI does not even recognize it as an event and, therefore, does not recognize the national championship, but at least it kindly looks the other way, because criteriums are the most popular form of racing in these countries. In the U.S., criteriums dominate the racing calendar over road racing, culminating in the middle of August for the past 17 years in the Chicago suburb of Downers Grove for the U.S. national criteirum championships.