12 April 2016

2016 Road Nationals - criterium course breakdown

This year's Nationals are back in the Asheville, NC area. The Road Race and Time Trial course remain the same as last year, but the Criterium course is new. Because its new that's where we'll begin. This breakdown is brought to you by myself and Joey Iuliano (@Joey_Iuliano) of the University of Arizona. It was his initial tweets about the course that exposed the course characteristics and gave me the idea for the course breakdown.

In an Omnium-style event, it seems reasonable that every "type" of rider should have an opportunity to shine. The road race typically favors those who can climb well and tends to favor smaller and lighter riders. Generally, the CRITERIUM should showcase the sprinters and riders who excel on the flats and can generate big power and high speeds.

Last year's criterium course was an extremely difficult and selective course. In most people's mind, inappropriately so. The Women's event completely exploded with only 5 riders in contention after a few laps. A shortened Men's race had a largish breakaway get away from a severely reduced field. Many riders were pulled from both events very early, making for a frustrating and unfulfilling experience (not to mention expensive).

Many complained and USA Cycling promised to come up with a new course that was flatter and would provide a more appropriate criterium experience. When the course maps were posted, the elevation profile made it appear that we were going to have a basically flat course. However, upon closer inspection it is clear that the those profiles were somewhat misleading. One must conclude that there is not a mile of flat road anywhere in the Asheville area, because this year's course doesn't look much better than last year (if not worse).

On Strava:  https://www.strava.com/routes/4571974

As you can see the course is about .9 miles with about 105ft of elevation gain per lap. Note this is 105ft over only .4 miles or so. This equates to an average grade of 4.97%. Compare to last year's course: .85 miles with 105ft gained over approximately .35 miles (an average grade of 5.68%). Although we think last year's uphill section was harder, the bottom corner on this year's course will slow the riders even more before starting the climb. This year's course looks to be on narrower roads (with the exception of the downhill on Main Street) which will further contribute to stringing out the fields. Finally, unlike last year which had basically no flat sections, this year has the town square section (this means the elevation loss is over a shorter distance than last year). Small variations aside, the courses are remarkably similar.

Here's some snapshot views moving around the course:

View from Start/Finish area, the highest point on the course
First turn, 90 degree right-hander into the town square
Into the town square, quick left 

heading into another 90 degree left hander
slight downhill following the turn, still in the town square
a left, then quick right leaving the town square and down Main Street
at the top of East Main Street, left turn on to Azalea is at the bottom
nearing the turn, you can see Azalea coming back up on the left
The Azalea turn, very acute! Note the Azalea is the "inner" street, not the 90 degree
A view of the corner from the outside, riders come down E Main on the left side of the image, and turn to head up Azalea on the right side of the image. Almost an 180 degree turn!

after the turn, looking up Azalea

about halfway up Azalea

the last 200-300m before the turn on to Main Street

the sweeping turn to Main Street

on Main Street immediately after the turn, still going up...start/finish is right after where the road crests

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