By Bryan Jew, VeloNews Senior Writer
The most prestigious week of road cycling in the United States kicks off Tuesday afternoon with the First Union Invitational in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, west of Philadelphia. The 91-mile race takes place on a demanding 7-mile circuit through the streets of Lancaster and through Rockford Park along the Conestoga River. The challenging and technical circuit features rolling hills and several short, sharp climbs, giving it the reputation as a tough-man’s course, ideally suited for last year’s winner and 2001’s hottest rider, Trent Klasna of Saturn.
Klasna and Saturn will have their hands full defending his title, though, as the Mercury-Viatel team arrives fully loaded, led by Dutch star Leon Van Bon. While the team waged a successful spring campaign in Europe, its results in the U.S. were flat for the opening part of the season. The team will be looking to turn that trend around, and got off to a good start in two races leading up to the First Union Series, the Capital Cup and the Clarendon Cup, June 2-3, with Van Bon and Jans Koerts taking the respective wins in those races.
Last year’s third-place finisher, Fred Rodriguez (Domo-Farm Frites), will be looking for a repeat of his stellar First Union performance from last year, when he won the First Union Classic in Trenton and captured the USPRO title by finishing second (first American) at the USPRO Championship in Philadelphia, behind Mercury’s Henk Vogels. Rodriguez’s Domo squad includes Dutchman Max Van Heeswijk and Poland’s Piotr Wadecki, who last year won the First Union race in Wilmington, Delaware, an event that’s not on the schedule this year.
The beginning of June is also George Hincapie’s time to shine in the United States. The 1998 USPRO Champion, Hincapie should be a threat in all three of this week’s First Union races, despite the fact that his main focus of the summer is his preparation for the Tour de France. Hincapie will be backed by a deep U.S. Postal squad, including veteran teammate Viatcheslav Ekimov.
Other threats from the European teams will include Arvis Piziks, Jakob Piil and Michael Sandstod of CSC-World Online; Salvatore Commesso of Saeco; and American David Clinger of the Festina squad.
Among the domestic squads, Navigators will be out to show that its early season successes were no fluke. Russian Vassiliy Davidenko will be its biggest threat, but an on-form Chris Baldwin could be a player as well. The 7UP-Colorado Cyclist team got off to a slow start this year but has been building momentum. John Lieswyn had success last year riding for Shaklee and will be looking for a similar performance this year in his 7UP colors. Meanwhile, teammate Doug Ziewacz has been one of the up-and-comers breaking out this year. And if you’re looking for a dark horse, Prime Alliance and Jelly Belly will be trying to score an upset all week. Prime Alliance will be loaded with young talent. Danny Pate, who won three under-23 races in Europe this spring, will be at the start for all three races, and he’ll be joined later in the week by his even younger teammate, Michael Creed. As for Jelly Belly, they’ll be led by 1996 USPRO Champion Eddy Gragus, who will be looking to recapture the Philly magic.The First Union series will open Tuesday night to temperatures in the mid-70s, with the typical muggy conditions of June on the east coast.
VeloNews Interactive will have a complete race report from Lancaster following the race Tuesday night. The First Union series continues on Thursday with the First Union Classic in Trenton, New Jersey, followed by the First Union USPRO Championships and the women’s Liberty Classic World Cup on Sunday in Philadelphia.
