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Borrajo and Allar put on a show in Arlington, as Chad Gerlach almost laps the field.

By Ryan Newill

2009 Clarendon Cup: Erica Allar pulls a surprising win, racing alone against several teams.

2009 Clarendon Cup: Erica Allar pulls a surprising win, racing alone against several teams.

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

Alejandro Borrajo (Colavita-Sutter Home) nipped Kenneth Hanson (Team Type 1) by just inches to win the U.S. Air Force Clarendon Cup criterium in Arlington, Virginia, on Saturday, extending the squad’s ownership of the title after Luca Damiani’s win last year (when the race was known as the CSC Invitational).

In the women’s race, BMW Bianchi’s Erica Allar showed how to race without a team, taking a last-lap flyer that paid off.

Late break for the men

Borrajo joined a late move that formed as the peloton closed in on daylong solo breakaway Chad Gerlach (Amore & Vita). Along with Kelly Benefit’s Zach Bell, Borrajo was one of two sprinters in the group with a teammate present.

Those teammates, Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefits) and Luis Amaran (Colavita) did the bulk of the work that drove the break out to a maximum advantage of 33 seconds. Also making the move were solo representatives Hanson, Karl Menzies (OUCH-Maxxis), and David Tanner (Rock Racing). Despite some 60 laps in the lead, Gerlach latched on as well to make a smooth-running eight-man break that would go the distance.

“Everybody seemed happy with a sprint, so that’s what it ended up being – there were no attacks, no fun and games,” recounted Menzies, who went on to finish third. “I was hoping there would be a few more attacks towards the finish to make it harder and split it up a bit. As it was, it was just a race to the finish.”

With the break still some 15 seconds ahead of the chase at the start of the final lap, Amaran and Zwizanski finished their work, and the fight for position among the sprinters began. While Borrajo entered the final turn in third wheel, Hanson lost several places in the previous turn, and entered the final left-hander in last wheel. Coming out of the turn, Borrajo led from the front, maintaining his advantage through the long straight and throwing up his arms celebration well before the line. That nearly opened the door for the streaking Hanson, who was within inches by the time Borrajo’s wheel hit the line.

“I still had plenty of sprint, but Barrajo just got the jump coming out of the corner, and I just didn’t have enough ground to make it up on him,” said a disappointed Hanson. “He put his hands up before the line, and I had a lot more speed than him the last 50 meters, but he had enough of a lead.”

2009 Clarendon Cup: Colavita's Borrajo takes the win.

2009 Clarendon Cup: Colavita’s Borrajo takes the win.

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

“It’s a very hard race,” Borrajo said of his first ride at the Clarendon Cup, now in its 12th year. “I like it a lot because the pure sprinters don’t get to the end with the same power as other criteriums.”

And what of that photo finish that, for a moment, looked to be a premature celebration? “When I looked back I knew I had it, so I celebrated,” the Argentinean said. His director, Sebastian Alexandre, was less sure, saying with a smile, “I was (nervous). He says he wasn’t, but I was. You never know. It happens maybe once every hundred times, but it happens.”

Gerlach returns to the front

While Borrajo’s celebration and Hanson’s charge made for a memorable finish, the bulk of the day’s drama was provided by Chad Gerlach, whose return to professional cycling from the depths of drug addiction was the subject of A&E’s “Intervention” television show.

2009 Clarendon Cup: Chad Gerlach, one of 2009's many Comeback Kids, was off the front for over an hour.

2009 Clarendon Cup: Chad Gerlach, one of 2009’s many Comeback Kids, was off the front for over an hour.

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

Now riding with the Italian Amore & Vita squad directed by longtime domestic rider Roberto Gaggioli, Gerlach jumped away just several laps into the race. The 35-year-old quickly forged a gap that had spectators measuring not his advantage over the front of the field, but the gap from Gerlach to the tail of the single-file peloton.

