“I know nothing but Downer’s course, it’s going to be hard to integrate my brain to a different Nationals course.” said Brad Huff, of the Jelly Belly p/b Kenda team yesterday about the new course for the 2010 AT&T USA Cycling Professional Criterium National Championship, held as part of the Glencoe Grand Prix this year.
“Everyone knows how the race goes down because of years past it’s been the same thing. But this year, it’s a new open course, the end result could be totally different.”
For 23 years, it was all about the final corner at Downer’s Grove, where position was key; everyone wanted to be the first one out of the corner which was at only 150 meters from the finish line. Huff would know as he won the the Elite Crit Champion as an amateur in 2005, and followed that up with the US Pro Title in 2006.
“It’s a great feeling.” said Huff about winning the jersey.
“For Americans, and American cyclists, that’s what we grow up doing is criterium. To say that you’re the Elite or the US Professional Criterium Champion, is a huge, however you want to say it, feather in your hat, accomplishment that a person has done in their lifetime male or female. Having been there and done that, being close several times, it’s good feeling and it definitely carries you to the finish line every year. I’m just hopeful for myself and my teammates.”
Unfortunately Huff didn’t have a chance to wear his new jersey much after winning it in 2006, when he was mostly racing in Europe with Slipstream.
“I maybe did 5 criteriums, maybe, in the US Pro jersey. I remember even getting called to the start line as the Pursuit National Champion in 2006, and I was like ‘okay I’m National Crit Champion but I’ll come up to the line still.’ I was kind of an unknown champ but it’s allright.”
Unknown. This year’s course is a 10-corner, 1.3 mile (2.1 km) figure-8 affair with a short uphill climb midway through. The final corner is reported to be wider than at Downer’s Grove and the two-block straightaway leading into that fateful corner should be an ideal spot for leadout trains.
“We just make sure that we are opportunistic because I think there are going to be breakaways and it could be won by a breakaway. Even though the course doesn’t have a key spot in it where it’s going break up the field, and teams are still going to want to go for a bunch sprint but anything can happen this year, it’s such a different course and different dynamics, I think teams have to be attentive.”
For Huff, the unknown of the course “definitely adds to the nervousness of it”.
“I think you have to resort to your game plan and try to be calm in situation where total mayhem is happening out there because I think that’s what is going to happen. We’ll just see what transpires in the first half of the race, I have a feeling it’s going to be very active, a very aggressive race just because the race is set up. A lot of turns and Downers had that hill which allowed a break to get a little bit of time or not, it’s going to be a whole different show.”
The team is planning to check out the course on the Thursday and Friday before the race, and Huff has also watched the youtube clip put together by the race organizers. “Other than that, it’s just like any other race, we show up and do our best to go for the win.”
The US Pro Crit is the only US Road Championships that allows non-Americans to participate, which means that the highest-placed American gets the jersey, regardless of who actually wins the race.
“Yes and no.” replied Huff when asked if that changed the racing. “Definitely you could be racing for second, up against Fly V Australia leadout or Jamis/Sutter Home. There are Americans on non-American teams, of course they will try to set their guys up and when it comes down to it, if someone can win that is non-American, they’re going to try and win it; a win is a win for a team no matter who it is.”
Anything can happen. After a slow start to the season, Huff’s form has been ramping up. From two stage wins and the overall at Tulsa Tough, to KOH jersey at Nature Valley Grand Prix.
“I think my form has definitely come up but anything can happen on a one-day race, I just hope to perform well for the team.”
The team spent a lot of time at the front, chasing missed breaks to try and move Mike Friedman up on GC, where he finally finished fourth overall. So they decided to skip last weekend’s Presbyterian Hospital Invitational Criterium in Charlotte, NC.
“We took a gamble and we decided not to go to the Presbyterian crit as a team to stay home and get a little rested and focused towards this weekend. It’s a little bit of a gamble not having an NRC crit in your legs the weekend before, but I think the team will hopefully come in focused and ready.”
The Jelly Belly p/b Kenda comes into with multiple options for the race, a good thing for Huff.
“We have some key guys that are really strong, we just added Sergio Hernandez to the team.” said Huff. “Hopefully myself or Mike Friedman or Sean Mazich can be there. Shoot Canadian Road Champion Will Routley could win the dang thing for how strong that man is.”
“It’s an adventure, I’ve been there since ’03 I think, I’ve done laps at Downers and it will be exciting to do some new laps at Glencoe.”