Preview: Denver Audi Littleton Twilight Criterium

GCN+ returns to the United States with live and on-demand coverage of one of America's premiere criteriums

Clock00:32, Friday 4th August 2023
unknown

Photo courtesy of the Littleton Criterium

While North America has moved on from the days when stage races dominated the noteworthy events in the continent, professional road racing is still humming along on the criterium circuit, bringing fast, sprint-focused races to cities across the nation. In August, the focus of the North American cycling universe is firmly on Colorado with road and off-road events revolving around the Rocky Mountain state. Colorado presents the new NCL (National Cycling League) returning to Denver on August 13th; the Life Time Grand Prix rolling on to the high altitude of Leadville’s single track the previous day; and SBT GRVL in Steamboat Springs rounding out the festivities on August 20th.

To kick off the festivities will be the Audi Denver Littleton Criterium, which brings all the top riders of the NCL and the other premiere crit series in the United States – the ACC – to a one-hour show under the lights in Colorado. The fastest men and women of North American racing will also be showcased live, ad-free and on-demand on GCN+, showing the world the intricacies of American criterium racing.

For the broadcast, GCN will be teaming up with an expert team of American-based commentators to share the story of Littleton. On play-by-play is Brad Sohner who has become the voice of American racing. Brad has worked in cycling production and promotion for his entire career, eventually becoming an announcer and commentator for the United States’ premier races. He started his production company, Fiber Media, in 2020 to help bring live video coverage to more cycling events around the world.

Booth colour commentary is provided by Daniel Holloway who has been one of the top American track and criterium racers for the last two decades. On the ground, roving with a mic, will be GCN’s very own North American reporter Logan Jones-Wilkins, who covers both European and American racing for us. He too is also a cyclist who is qualified to race in these categories of races and will bring his experience and connections to the reporting.

Together, they will provide the most in-depth and engaging coverage of any North American criterium. Before the broadcast, we put together everything you need to know before you watch the race.

History

The Littleton Criterium started in 2013 when the mayor of Littleton at the time, Debbie Brinkman, and the co-owner of the pedal bike shop in Littleton, Bill Nagel, collaborated to put on a national scale race by offering a significant purse prize. Due to that emphasis on national attention and an effort to get spectators to come out, Littleton has become very popular with racers and had a steady growth of stature ever since.

Perhaps the biggest leap was made in 2018 when the race decided to join the now-defunct USA Crits series. While that organisation ended in controversy, the races that were part of it have rolled forward into what is now the American Criterium Cup, otherwise known as the ACC. The ACC has changed a few members along the way, but is essentially the top ten criteriums in the United States, barring a couple of high-profile events.

Littleton is the eighth stop on the ACC calendar and has provided what could be the most competitive criterium field this year. Only a handful of races – notably Tulsa Tough, Athens Twilight and the USAC Criterium Championship – rival those who will take the start line Saturday evening.

Course

Littleton is a criterium, so it is limited to the parameters of the discipline. Criteriums in the United States run between a half-mile and one mile and typically have between four and eight turns. Race times vary, but they are normally one to two hours.

The crit is, as the name suggests, in the Denver suburb of Littleton and both the professional races will run for 60 minutes each. The course is surrounded by restaurants and shopping venues, which brings lots of spectators to line the course all the way around, especially with the start times coming late in the day at 7:45pm for the women — right before sunset — and 9:00pm for the men. The lap itself is six turns long and stretches out for 1,250m. There is also a slight climb up to the line along the lengthy finish straight.

The race, like most criteriums that are not built around a hill, is going to be a battle between riders looking to form a strong breakaway and the teams with fast finishers who will hope to keep it together for the sprint trains to line up for the final. Where this race is distinct is the altitude. While it is just shy of 2000m, the altitude of the course is enough to play a role and can tilt the scales in favour of the local riders on the start line.

Favourites

American crits for the last number of years have been dominated on both the men’s and women’s sides by the Legion of Los Angeles. Yet in 2023 the balance of success has shifted slightly. While Legion is still the biggest team with the most notoriety, for both of the professional races the challengers are numerous. Here is a brief breakdown of who will be vying for the wins on Saturday.

Women:

With both the criterium national champions – Luke Lamperti and Coryn Labecki – racing internationally, the women to start the favourites discussion with are Kendal Ryan and the Legion of Los Angeles women’s team. Ryan, who is a multiple-time national champion in the criterium, was second this year and will be backed by a collection of riders who were pros in the European peloton, including Alexis Ryan and Skylar Schneider.

