U.S. Professional Championships set for date change in 2011

Road and time trial events to follow Tour of California

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The USA Cycling Professional Championships appear set for a second calendar change in two years when the event moves to late May in 2011. The championships, which kick off Saturday September 18 with the individual time trial in Greenville, South Carolina, will move to a new slot directly following the Amgen Tour of California, sources tell VeloNews.

“Absolutely it’s true,” said a source close to USA Cycling who commented on condition of anonymity. The source told VeloNews that the championships will move to Memorial Day weekend in 2011, allowing a return to the three-day format, with a day of rest between the time trial and road race. Since moving to a two-day format in 2008, the time trial has seen paltry fields; just 19 starters will contest this weekend’s race.

Chris Aronhalt of Medalist Sports, who promotes the championships in Greenville, would not comment on the potential date change, but did confirm that Medalist bid for the 2011 event on the city’s behalf. The national championships moved to South Carolina in 2006 after more than 20 years in Philadelphia.

A change in date would potentially benefit the event – and USA Cycling – in a number of ways. With nationals adjacent to the biggest North American stage race of the season, more European-based U.S. pros will be in the States in May than any other time of the season.

A higher quality field is half of the equation for the date change, according to USA Cycling chief operating officer Sean Petty, who confirmed that the federation is considering a move forward on the calendar.

“Traditionally after the 26th weekend of the year, no points are given at national championships for the UCI world ranking,” Petty said.

That is of particular concern for 2011, when the men’s team quotas for the London Olympic Games will be determined based on countries’ season-ending points tally. With a move to May – or June for that matter – the U.S. will earn additional points toward Olympic qualification.

The USA Cycling Professional National Championships moved to mid-September this year from the last weekend in August in order to fit better into the early UCI calendar, which included two ProTour events in Quebec City and Montreal and the Tour of Missouri. Most U.S.-based riders have been idle since the Tour of Utah or the Chris Thater Memorial in late August. With Missouri cancelled, nationals is the only national-level event in September and will mark the end of the domestic season for most road professionals.

As for the location of the 2011 championships, Petty said that the federation has narrowed bids down to two frontrunners to host next season. Indications from the federation and others close to the decision-making process are that an announcement of the location will come in Greenville this weekend.

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