After a buildup of three years, the Maryland Cycling Classic supported by UnitedHealthcare finally breaks onto the international stage on Sunday, September 4, now the only UCI ProSeries event of the 2022 season in the United States. It will serve as a leadup to a trio of UCI races in North America, with a pair of Canadian WorldTour races, the Grand Prix Québec and Grand Prix Montréal, to follow a week later.
Organisers have been more than patient as the inaugural one-day race was cancelled in the first two efforts due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. The last time a prominent UCI event was held in the Mid-Atlantic region of the US was in 2015 with Richmond, Virginia hosting the UCI Road World Championships.
The third time is truly the charm for Baltimore, known as Charm City, which will see four WorldTour squads at the start with Grand Tour leadership.
The favourites include Tour de France stage winners Michael Matthews and Dylan Groenewegen for Team BikeExchange-Jayco, two-time Giro d’Italia points classification winner Giacomo Nizzolo for Israel-Premier Tech, top-US rider from the 2022 Tour de France, 13th place, Neilson Powless of EF Education-EasyPost and 2019 junior World Champion Quinn Simmons with Trek-Segafredo.
US-based ProTeam Human Powered Health brings a stacked squad to match power with the WorldTour squads, and set to impress their sponsor connections in the area including the start in Sparks, Maryland on the property of Kelly Benefits.
With most of the teams racing abroad and a handful of small squads focused on the few races remaining in North America, there seemed to be no clear-cut strategies for the inaugural Maryland race, as many of the recon rides took place on Friday morning, or scheduled for Saturday. The race will cover 193.7 kilometres (120.4 miles) with the final 30 miles using a circuit in downtown Baltimore for a finish near the iconic Inner Harbor.
The route entices opportunities for a breakaway but the finishing circuits are sure to allow the sprinters’ teams to gain the spotlight. Read below for the 8 riders to watch at the 2022 Maryland Cycling Classic.
The race route has some rollers to the north around Prettyboy Reservoir but the climbs are not long so suit a versatile rider, and one with a strong kick like Matthews. If his teammate doesn’t have the legs after the journey through horse country in northern Maryland, look for the Australian at the front. He comes out of this year’s Tour with a stage win and two second placings.
A two-time winner in Quebec (2018 and 2019), Matthews makes his first appearance back in the US since the UCI Road World Championships in Richmond, Virginia in 2015, where he won the silver medal. That race had a punchy climb on the circuits, so the Baltimore course may suit him better and he’s one to watch.
“Our main target is to support Dylan in Maryland, while for Quebec and Montreal I shall give it the best shot as these races probably suit my style more, but you never know in racing and we shall be ready for different approaches as these races take off,” Matthews said.
Team BikeExchange-Jayco brings a one-two punch for a sprint finish in Australian Michael Matthews and Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen. Early indications are that the team will work to position Groenewegen to capture the glory at the Inner Harbor finish.
His high-octane speed was on display in July at the Tour de France, where he scored a stage 3 victory in Sønderborg, Denmark and a runner-up on the grand finale on the Champs-Élysées.
“We have various cards to play and surely if it will come down to a final sprint we know we can compete against anyone. When we go to a race we always participate to try to win it, and we will do the same also in Maryland,” said Groenewegen, without a strong commitment on the final tactics.
Israel-Premier Tech lines up Giacomo Nizzolo, a two-time Giro d’Italia points classification winner (2015 and 2016). One of his best seasons was 2020, when he won Tour Down Under, Paris-Nice and won both the Italian and European titles. He followed that with a second place at Tour of Flanders and a Giro stage win in 2021.
So far in 2022 the 33-year-old Italian has eight top 10s in one-day races and a stage win at Vuelta a Castilla y Leon, and is looking for that signature victory.
Among his strengths are the lead-out riders on the WorldTour team, which include Belgian veteran Sep Vanmaerke and reigning Canadian road race champion Guillaume Boivin.
“We don’t really know what to expect but it should be a flat final circuit, so we aim to give it a good go in the sprint and get a great result,” said the Italian sprinter on the team’s Twitter feed.