The two NCL-branded teams are likely to provide the biggest challenge to the Legion women, with Miami Nights’ sprinter Paola Munoz leading the ACC standings and backed by a strong team of fast finishers, including Andrea Cyr. the second-place rider in the ACC standings. The other NCL team on the start list, the Denver Disruptors, is the closest tithing the race has to a home team. They are led by former European pro Leah Kirchmann and have a solid group of riders from the rocky mountains including Ava Hachmann, Haley Bates, Nerea Nuno, Valentina Scandolara and Erica Zaveta.

AUTOMATIC Racing has been gathering strength this season, while Butcher Box and LA Sweat have also been on the rise this year with strong results, but both teams are unlikely to produce the win. And of course, since this is American racing, there are a number of local, lone-wolf riders to watch even if they do not have large teams to back them up.

Men:

On the men’s side, Legion of Los Angeles is the favourite because of their previous success here, however, the tides are changing and the challengers are stacking up. Legion is led by Cory Williams and Tyler Williams (not related), while Justin Williams is the team's director. But that is just part of the Legion equation. Supporting the two finishers are a stacked cast of other riders, including Robin Carpenter of Tour of California stage success and Kyle Murphy, who was the road national champion in 2022.

Nonetheless, this is Colorado and the local contingent of extremely strong riders is deep. That line-up includes Danny Summerhill (American Cycling Group), who is leading the ACC standings and has a long career of success. Summerhill, who lives ten miles away from Littleton in Centennial, Colorado, has been taking top results constantly in 2023 and has elevated his standing at each stop along the ACC calendar. He will be backed by one of the most consistently strong American domestic professionals in Brendan Rhim as well as a pair of strong Colombian fast men.

The Denver Disruptors are the other looming force with a deep team that can rival the Legion depth, with Riley Sheehan — building on a Spring that saw him beat Miguel Ángel López in the GC at the Joe Martin Stage Race — leading a squad that includes former WorldTour pro Reinardt Janse van Rensburg, Romanian national champion Serghei Tvetcov and American sprinter Noah Granigan.

The other NCL squad, Miami Nights, have a fast contingent of racers, even if the altitude may not favour the sprinters from Miami, while the Miami Blazers, a team under the umbrella of Legion of Los Angeles, also bring strong riders to the race. The other Legion syndicate, the Austin Aviators, have also built a quick and compact team around strong criterium racers. Lastly, AUTOMATIC Racing is a perennially strong team with riders from across the country and they will be led by Thomas Gibbons.

Related Content

Link to Chaos and controversy: Inside the quagmire that clogged Unbound Gravel
Riders resort to walking on the grass next to the mud track

Chaos and controversy: Inside the quagmire that clogged Unbound Gravel

At the 2023 Unbound, heavy rain turned a seemingly innocuous dirt road into a treacherous pit of 'peanut butter mud'. This is how the riders coped, and what they had to say about it.

Clock
Link to 10 riders to watch at Amstel Gold Race
There are five former winners lining up across the women's and men's Amstel Gold Race

10 riders to watch at Amstel Gold Race

Between the men’s and women’s races, there are a host of would-be winners, but here are our 10 riders to keep an eye on

Clock
Link to Tom Pidcock hoping to improve on podium finishes at Amstel Gold Race
Tom Pidcock on the podium of the 2023 Amstel Gold Race

Tom Pidcock hoping to improve on podium finishes at Amstel Gold Race

Brit bouncing back from Paris-Roubaix debut and looking forward to hillier Ardennes terrain

Clock
Link to Ineos owner Jim Ratcliffe appeals to UCI for 'real action' on rider safety
Dave Brailsford (left) and Jim Ratcliffe (right) are both heavily involved with both Manchester United and Ineos Grenadiers, under the umbrella of Ineos Sport

Ineos owner Jim Ratcliffe appeals to UCI for 'real action' on rider safety

Ineos Grenadiers' billionaire owner writes open letter, pointing to Formula 1's transformation after the death of Ayrton Senna and bemoaning crashes suffered by Chris Froome and Egan Bernal in recent years

Clock
Subscribe to the GCN Newsletter

Get the latest, most entertaining and best informed news, reviews, challenges, insights, analysis, competitions and offers - straight to your inbox