Team Vera Bradley Foundation will be aiming for National Championship titles in both the U.S. and Canada this week. This is the first time that all National Championships – both in North America and in Europe – will be held at the same time.
This is the second consecutive year that the USA Cycling Elite National Time Trial and Road Race championships have been held in Bend, OR. The Criterium championships make their Bend debut this year after a long run in Downers Grove, IL. The Team Vera Bradley Foundation women have high hopes of climbing onto the top step of the podium this week in all three disciplines.
The Time Trial will be held on Thursday, June 24. 2008 National Time Trial Champion, Alison Powers, aims to regain her title. “The field is really strong this year,” remarked Powers. “For several years we’ve had nationals at a strange time of year, so a lot of the U.S. girls who race in Europe have not been able to race our national championships. This year, we have everyone here. The person who wins tomorrow will truly be the best time trialist in the nation.”
Robin Farina and Kristin Sanders will also contest TT Nationals. Farina finished 11th in the TT last year; Sanders finished 12th. Both riders spent time in the wind tunnel earlier this year to perfect their positioning.
The trio will be joined by former U23 National Criterium Champion, Erica Allar, and Lauren Hall for the Criterium and Road Race Championships. Unlike the Downers Grove course, the criterium course in Bend is a flat, fast rectangular course. “I’m looking forward to this,” commented Allar. “It’s a new course for everyone, so that puts us all in the same playing field. To make up for the lack of technicality that made Downers Grove so interesting, I expect the teams to make the race aggressive and hard. It should be good.”
The final event for the elite women is the 113K road race held around the challenging Aubrey Butte circuit. Last year, a small breakaway group held off a hard charging field with Meredith Miller (TIBCO) taking the win. A similar situation could occur this year. “I wouldn’t be surprised if a break got away,” said director Lisa Hunt. “We have a strong team here, and all of our riders can ride a breakaway and win. It’s a great course for us.”
While the American contingent races in Bend, their Canadian counterparts prepare for the Canadian Cycling Elite National Championships in Edmonton, Alberta. Nationals were last held in Edmonton in 1994.
Canadian Nationals opens for the women with the time trial on Friday, June 25. The TT course is a wide-open fairly straight forward out and back. The road ventures into a river valley with a little descent and a short power climb. Without any tree coverage on the course, wind will likely be a factor.
Anne Samplonious, a multiple-time former National Canadian TT Champion and silver medalist at the 1994 World TT Championship, recognizes that Tara Whitten is the favorite on this course. “She is a double world champion on track this year and won nationals last year,” said Samplonious. “Still, I’d love to win. That’s my goal. If not, I definitely want to podium.” Samplonious finished 3rd in the time trial last year after suffering mechanical issues.
Alison Testroete, current Canadian National Road Champion, will contest both the time trial and road race with Samplonious. She looks to defend her title against a competitive field on Sunday, June 27. The 127K road race is a bit hillier than the course on which Testroete rode to victory last year. Samplonious considers it a course that favors sprinters and hopes to see Testroete win from a break. “I’d rather not see it come down to a bunch sprint,” commented said Samplonious. “Alison’s a good breakaway rider. She can win this race on smarts. I’d like to see her get in a break without the top sprinters. It’s something she’s capable of pulling off.”