Last week, Medalist Sports’ Chris Aronhalt held a press conference in Hincapie Sportswear’s offices releasing details of the upcoming US Pro Championships weekend. As previously reported, the professional national championships moved to May to be in line with other countries’ national championships. The racing starts Saturday May 28th with the time trial on the CU-ICAR campus. Sunday there is a break in the professional racing and the Stars and Stripes Challenge fun ride, with various distance options will roll out from Gateway Park in Travelers Rest. The marquee event, the national road race championship, will be contested in Greenville on Monday, Memorial Day.
Moving the event to May and having a day off between the races offers some interesting changes. The championships are the week following the Amgen Tour of California. This eight-day stage race has quickly become an important fixture on the calendar drawing America’s best racers – one of those being Lance Armstrong. In what he promises to be his final year as a professional cyclist, Armstrong will be in Lake Tahoe with his RadioShack teammates for the start. After completing the Amgen race followed by a week off, those who have raced in California may be coming onto some good racing form. A solid strategy for some teams may be to head east to Greenville and then continue to Europe when the championships are over.
As a second year professional, Armstrong won the national championships in 1993 when they were held in Philadelphia. What better way to bookend his cycling career than leaving as the national champion?
When asked about the possibility of Armstrong competing in Greenville, Aronhalt was optimistic.
“We know he loves Greenville, the bike and supporting the cause against cancer and we’ve done all we can do to make it convenient for him,” said Aronhalt. “We’ll do everything we can – he’s eligible and he hasn’t declined the invitation.”
In previous years participation in the time trial was sparse due to the fact there was no rest day between the races. To be competitive in the race of truth an all out effort is required, draining the athlete and burning energy they might need for the following day’s road race. With this day of rest did they anticipate more racers rolling down the starting ramp at ICAR?
“Last year we had under 20 racers (ed. – 14 racers). This year we will be in the 30s, if not the 40s. Some of the cyclists weren’t thrilled having the two events so close together so we expect bigger fields in the time trial.”
The 2011 edition will be the sixth time the championships have been hosted in Greenville. The 2012 championships have already been awarded to Greenville, but the location for the 2013 edition is out to bid. Was there an effort for Greenville to continue to hold the event?
“It really was a competition to hold this event and Greenville was a finalist – the tradition and the momentum from the community, the terrain and organization. We know it will be out for bid again after the 2012 race. From my standpoint that’s a good thing. That’s a good thing because it shows the importance of the event to several communities and obviously we want to continue in Greenville.”
In addition to the honor of wearing the stars and stripes jersey of national champion, the prize list for the racers will be $27,000 total between the time trial and road race.