FIRST UNION INVITATIONAL, Lancaster, PA June 5, 2001 Tentative roster DOMO FARM FRITES 1 Fred Rodriguez, USA ** 2 Max Van Heeswijk, NED 3 Mario DeClerc,BEL 4 Leif Hoste, BEL 5 Piotr Wadecki, POL 6 Tomas Konecy, CZE 8 David Orvalho, NED D.SDavid Orvalho, NED ** 2000 USPRO Champion MERCURY VIATEL 11 Henk Vogels, AUS 12 Leon VanBon, NED 13 Fabrizio Guidi, ITA 14 Geert VanBondt, BEL 15 Chris Horner, USA 16 Baden Cooke, AUS 17 Jan Koerts,NED 18 Chris Wherry, USA 19 Gord Fraser, CAN 20 Scott Moninger, USA D.S. J. Wordin US POSTAL SERVICE 21 George Hincapie,USA 22 Viatcheslav Ekimov,RUS*** 23 Julian Dean, NZL 24 Antonio Cruz,USA 25 Benoit Joachim,LUX 26 Levi Leipheimer,USA 27 Christian VandeVelde,USA 28 Robbie Ventura,USA 29 Matthew White, AUS 30 David Zabriskie, USA D.S. F.Andreu *** 2000 Olympic Gold Medal FESTINA LOTUS 31 Nicolas Reynaud, FRA 32 Luis Perez, ESP 33 Rafael Casero, ESP 34 Luis J. Rebollo, ESP 35 Francisco Lara, ESP 36 Michel Klinger, SUI 37 David Clinger, USA D.S. R.Torres CSC WORLD ON LINE 41 Arvis Piziks, LAT 42 Jakob Storm Piil, DEN 43 Bjarke Nielsen, DEN 44 Raphael Jeune, FRA 45 Olivier Asmaker,FRA 46 Michael Sandsted,DEN 47 Nikki Sorensen, DEN D.S. C. Andersen SATURN 51 Mike Barry, CAN 52 Matt DeCanio, USA 53 Chris Fisher, USA 54 Trent Klasna, USA**** 55 Harm Jansen, NED 56 Mark McCormack, USA 57 Frank McCormack, USA 58 Soren Peterson, DEN 59 60 Eric Wohlberg, CAN D.S. J Copeland ****2000 Race Winner NAVIGATORS 61 Chris Baldwin, USA 62 Siro Camponogara, ITA 63 Vassili Davidenko, RUS 64 Oleg Grichkine, RUS 65 Glen Mitchell, NZL 66 Kirk O’Bee, USA 67 Franky VanHaesbroucke,BEL 68 Mark Walters, CAN 69 Brendon Vesty, NZL 70 Burke Swindlehurst, USA D.S. R Cipolini/E. Beamon 7UP COLORADO CYCLIST 71 Charles Dionne, CAN 72 Ryan Guay, USA 73 John Lieswyn, USA 74 David McCook, USA 75 Kevin Monahan, USA 76 Juan Pineda, USA 77 Oscar Pineda, USA 78 Andrew Randell, CAN 79 Clark Sheehan, USA 80 Doug Ziewacz. USA D.S. J. Corbett MAPEI- QUICK STEP 81 Eugeni Petrov, RUS**** 82 Fabian Cancellara, ITA 83 Scott McGrory, AUS 84 Adriano Baffi,ITA 85 Eddy Ratti, ITA 86 Patrick Sinkewitz, GER 87 D.S.E. Vanderaerden **** U23 World Champion SAECO 91 Salvatore Commesso,ITA 92 Justin Spinelli, USA 93 Brad Davidson, AUS 94 Alessio Galletti, ITA 95 Nicole Gavazzi. ITA 96 Dario Pieri, ITA D.S.Bruno Vicino DEFEET LEMOND 101Roberto Gaggioli, ITA 102Gabrielle Rampollo, ITA 103Chris Harkey, USA 104Brandon Lovick,USA 105Geri Mewett, BER 106Victor Laza, YUG 107Dragomir Zivkovic, YUG 108Ernesto Lechuga, USA 109Shawn Willard, USA 110TBD D.S.R. Cubric MROZ-SUPRADYN 111Piotr Chmielewski, POL 112Zbigniew Piatek, POL 113Skazimierz Stafiej,POL 114Grzegorz Wajs, POL 115Eugen Wacker, GER 116Remigis Lupejkis, LTU 117Pawl Wiedzwiecki, POL 118Adam Wadecki, POL D.S.P.Kosmala PRIME ALLIANCE 121Jame Carney, USA 122Steve Larsen, USA 123Danny Pate, USA 124 125Ryan Miller, USA 126Aaron Olson, USA 127John Walrod, USA 128Russell Beall, USA 129Kirk Willett, USA 130Colby Pearce, USA D.S.R. Knickman SIMPATICO.ca 131Jason Crookham, CAN 132Joe Giuliano, CAN 133Charles Gorman, CAN 134Chad Grochowina, CAN 135Josh Hall, CAN 136Daniel Maggiacomo, CAN 137Dominique Rollin. CAN 138Peter Wedge, CAN 139Bruno Nella, CAN 140Heath Cockburn,CAN D.S. D. Butler NET ZERO 141Jamie Paolinetti, USA 142Graeme Miller, NZL 143Matthew Yates, NZL 144Clark Hilton, AUS 145Michael Johnson, USA 146Ryan Barrett, USA 147Mike Tillman, USA 148Gregg Medinilla, USA D.S. J. Fryer JELLY BELLY 151Kirk Albers, USA 152Norm Carter, USA 153Mariano Freidick, USA 154Eddy Gragus, USA 155Brian Frobes, USA 156Brad Buccambuso, USA 157Damon Kluck, USA 158Jason McCartney, USA 159Jonathan Erdelyi, USA 160 D.S. D. VanHaute ZAXBY’S 161Dirk Friel, USA 162Alex Ferguson, USA 163Scottie Weiss, USA 164Jesse Lawler, USA 165Michael Ley, USA 166Max Finkbeiner, USA 167Luke Stockwell, USA 168Jacob Fetty, USA 169Rusty Miller, USA 170Justin Gilmore, USA D.SN. Jabro/C.McCormack REALITYBIKES.COM 171Kent Bostick, USA 172Andrew Brozis, USA 173Ryan Blickem, USA 174Ryan Barnett, USA 175Jon Atkins, USA 176Lou Schimmel, USA 177Andy Crater, USA 178Travis Hutchinson, USA D.S.