For the second week in a row, the National Racing Calendar splits the peloton between the mid-Atlantic and the Midwest, while a second-year event attracts strong fields to Oklahoma.
Two NRC events will headline two-day festivals in Arlington, Virginia, and St. Louis, Missouri. The U.S. Air Force Classic returns to Arlington for the 13th year, while the new-look (and name) Tour de Grove takes to the streets of St. Louis. The Oklahoma City Rocks criteriums bring top regional riders and a selection of Continental teams to the state capital Saturday and Sunday.
Arlington is home to the Air Force Classic weekend, a two-day festival of NRC circuit races, pro-am criteriums and fun rides. The main event is Saturday with the five-corner Clarendon Cup circuit. NRC points and prize money are on the line for the men and women as they race 100km and 50km, respectively. Sunday’s seven-corner Crystal Cup (not an NRC event) will close the weekend, with many of the NRC heavies staying over for the double.
Alejandro Borrajo (Jamis-Sutter Home) and Erica Allar (Vera Bradley Foundation) took Clarendon wins one year ago. If Borrajo hopes to repeat, he may have to do so without his brother and leadout man Anibal, who scratched from the Philadelphia International Championships with a knee injury.
Add to that to the fact that the race will attract the nation’s top sprint crews, including Hilton Clarke and his new UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis team, as well as the three-pronged Kelly Benefit Strategies attack of Alex Candelario, Zach Bell and David Veilleux, and the Jamis squad will face difficult odds.
Also at Clarendon will be Fly V Australia’s Sunny King winner Ben Kersten, the Team Type 1 tandem of Ken Hanson and Aldo Ino Ilesic, and Amore & Vita sprinter Nick Sanderson.
The crit squads from Colavita-Baci, TIBCO-To The Top and and Vera Bradley Foundation should all be in Arlington chasing the NRC crown that Vera Bradley wears after last week’s Liberty Classic.
THF Realty Tour de Grove – St. Louis, Mo.
The Tour de Grove, formerly known as the Tour de Winghaven, gets a makeover this year, as the NRC circuit race (promoter Mike Weiss calls it an extremely long criterium) moves downtown to the vibrant Grove district. Riders will face a new, 2.62-mile circuit this year. The race is run under criterium rules, meaning free laps for mechanicals and no team cars on the course.
The men will circle 28 times for 79 miles and the women 14 laps for 40 miles. The Grove course is relatively flat and the heat should be the major factor in the race.
Last year’s Winghaven men’s winner Andrew Bajadali will be on a plane straight from Clarendon to the Show Me State with a squad that includes Bell, Candelario, Veilleux and Ryan Anderson. The Kelly squad will co-headline the event with Tour of Korea overall winner Mike Friedman and a strong contingent from Jelly Belly-Kenda, as well as their partners in tire manufacturing, Kenda-Geargrinder.
With the Arlington conflict, Weiss acknowledged that the women’s field may not match that of 2009. Pre-registration is low and the race may come down to a collection of regional amateur squads and the odd freelancing pro.
Oklahoma City Rocks Criteriums – Oklahoma City, Okla.
In its second year, 2009’s Tornado Alley event returns with a $40,000 purse and two days of racing in the state capital. Saturday’s State Capital race circles the Oklahoma Supreme Court in front of the capitol building and is a fast, three-lane affair. Sunday’s Stiles Park race is a more technical, seven-corner criterium with a slightly uphill finish on the Tornado Alley course.
Heath Blackgrove (Team Hotel San Jose) and Tulsa Tough day three winner Brian Jensen (Tradewind Energy-Trek Stores) headline the men’s field, which should be a strong combination of top regional riders and Continental teams interested more in prize money than chasing NRC points.