The top US rider at this year’s Tour de France, Neilson Powless, could very well be the top overall rider at the inaugural Maryland Cycling Classic. While he is know for his climbing prowess, which resulted in a fourth-place finish on this year’s might l’Alpe d’Huez, he checks all the boxes as an all-rounder.
Turning 26 the day prior to the race, Powless proved his versatility on stage 5 of this year’s Tour as he conquered the cobbles and climbs with a fourth-place finish there. And at last year’s similar terrain across Belgium at the UCI Road World Championships, he was an impressive fifth. He gave a nod to teammate Magnus Cort, who won stage 10 of this year’s Tour, if it came down to a pure sprint finish.
“We will have a pretty fast guy with Magnus [Cort] if it comes to a sprint. We will know more about the course on Friday when we get a chance to pre ride it. I’m hoping the early parts of the race will be tough, but if not, Magnus will be our card to play in the end. Getting a chance to work with a team trying to set up a successful sprint will help quite a lot,” Powless told Cyclingnews.
“It’s always a special feeling to race in America. I almost made the trip for Nationals, but it was going to be too close between the Tour de Suisse and the Tour de France. I’ll be visiting a new place, but really looking forward to it!”
US-based WorldTour team Trek-Segafredo brings a solid squad led by all-rounder Quinn Simmons, who won the mountains classification at this year’s Tour de Suisse and at Tirreno-Adriatico. The 21-year-old from Durango, Colorado made frequent breakaways at this year’s Tour de France. His aggressive riding earned him a most combative rider prize after stage 19 in Cahors, and he helped teammate Mads Pedersen to breakaway victory in Saint-Etienne.
In Maryland, Simmons will have double Grand Tour stage winner, from the Tour and Vuelta a España, Tony Gallopin on the road, as well as Toms Skujinš, who had great success between 2015 to 2018 at the Amgen Tour of California.
US-based ProTeam Human Powered Health is out to impress, not just the home crowd but their home sponsors as well, since the Maryland Cycling Classic starts Sunday afternoon from the headquarters of Kelly Benefits. Among its roster are three US riders, a trio of Canadians and Arvid De Kleijn of the Netherlands.
Dutch sprinter De Kleijn is one to watch in the finale, but it could most likely be breakaway artist Robin Carpenter as the escape artist of the day. The support cast includes reigning road race national champions, Kyle Murphy of the US and Pier-André Côté of Canada.
“I’d love to be up the road on Sunday as much for myself as for the fans,” Carpenter said. “They want to see us making the race happen so I don’t think you will see us standing back waiting for the race to come to us.”
Among the Continental squads, L39ION of Los Angeles brings an all-star roster to Maryland, led by team co-founder Cory Williams, all-rounder Tyler Williams and former US Pro crit champion Ty Magner. The three leaders give the team options across the varied course, especially Cory Williams or Ty Magner should they end up in a bunch sprint.
But look for Tyler Williams, no relation to Cory, as he was the overall champion at the 2021 Joe Martin Stage Race, one of just two UCI stage races still happening in the US. This year he won a stage at Joe Martin and a stage at Redlands Bicycle Classic, showing his skills on the road. At last weekend’s IU Health Momentum Indy criterium, he was the best-placed L39ION rider in third place.
The L39ION team, which dominates criterium racing in the US, would like nothing better than to score a big road race win.
The USA National Team includes a pair of teammates from Wildlife Generation, Scott McGill, who earned bronze at the 2022 US Pro criterium and won two stages at Tour of Portugal, and Noah Granigan, who was second overall at Joe Martin Stage Race and won the KOM title at Tour of Turkey. McGill is hot right now, used to racing against WorldTour riders, and could use a victory to cement a move to the top tier.
“The team is a strong mix of young and more experienced talent. Scott and Noah will be our leaders and they both have had excellent seasons,” Team Manager Michael Sayers told Cyclingnews. “Scott is on the precipice of moving to a very high level, and I hope this opportunity will put him over the top. Noah has been consistently good all year.
“Our goal is to allow these men to show their talent and learn somethings along the way. We will race hard I can guarantee. These National teams are great ways to represent our domestic programs and I am happy to have these guys.”