A little over a week after exciting men's and women's races concluded in California, it's time for the Stars and Stripes to be awarded to the lucky riders who will wear them next year. This year's national championships return to Chattanooga, TN, where riders will face the now-familiar loops through downtown Chattanooga followed by a number of longer loops up and over Lookout Mountain (two for the women, four for the men) and then three additional downtown circuits to close out the race. Lookout Mountain isn't a terribly long climb, but it is a hard one - I can tell you from personal experience! It's 4.0 kilometers at an average gradient of 8.0%, but even that is misleading because of the 300 meters the road descends gradually about 2/3 of the way up to the finish. It's a proper climb that does plenty of separating the wheat from the chaff, but the 3 circuits downtown can help some groups reform. Last year, a group of about 15 men fought it out for the win.
The men's race is always an interesting affair as the World Tour teams with far fewer numbers face off against the domestic teams that look to them to do most of the work controlling the race. The burden could be especially high on Cannondale-Garmin this year with five riders in the race, including newly crowned time trial champion Andrew Talansky. The green and black argyle riders will be largely riding for Alex Howes, who has finished third on this course before and whose fast kick at the end of a hard day makes him a natural favorite even despite his lackluster spring campaign. But, the Smart Stop team of defending champion Eric Marcotte may pull an upset again. The team once focused on cries but has morphed into a road racing team over the last few years and will have the numbers to play instigator again, putting rider after rider up the road until a break sticks. Two additional riders to watch out for are Danny Summerhill and Keil Reijnen of United Healthcare. Though their team support is weak, both pack fast finishing kicks and can get over the climbs reasonably well.
On the women's side, a lot of eyes will be on the Boels-Dolmans duo of Evelyn Stevens and Megan Guarnier. Gauarnier is a former national champion while Stevens has won the time trial title before as well as the women's Flèche Walloon. Though the duo are among the strongest in the race, they will have a hard time holding off a attacks from Team TWENTY16 P/B ShoAir's large roster, including former Het Nieuwsblad winner Lauren Hall. Expect an open race with plenty of attacking, especially with fewer trips over Lookout Mountain to whittle down the field.
The women's race is currently live and being broadcast on the USA Cycling Youtube page right now with commentary. The women's race will likely end around 11:30 AM EST and then men's kicks off at 1:30PM EST.