Just two days after the conclusion of the 30th annual Cascade Cycling Classic, Central Oregon is back in the bike saddle with the USA Cycling Junior/U23/Elite/Paralympic Road National Championships, which will be staged in and around Bend today through Sunday.
Starting today at 9 a.m., national titles for multiple age groups in road races, time trials and criteriums will be decided. This is the first year the annual race series has been hosted in Bend and the first time in the Pacific Northwest since the Junior, U23, and Elite fields were combined into one event in 2005.
Unlike the Cascade Classic — a stage race similar to the Tour de France in which times in each race are added together to determine the overall winner — the USA Cycling National Championship events are stand-alone titles.
“Nationals are a completely different model and feel (from the Cascade Classic),” says Chad Sperry, the USA Cycling Road National Championship race director, who also directed last week’s Cascade Classic. “These folks are competing in individual races. There’s a stars-and-stripes jersey the winner (in each discipline and age group) gets to wear (as the national champion) for the next year.”
The three types of bike racing that will take place this week — road racing, time trials, and criteriums — feature different competition formats.
In a road race, all riders start together at one point and race a set distance and the first to cross the finish line win. Some road races are staged on a point-to-point course, while others, like those at this week’s national championships, are run on a circuit. Cyclists in a circuit race complete a loop route, usually multiple miles long, several times before finishing at the same place from where they started. Cyclists in road races can work in teams, and drafting strategy is crucial.
And then there are criteriums. Central Oregon race fans are probably familiar with the Cascade Classic’s annual crit in downtown Bend, during which riders blaze around and around on a short course — usually no longer than a mile — for a set amount of time. The goal is to finish with the most laps in the allotted amount of time. This week, advanced riders will compete on the same 1.3K-crit course used in last week’s CCC — the downtown loop on Wall Street, Minnesota Avenue, Bond Street and Idaho Avenue — while younger cyclists will traverse a 700-meter loop near McKay Park .
“You’ll see a lot more aggressive race (in the national crits),” Sperry explains. “At the Classic, a lot of the stars just want to sit in front and roll out easy. They don’t want to jeopardize anything (in the overall standings). But these crits are the last event of nationals. They’ll be throwing caution to the wind.”
The five-day national cycling event is expected to showcase some of the nation’s best up-and-coming cyclists. For example, Tyler Farrar, who has finished second and third in two different stages of this year’s Tour de France, won the USA Cycling Road Nationals U23 time trial and crit in 2004, when the races were held in Park City, Utah. And Dave Zabrinskie, one of only five Americans to ever wear the yellow jersey at the Tour de France, won the 17- and 18-year-old time trial national title in 1997 and the U23 time trial in 1998.
Another American rider in this year’s Tour de France, Danny Pate, who rides for Garmin-Slipstream and in 2008 finished third in a Tour stage, won the USA Cycling Road Nationals U23 road race in 1998 and 1999.
“This (the USA Cycling Road Nationals),” Sperry adds, “is a great opportunity to see the talent of the future.”
— Excerpt from the Bend Bulletin, July 28, 2009