At times, Gerlach hovered just 10 seconds from lapping the field, threatening to close the gap on the technical, five-turn circuit at any moment, all but locking up the biggest win of his return in the process. Sensing the danger, Kelly Benefit put six men on the front to drag Gerlach’s advantage back to a mere half a lap before leaving the rest of the job up to other teams and Gerlach’s fatigue. Twenty laps later, to the peloton’s surprise, Gerlach was not only still out front, but was once again knocking at the back door of the field, this time just 8 seconds back.

It was a move astounding for its strength and duration, but according to Gerlach, it wasn’t part of any grand plan. “It was really slow those first couple of laps, and I just attacked to kind of get the race going. They just let me go, and all the sudden I had 10 seconds, 15 seconds, so I just put my head down,” he said.

2009 Clarendon Cup: Kelly Benefit had to chase Gerlach down.

2009 Clarendon Cup: Kelly Benefit had to chase Gerlach down.

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

Pick up the pace they did – staying single file until Gerlach, now over an hour and a half into his solo, was finally within striking distance. When the countermove finally rolled up, Gerlach rallied again, sticking to the back of the break, continuing to roll through, and taking a late-race prime before finishing sixth in the sprint.

“That move doesn’t happen very often, where a solo guy goes out and laps the field, especially a field of this caliber. So I’m happy just to have attempted it,” Gerlach said, adding, “I’m happy I had a great race, but so it hurts to have been just 10 seconds back.”

Allar’s show

Prior to Gerlach’s exploits, Erica Allar (BMW-Bianchi) made her own solo move, though one of a different sort. Riding as the sole representative of her squad, the 23-year-old took to the front of a decimated field late in the last lap and never looked back.

“In turn 3 I made a move and caught everyone off guard and just kept going as hard as I could. I just put my head down and went,” said Allar, who held off Theresa Cliff-Ryan (Verducci Breakaway) and Nicky Wangsgard for the win.

2009 Clarendon Cup: Jessie McLean (Team Verducci Breakaway) attacks the women's field with one lap to go.

2009 Clarendon Cup: Jessie McLean (Team Verducci Breakaway) attacks the women’s field with one lap to go.

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

A smaller than usual women’s field took to the course at Clarendon, as much of the professional women’s peloton contested the Tulsa Tough race in Oklahoma, or the Montreal World Cup race. Allar’s BMW squad was no different, with several riders in Tulsa, and others training at home in anticipation of next Sunday’s Liberty Classic in Philadelphia. The lack of heavy representation from the big pro teams opened up the racing for riders on smaller teams to play their cards.

Altarum’s Kate Veronneau was one such rider, attacking with 18 laps remaining and holding on to a slim seven second gap for nine laps, shattering the field in the process. Veronneau was finally brought back with six laps remaining, sparking a short-lived counter by Wansgard. Wangsgard’s lone Colavita teammate Kelly Benjamin tried her hand as the peloton on the final lap, but ran out of gas as Allar made her move.

“It’s a lot different when you don’t have teammates,” Allar said. “You really have to be selective with the wheels you choose to follow and really careful who you let go up the road. Other than that, you just have to cross your fingers and hope that the breakaway is the one you’re in, or if it’s a field sprint that it works out in a good way.”

Race Notes

    After several years as the CSC Invitational, new title sponsorship from the U.S. Air Force also marked a return to use of the race’s original Clarendon Cup name.
  • This year also sees the race paired with Sunday’s U.S. Air Force Classic circuit race, a UCI-sanctioned USAC Professional Tour race, which has been moved back from last year’s early May date. Organizers hoped the move would double teams’ incentive to make the trip east a full week prior to the Philadelphia International Championship on June 7, improving their fields for both this weekend’s races.
  • One team that saw that incentive quickly evaporate was Pro Continental team BMC. Despite appearing on the start list for the Clarendon Cup, the team was informed on Friday that it would be unable to ride due to enforcement of UCI rule 2.1.009, which denies ProTour and Pro Continental teams entry into national level events.

