Wildlife Generation Pro Cycling p/b Maxxis kicks off its first bout of summer racing at the USA Cycling Under-23 National Championships, held in Hagerstown, Maryland, a small town on the western end of the state, right near the borders of Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
The Under-23 contingent of the team, which includes Ryan Jastrab, Finn Gullickson, Camden Vodicka, and Colby Lange, will tackle the individual time trial, road race, and criterium between June 20th-June 23rd looking to take home the Stars and Stripes. Read on to see a preview of each of the courses!
THURSDAY, JUNE 20th: 30-kilometer Individual Time Trial
Racing starts bright and early on Thursday morning, with riders set to exit the starting ramp at 7:30am EST. They will have to tackle a challenging 30-kilometer out-and-back time trial that traverses the rolling farmland foothills outside of Hagerstown.
The undulating nature of the course, though non-technical, can prove to be extremely taxing, as it requires constant pressure on the pedals. Save for the turnaround point halfway into the course, there is no point at which a rider should find himself coasting, as the downhills are just as valuable for making up time on other competitors as the uphills.
Weather: Riders will have the benefit of starting early in the morning and escaping the worst of the heat and the higher potential for rain in the afternoons that is common amidst mid-Atlantic states in the summer. Temperatures will be between 67°F and 87°F, with winds of between 10-20mph coming from the southwest, which would mean a cross-headwind on the way out, and a cross-tailwind on the way back.
FRIDAY, JUNE 21st: 183.3-kilometer Road Race
Riders will enjoy a later start for the road race, with the event set to go off at 12:00pm EST. The racing schedule says riders will have to do 5.5 laps of the 32.4-kilometer long figure-8 loop, totaling for 178.2 kilometers of racing (slightly less than the advertised 183.3 kilometers listed on the race website).
Though punchy, no hill in the course is particularly decisive, and benefits either the technically-savvy sprinters or solo tacticians who can utilize the narrow winding roads to get out of sight and go to the line alone, as the Elite Amateur race and the U-23 races saw last year, respectively.
Positioning throughout the race will be key, and the roads can become tight very quickly and offer little room to respond to attacks off the front if riders are not in the first two or three rows.
Last year's U23 race was punctuated by a sudden thunderstorm that forced the race to become neutralized for a couple of hours as riders and staff sought shelter from the lightening. This year looks to be a little more benign, with forecasts for rain only calling for a 10-percent chance. Temperatures will be a little friendlier than the day before, with a low of 57°F and a high of 79°F. In many cases, states such as Maryland present a unique challenge to riders as they often have to deal with extremely high humidity, meaning hydration is always key, but the mugginess looks as though it will be kept in check at a mild 53 percent, as opposed to 82 percent two days prior.
SUNDAY, JUNE 23rd: 75 minutes
A fairly non-technical crit, the city circuit in downtown Hagerstown looks to favor sprinters who know how to sit in and save energy. However, differing from last year, the course this year will take riders in a counter-clockwise direction around the 1.3-kilometer long loop. This eliminates one of the sketchier sections of last year's course, which took riders through a tight and bumpy decreasing-radius dive through turn one leading into Baltimore St. and onto Hood St. (As evidence, you can see on the Strava ride from team rider, Sam Boardman, that there is indeed a segment on the old course labeled "The Sketchiest Crit Corner in the world.")
Instead, riders will have a steeper kick to left-hand turn leading into the sprint finish, which should make for a more tactical and selective bunch kick to the finish.
Temperatures look to pick up on Sunday, with a high of 84°F. With a start time of 3:25pm EST, racers will have to endure the harshest of the heat, but to their benefit, wind looks to be at a minimum, predicted to remain no higher than 6mph, which should become negligible with shelter from the buildings.
You can keep up with results by following @usacycling on Instagram and Twitter, @wildlifegenerationprocycling on Instagram and @wgc_pro_cycling on Twitter, and keeping up with the blog for race recaps from riders!