Planet Energy’s Keven Lacombe emerged from a stacked field of sprinters to win Sunday’s Chris Thater Memorial, coming to the line ahead

Haedo’s effort to take the top of the NRC standings come just short.

By Andrew J. Bernstein

2009 Chris Thater Memorial: Brooke Miller, of Team TIBCO wins the women's pro race.
2009 Chris Thater Memorial: Brooke Miller, of Team TIBCO wins the women’s pro race.

Photo: www.vzphoto.com

Planet Energy’s Keven Lacombe emerged from a stacked field of sprinters to win Sunday’s Chris Thater Memorial, coming to the line ahead of Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Colavita-Sutter Home) and Yosvany Falcon (Champion Porsche).

In Saturday’s women’s race, Team Tibco’s Brooke Miller outsprinted Theresa Cliff_rayn (Verducci) and Tina Pic (Colavita-Sutter Home) for the win.

The race was both a National Racing Calendar event and a round of the USA Crits series.

After the post-race math was settled, Jake Keough, of Kelly Benefit Strategies – who finished sixth on the day – unseated Mark Hekman, of Team Mountain Khakis, to take the overall lead in the USA Crits series.

On the women’s side, Miller is now in second in the USA Crits standings, behind Laura Van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom), who was sixth on the day.

NRC points race shaped Thater

The race, contested on the legendary Thater “long course” (amateur races throughout the weekend use a shortened version) saw a duel between Colavita and Kelly Benefit Strategies. Colavita was looking to catapult Argentinean sprinter Haedo into the lead of the NRC standings, and Kelly was looking to move Keough up the series rankings.

Going into the race, Haedo trailed Tom Zirbel, of Bissell Pro Cycling, in the NRC rankings by 97 points. The winner of the Thater race would get 120 points, second place was worth 90. Since Zirbel spent the weekend racing the US professional time trial and road race championships, Haedo had an opportunity to take the NRC lead — but only if he won.

Planet Energy, without an interest in the USA Crits series or the NRC points, was free to play the joker, and wasted little time, sending Francois Parisien up the road on a solo mission to force other teams to chase. Planet Energy is headed to the Tour of Missouri, starting next Monday, and was using Thater as a test of the team’s fitness, bringing its full Missouri roster to the race in Binghamton, New York.

“We wanted to ride really aggressive, and really force other teams to work,” said Parisien after the race. “Haedo only had two guys at the last turn, they usually have five, so maybe we were able to wear them down.”

For winner Lacombe, taking the field sprint was as easy as exploding off his teammate’s wheel.

“Haedo was riding to win the NRC, so Colavita was really trying to control the race,” said Lacombe. “We knew that, and we raced with that, just trying to set it up for the last lap.”

Lacombe stayed on the wheels of team mates Martin Gilbert and Guillaume Boivin coming out of turn four, and then a tricky left hand bend in the last 300 meters, before launching the winning sprint.

“This is an NRC race, it’s a really big win,” he said afterwards.

The day’s move

After Parisien’s early attack was pulled back on the eighth lap, the pace remained high, with a few attacks, but nothing sticking as Kelly and Colavita set pace at the front. It was all together until 15 to go, when a group of six got a jump on the field.

All of the main aggressors were represented, and some of the smaller, amateur teams threw the dice in a bid to unseat the bigger teams. Alejandro Borrajo went up the road for Colavita, with Shane Kline marking the move for Kelly Benefit Strategies.

Also making the move were John Loehner, a former Thater winner, now riding for New York City’s Empire Cycling/CRCA; Andres Diaz, of GS Mengoni; and Canadian veteran Mark Walters of MainLine BiKyle Mazur.

The group achieved a maximum lead of about 22 seconds – just enough to keep them in site of the field, as announcers revved up the pace with a flurry of late-race prime sprints.

Kiwi Hayden Godfrey, of team Subway Avanti, and Benjamin Martel, of MainLine BiKyle, made an effort to bridge, dangling off the front for a few laps, but never getting more than a handful of seconds.

Meanwhile, the pressure put on by the charging field was having an effect on the break. Walters and Kline were soon popped and on their way back to the field.

Without representation in the break in the last few laps, Kelly put all-rounder David Veilleux on the front to bring back the move. His efforts paid off, and the peloton was back together with three to go.

Andrew Randall (Planet Energy) took one last flier with two to go before settling in with his teammates to set up Lacombe’s lead out train.

The peloton was disorganized going into the last laps, with Colavita, Kelly, Planet Energy and Mountain Khakis all vying for control.

After the race, Kelly’s Keough said his team was looking for a field sprint, and without a full team – Kelly started with three riders – a disorganized sprint might have played to their advantage. But it was Planet Energy that played the best hand, putting four riders on the front going into the last turns.

“It’s all about the last three k’s,” said Lacombe after the race.

Haedo’s second was enough for 90 NRC points, putting him just seven points behind Zirbel heading into the final NRC event, the US100k Classic in Atlanta next Monday. However, Zirbel and Haedo are both expected to start the Tour of Missouri, which starts the same day, so the top two spots in the NRC standings are now settled.

Adam Myerson, of Team Mountain Khakis, finished fifth, to move up to third in the overall USA Crits standings, with third-placed finisher Yosvany Falcon also moving up a spot to fourth from fifth. Keough also leads the U25 series. Kyle Whamsley of Colavita finished fourth.

The USA Crits series continues on Sept. 17 with the TX Tough Grand Prix, and concludes with the USA Crits Finals in Las Vegas on Sept. 24, at the Interbike trade show.

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Results

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

Women’s results | ( Men’s results )