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We may have just waved goodbye to the cyclocross season, but the WorldTour calendar is already hotting up as the European Classics are underway. The U.S. domestic racing scene is set to follow suit, including the launch of the all-new National Cycling League (NCL) kicking off its inaugural criterium on April 8 in Miami.
With the 2023 season knocking at the door, Cycling Weekly lists some of the key U.S. riders to watch domestically and abroad, as well as highlighting the National Cycling League and the second annual Maryland Cycling Classic.
American riders to watch
The U.S. men racing in the WorldTour ranks did not waste time notching some wins for their teams this year.
EF Education – EasyPost’s Neilson Powless has been making waves in Europe as a breakaway specialist for the last couple of seasons in some of the WorldTour’s biggest races, including the Tour de France. He closed last season with a win at the Japan Cup after finishing third at the Inaugural Maryland Cycling Classic.
A few weeks ago, Powless earned his first professional G.C. victory at the Etoile de Bessèges in France, a UCI 2.1 level race. However, time will tell if his American-registered team will allow additional solo opportunities for stage or overall race victories.
Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) and Sepp Kuss (Jumbo – Visma) also have become familiar Americans in a domestique role during grand tours and other important races. Both McNulty and Kuss have essential roles working directly for the two top Tour contenders — Tadej Pogaçar and Jonas Vingegaard — but that responsibility leaves few chances for solo opportunities.
Another emerging star is 21-year-old Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo), who had a breakthrough performance last year at the Tour of Wallonie, winning a stage and taking home the overall. He kicked off the 2023 season with an impressive victory on stage 3 of the Vuelta a San Juan in Argentina in January.
Watch for all four to continue their rise on the world stage.
On the women’s side, the U.S. sits in the top five nations in the world with the most riders. Currently, 15 riders are listed among the WorldTour ranks, including decorated TT specialists Chloe Dygert and Leah Thomas. However, both riders could be out for the season as they continue to recover from nagging injuries.
EF Education – EasyPost’s Veronica Ewers is an exciting up-and-coming talent who, after dipping her toes into WorldTour just last year, claimed several top ten G.C. finishes, including at the Tour de France Femmes. She ended the season with a top five at a demanding Tour de Romandie Féminin, and took home second behind Italian star Italian Elisa Longo Borghini at both Giro dell’Emilia and Tre Valli Varesine.
Young sprinting and track talent Megan Jastrab has been thriving in Europe, sprinting to third behind former world champ Elisa Balsamo and Lotta Henttala on stage 3 of Setmana Ciclista-Volta Comunitat Valenciana, Jastrab‘s first stage race of 2023.
Other notable names making huge waves in Europe include Kristen Faulkner (Team Jayco-AlUla), who’s on the cusp of her first WorldTour victory after numerous podiums and 20-year-old neo-pro Kaia Schmid (Human Powered Health).
Racing on US soil
Longstanding U.S. stage races, like Tour of the Gila, Redland Cycling Clasic and the Sea Otter Classic look to be holding fast in 2023, including the recent news that Walmart will return as the title sponsor of the Joe Martin Stage Race.
New for this year is the birth of the National Cycling League (NCL) —not to be confused with the league of the same name from the 1990s. The organizers have likened the model to pro baseball or basketball.
The prize purse is set at $1 million, split equally between men and women teams, each comprising six riders. Two out of the 10 teams have been announced thus far. Dominant U.S. crit teams L39ion of Los Angeles, Miami Blazers and DNA Pro Cycling have already opted out of participating, likely due to the NCL racing model of fielding both a men’s and women’s team under the same name.
The NCL Series kicks off in Miami on April 8, followed by Atlanta on May 14, Denver on Aug. 13, and a finale set for D.C. on Sept. 10.
Knoxville, Tennessee, will host the USA Cycling Pro Road Nationals in June one last time as part of a seven-year agreement. Pro Road Nationals will take place June 22nd through 25th. The current U.S. national pro road champions are Kyle Murphy (L39ion of Los Angeles) and Emma Langley (EF Education-Tibco SVB). The defending time trial champions are Leah Thomas and Lawson Craddock (Team BikeExchange Jayco). And the reigning criterium champions are Kendall Ryan (L39ion of Los Angeles) and 19-year-old talent Luke Lamperti (Trinity Racing).
Last but not least, keep an eye out for upcoming news about the second annual Maryland Cycling Classic, once again being held over Labor Day weekend on Sept. 3. The UCI Pro.1 day race is the highest level road race in the U.S., attracting WorldTour, Pro Continental and domestic teams to Baltimore for competition in the hilly terrain around the city. Belgian Sep Vanmarcke took home the race’s inaugural victory in 2022.