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The 2021 USA Cycling national cyclocross championship races are underway this week in Wheaton, Illinois, with the pro events slated for Sunday.
As the USAC cyclocross nationals were not held in 2020 due to the pandemic, this marks the return of the championship event. Riders with their sights set on qualifying for the world championships in Fayetteville, Arkansas in January are sure to pull out all the stops while racing for the stars and stripes in junior, U23, and elite categories.
Age-group racing began Tuesday, and the premier racing is set for Sunday.
The weather has been cold so far this week and with air temperatures well below freezing in the mornings, the ground has been frozen and ruts have been forming. Warming temperatures and precipitation are forecasted for the end of the week, which may affect tire selection and inflation pressure — and maybe give the mechanics in the pits some extra work if the course gets muddy.
Racers will have to contend with four major elements on the course: about 100 meters of a downhill stretch of fine sand that is reported to be rideable and not too deep. A rideable incline follows the sandy stretch, then a single set of double barriers will separate the riders who have to dismount and re-mount their bikes from those riders who can bunny-hop them. The final element of note is the Belgian stairs, which come at the exit of a sweeping, off-camber left turn. While riders may be able to carry enough speed into the base of the stairs and ride up them, an off-camber bend to the right is at the top of the last stair before a slight descent.
Pro racer Kerry Werner offered a preview of the national championships course, as well as some insight and commentary.
“It was 17F° this a.m., the ground was frozen, and some of the Sunday lines were taped,” he said in an Instagram post. “One inch of rain on Friday and traffic all week should change things. I think it should be pretty fun.”
Headlining the start lists are a handful of up-and-comers and some racers, like Werner, who boast robust palmares.
Current national champ Clara Honsinger (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) thrives in challenging conditions and will be among the top contenders. While she has been nipping at the heels of the top-performing Marianne Vos and world champion Lucinda Brand in the World Cup series, she topped the podium at the 2021 GP Jolien Verschueren (the race formerly known as Koppenbergcross), proving her skills and fitness going into her elite national championship title defense.
Honsinger was third at the Fayetteville World Cup earlier this season in muddy conditions.
Honsinger will be joined at the start by Raylyn Nuss (Steve Tilford Foundation Racing) who just last week secured the Pan American cyclocross championship title in Garland, Texas.
Others to watch include gravel phenom Sarah Strum, and Bentonville, Arkansas multi-disciplinarian Crystal Anthony (Liv Racing Collective), and veteran ‘crosser Sunny Gilbert.
In the U23 women’s event, Madigan Munro (Trek Factory Racing) is set for a call-up after a win at the recent Pan American U23 Championships, in Texas. Munro took third at the first-ever junior women’s world ’cross championship in 2020.
This year, the 19-year-old Munro displayed ambition when she lined up with a star-studded elite field at the World Cup Waterloo race in October. Munro will race for the U23 national title on Sunday.
Kaitlin Clouse (Cannondale-Cyclcrossworld.com) will also line up for a run at the U23 national champion’s jersey.
Also in the women’s U23 event is a quartet of racers from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, including Ruth Holcomb, who is the current Pan American junior women’s cross-country MTB champion.
Stephen Hyde (Steve Tilford Foundation Racing) will go into the 2021 national championships trying to secure his fourth national title. Hyde has a handful of podiums from the current season in domestic races, and if he claims another national championship, he should be assured a start at the 2022 UCI world cyclocross championships in Fayetteville, Arkansas in January.
Kerry Werner (Kona Maxxis Shimano CX Team) is coming into the U.S. national championships hot, after a third-place finish at the recent 2021 UCI Pan American cyclocross championship race. He’s had excellent finishes in the elite field in domestic racing and will be looking to take the national title and also punch his ticket to the world championships.
Curtis White (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) is on the start list for the championship men’s race. He’s had a busy fall, with no fewer than 17 finishes — including a second-place at the Pan American championships. He’s topped the podium in 12 of those races, and fished no lower than 18th in three more.
Lance Haidet (L39ion of Los Angeles) will toe the line for the men’s championship race, as will current national champion Gage Hecht (Aevolo).
How to follow the national cyclocross championships
FloSports will be live streaming races and you can watch them through a web browser, mobile app, or smart TV.
VeloNews will be on site covering Sunday’s races, so check back Sunday evening for reports.
Sunday, December 12, Central Standard Time
Junior 17-18 men, 40 minutes, 8:00 a.m.
Junior 17-18 women, 40 minutes, 8:55 a.m.
Under-23 women, 40 minutes, 9:50 a.m.
Under-23 men, 50 minutes, 11:05 a.m.
Elite women, 50 minutes, 12:20 p.m.
Elite men, 60 minutes, 2:15 p.m.