    The rule went unenforced in the U.S. until late April, when Astana riders Chris Horner, Levi Leipheimer, and Lance Armstrong set out to ride the Tour of the Gila but were denied under the rule. Under an even more obscure UCI rule, the three were ultimately able to ride as the Mellow Johnny’s team, named for Armstrong’s Austin, Texas, bike shop. However, the Astana issue brought scrutiny to BMC’s entry, which was subsequently denied under the rule. With the Clarendon Cup exclusion, BMC now looks to be both the first and second victims of the stepped-up enforcement.

  • Racing continues Sunday with the U.S. Air Force Classic circuit race, which begins in the shadow of the U.S. Air Force Memorial before looping around the Pentagon to a technical finish in Arlington’s Crystal City neighborhood. Last year, Sebastian Haedo (Colavita-Sutter Home) took the title in a frantic bunch sprint ahead of teammate Kyle Wamsley and Kelly Benefits’ Alex Candelario. All three men return to race this Sunday.

Photo Gallery

Results

Men’s results | Click for: Women’s results

  • 1 5 Borrajo, Alejando Colavita Olive Oil/Sutter Home 2:18:39 0
  • 2 43 Hanson, Kenneth Team Type 1 at s.t.
  • 3 22 Menzies, Karl OUCH/Maxxis at s.t.
  • 4 66 Tanner, David Rock Racing at s.t.
  • 5 12 Bell, Zach Kelly Benefit Strategies 2:18:41 at 2
  • 6 123 Gerlach, Chad Amore&Vita/Lifetime/Velo Vie at s.t.
  • 7 14 Zwizanski, Scott Kelly Benefit Strategies at s.t.
  • 8 4 Amaran, Luis Romero Colavita Olive Oil/Sutter Home 2:18:48 at 9
  • 9 8 Wamsley, Kyle Colavita Olive Oil/Sutter Home 2:18:56 at 17
  • 10 2 Haedo, Lucas Sebasti Colavita Olive Oil/Sutter Home at s.t.
  • 11 82 Dionne, Charles Fly V Australia at s.t.
  • 12 6 Borrajo, Anibal Colavita Olive Oil/Sutter Home at s.t.
  • 13 34 Lacombe, Keven Planet Energy at s.t.
  • 14 11 Candelario, Alex Kelly Benefit Strategies at s.t.
  • 15 125 England, Richard Amore&Vita/Lifetime/Velo Vie at s.t.
  • 16 46 Milne, Shawn Team Type 1 at s.t.
  • 17 3 Frattini, Davide Colavita Olive Oil/Sutter Home at s.t.
  • 18 126 Mamos, Philipp Amore&Vita/Lifetime/Velo Vie at s.t.
  • 19 168 Soladay, Tom Team Mountain Khakis at s.t.
  • 20 122 Starchyk, Volodymyr Amore&Vita/Lifetime/Velo Vie at s.t.
  • 21 75 Latham, Peter Bissell Pro Cycling at s.t.
  • 22 115 Kachelhoffer, Hanco Team Medscheme at s.t.
  • 23 158 Page, Jonathan Battley Harley Davidson at s.t.
  • 24 49 Calbria, Fabio Team Type 1 at s.t.
  • 25 191 Holt, Ian DC Velo at s.t.
  • 26 151 Baker, Keck Battley Harley Davidson at s.t.
  • 27 137 Weiss, Scottie Kenda Pro Cycling/Spinergy at s.t.
  • 28 152 Butts, Brian Battley Harley Davidson at s.t.
  • 29 156 Hutcheson, Chuck Battley Harley Davidson at s.t.
  • 30 73 O’Bee, Kirk Bissell Pro Cycling at s.t.
  • 31 45 Kobzarenko, Valery Team Type 1 at s.t.
  • 32 199 Fader, Evan DC Velo at s.t.
  • 33 186 Henry, Timothy DLP Racing 2:19:05 at 26
  • 34 159 Barrie, Sean Battley Harley Davidson 2:19:07 at 28
  • 35 17 Shirley, Neil Kelly Benefit Strategies at s.t.
  • 36 16 Veilleux, David Kelly Benefit Strategies 2:19:12 at 33
  • 37 18 Anderson, Ryan Kelly Benefit Strategies at s.t.
  • 38 15 Erker, Jacob Kelly Benefit Strategies at s.t.
  • 39 175 Petersen, Soren Danish National at s.t.
  • 40 1 Damiani, Luca Colavita Olive Oil/Sutter Home at s.t.
  • 41 9 Palma, Guido Colavita Olive Oil/Sutter Home at s.t.
  • 42 71 Jacques-Maynes, Andy Bissell Pro Cycling at s.t.
  • 43 13 Mumford, Reid Kelly Benefit Strategies at s.t.
  • 44 83 Bazzana, Allesandro Fly V Australia 2:19:28 at 49
  • 45 65 Sanderson, Nicholas Rock Racing 2:19:33 at 54
  • 46 85 Brooks, Hayden Fly V Australia 2:20:33 at 1:54
  • 47 36 Gilbert, Martin Planet Energy 2:20:55 at 2:16
  • 48 35 Langlois, Bruno Planet Energy 2:21:03 at 2:24

