By Bryan Jew, VeloNews managing editor
With two full months of the USCF’s National Racing Calendar in the books, it’s a good time to look at how the numbers stack up on the NRC circuit. The most recent NRC standings up on the USA Cycling Web site are from April 18, before the start of the Tour de Georgia, so they really only tell part of the story of the 2004 season. Those standings, taking Sea Otter into account, show Chris Horner with a commanding lead over Cesar Grajales in the individual standings, and Horner’s Webcor team with a big cushion over Health Net-Maxxis in the team standings. The women’s standings show Lyne Bessette in front of Tina Pic (Genesis Scuba-FFCC) in the individual rankings and Bessette’s Quark team trailed by Genesis and T-Mobile in the team rankings.
Those rankings obviously reflect Horner and Bessette each sweeping the overalls at Pomona Valley, Redlands and Sea Otter, and are bound to look a little different when the newest rankings are released, probably early next week, and include Tour de Georgia, Athens, Vuelta de Bisbee, the Heritage Tour, Roswell and Tour of the Gila. But until then, with the Heritage Tour and two days of Gila now in the books, let’s look at some other numbers to see how the teams stack up.
Looking strictly at NRC wins, and counting stage wins, overall wins and one-day race wins equally, the season standings couldn’t get any closer. Here are the standings:
Health Net: 9
U.S. Postal Service: 3
Jelly Belly: 2
Jittery Joe’s: 1
Sierra Nevada: 1
Domina Vacanze: 1
Aerospace Engineering: 1
Aida’s Bail Bonds: 1
Team Eclipse: 1
JC Team: 1
Genesis Scuba: 5
Victory Brewing: 2
Kenda Tire: 1
Red 5 Racing: 1
With Health Net and T-Mobile both having strong presences at Tour of the Gila this week, it’s pretty likely that those teams will have moved to the top of the respective standings by Monday morning. Taking a look at Webcor vs. Health Net, it’s also interesting to see how the wins break down. All 10 of Webcor’s NRC wins came in three races: Pomona, Redlands and Sea Otter. Health Net’s nine wins were accumulated over six events: McClane, Festival of Speed, Sea Otter, Tour de Georgia, Athens Twilight and Gila. And, predictably, nine of Webcor’s wins came courtesy of Horner (Charles Dionne scored the other). Health Net’s wins break down like this: Gord Fraser, 4; Brice Jones, 2; Jason McCartney, 1; Hayden Godfrey, 1; and Scott Moninger, 1.
The Quark/T-Mobile comparison looks similar, with Quark’s wins all coming at Pomona, Redlands and Sea Otter, while T-Mobile has spread the wins over those three races plus Bisbee and Gila. Bessette has accounted for six of the eight wins, while on the T-Mobile side, Kristin Armstrong has scored four wins, Lynn Gaggioli two and Amber Neben one. Genesis Scuba has racked its total with four wins by Tina Pic and one by Laura Van Gilder.
What’s it all mean? Well, on the mens’ side, clearly Horner has the ability to win any race, but over the course of the season there’s no way he can match the depth of Health Net week in, week out. And with six of the other domestic pro teams and five elite amateur teams all scoring at least one win so far, it looks like most teams will have a chance to win depending on the race.
As for the women, it’s clear that despite its Euro’ focus, T-Mobile has probably its strongest U.S. presence in its three years of existence. And like the men’s scene, there’s enough balance to keep things interesting all year long.
What to watch for: The latest entry into Internet sports video is set to make its debut May 5. ARIA TV Sports recently announced that it will provide coverage of U.S. and European pro cycling events, including the Mediterranean Tour and the Tour of the Basque Country. ARIA TV’s U.S. schedule includes the upcoming Tour of Connecticut (whose race director, John Eustice, is also a content and strategic advisor to ARIA); the Wachovia USPRO Championship; and the T-Mobile International. The site will provide subscribers with streaming video and video on demand. A free sample of the Med Tour is available at www.ariatv.com.