Women’s results | Click for: Men’s results

  • 1 29 Allar, Erica BMW Bianchi 1:13:34 at 0
  • 2 31 Cliff-Ryan, Theresa Team Verducci Breakaway at s.t.
  • 3 2 Wangsgard, Nicky Colavita at s.t.
  • 4 28 McCaughey, Laura Salamander at s.t.
  • 5 27 Farina, Robin ValueAct Capital Cycling team at s.t.
  • 6 1 Benjamin, Kelly Colavita at s.t.
  • 7 12 Jennings, Leslie CycleLife Powered By Specializ at s.t.
  • 8 4 McLoon, Anna Altarum Women’s Cycling Team at s.t.
  • 9 10 Evers, Sonja CycleLife Powered By Specializ at s.t.
  • 10 30 Maclean, Jessie Team Verducci Breakaway at s.t.
  • 11 7 Veronneau, Kate Altarum Women’s Cycling Team at s.t.
  • 12 38 Kuliecza, Julie River City Women’s at s.t.
  • 13 5 Scheffenacker, Krist Altarum Women’s Cycling Team at s.t.
  • 14 6 Tye, Dale Altarum Women’s Cycling Team at s.t.
  • 15 9 Silliman, Erin Artemis 1:14:22 at 48
  • 16 24 Maxwell, Jennifer Team Kenda at s.t.
  • 17 21 McGuire, Amy Hub Racing at s.t.
  • 18 16 Farrin, Sheba Hub Racing at 1 LAP
  • 19 3 Joy, Staci Altarum Women’s Cycling Team at 1 LAP
  • 20 36 Kelley, Christine Kenja at 1 LAP
  • 21 33 Warner, Rachel Salamander at 1 LAP
  • 22 37 Caravella, Sara Alan North America at 1 LAP
  • 23 11 Hart, Michelle CycleLife Powered By Specializ at 1 LAP
  • 24 23 Harker, Marni Team Kenda at 1 LAP
  • 25 35 Lepone, Flavia Charlotte Sports at 1 LAP
  • 26 19 Leyden, Liz Hub Racing at 2 LAPS
  • 27 20 Martinez, Veronica Hub Racing at 2 LAPS
  • 28 40 Gilick, Colleen Team Kendra at 2 LAPS
  • 29 13 Swartz, Melanie CycleLife Powered By Specializ at 2 LAPS
  • 30 32 Olney, Janet Annapolis Bicycle at 2 LAPS