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A new name, but Wachovia is still the week

The name may have changed but the Wachovia Cycling Series remains the sameas it ever was: the highest-profile week of racing on the U.S. domesticcalendar. Over the years, through two bank mergers, the title sponsor haschanged from CoreStates to First Union to Wachovia, but the three-raceseries has consistently been the biggest target of the season for the topU.S. pro teams. The series begins Tuesday evening in Lancaster, Pennsylvania,continues on Thursday in Trenton, New Jersey, and culminates Sunday inPhiladelphia with the USPRO Championships and the Liberty Classic women’srace. On Tuesday,

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By Bryan Jew, VeloNews assistant managing editor

The name may have changed but the Wachovia Cycling Series remains the sameas it ever was: the highest-profile week of racing on the U.S. domesticcalendar. Over the years, through two bank mergers, the title sponsor haschanged from CoreStates to First Union to Wachovia, but the three-raceseries has consistently been the biggest target of the season for the topU.S. pro teams. The series begins Tuesday evening in Lancaster, Pennsylvania,continues on Thursday in Trenton, New Jersey, and culminates Sunday inPhiladelphia with the USPRO Championships and the Liberty Classic women’srace.

On Tuesday, Prime Alliance’s David Clinger will be looking for a repeatof his 2002 win in Lancaster. Riding for U.S. Postal last season, Clingerwon last year in a two-man breakaway with then Mercury rider Chris Wherry(now with Navigators). After a slow start to the season, Clinger and hisPrime Alliance team have been gathering steam heading toward Wachovia week,including Clinger’s overall win at the recent Tour of Connecticut and JonasCarney’s wins at Somerville and the Clarendon Cup.

That slow start could describe just about every other U.S. pro teamsave Saturn. While the Saturn team dominated the early season — led byChris Horner, Nathan O’Neill and Tom Danielson — all the other teams seemedalmost resigned to their fate week after week. Saturn’s win streak in Aprilincluded the Pomona Valley Stage Race, the Solano Cycling Classic, Redlands,Sea Otter and the Tour de Georgia.

At least in the past few weeks, though, Saturn’s air of invincibilityhas diminished, particularly with Prime Alliance’s win at Connecticut andNavigators’ Chris Baldwin’s win over Danielson at the national time trialchampionship, in which Horner finished sixth.

If that trend continues, we could be in for a wide-open shootout thisweek, with some evenly matched, powerhouse squads vying to score at leastone win out of the three races.

The Navigators, which won USPRO last year with Mark Walters, shouldbe ready to once again mount a strong campaign at Wachovia week, despiteboth Wherry and Walters experiencing some health problems this spring.The 2000 Philly winner Henk Vogels joined former Mercury teammate Wherryin signing on with the New Jersey-based team, and another new addition,Jeff Louder, has also ridden well in the spring. They add force to an alreadyformidable squad that also includes Russians Vassili Davidenko and OlegGrichkine as potential frontmen.

Another team on a roll of late has been the 7UP-Maxxis squad. JasonMcCartney picked up the overall win at the Joe Martin stage race in Arkansas,and the team followed that up with McCartney and John Lieswyn in the topfive at TT nationals and Hayden Godfrey winning the Quad Cities criterium.

Meanwhile, the Division 1 U.S. Postal Service squad will find itselfsomewhat undermanned at the East Coast races. Perennial contender GeorgeHincapie won’t be in attendance, after his spring battle with a lung parasitealtered his plans and finds him racing and training in Europe at the beginningof June. Postal suffered another blow last week when David Zabriskie brokehis leg and wrist in a training ride collision with an oncoming automobile.In their absence, Postal will be led by Dutch veteran Max Van Heeswijk,Canadian Michael Barry and American Tony Cruz.

Last year, Postal scored a win at Lancaster with Clinger and the USPROchampion’s jersey with Chann McRae. While Clinger is now with Prime Alliance,McRae has moved on to the Schroeder Iron squad. He’ll be out to defendthe jersey, but his squad could find itself a little outgunned in Philadelphia.

While Hincapie will be missed, his friend and frequent First Union Weekrival Fred Rodriguez will be primed to improve upon his performance lastyear. The winner of Philly in 2001, and runner-up to Vogels in 2000, Rodriguezsuffered from bronchitis last year and pulled out in the middle of thePhiladelphia race. The Californian suffered a rough spring in Europe thisyear, but was on the way up at the Tour de Georgia, where he finished secondoverall and won two stages. After a month off at home, he’ll be primedto ramp up again at the Wachovia races before heading back to Europe.

Joining Rodriguez’s Vini Caldirola squad will be a handful of otherEuropean formations, including a CSC squad led by former Philadelphia winnerJakob Piil and New Zealander Julian Dean, winner of Trenton two years ago.Saeco is scheduled to bring Flèche Wallonne winner Igor Astarloaand sprinter Stefano Zanini, while the Italian Formaggi Pinzolo team isled by Maximilliano Mori and Tour de Georgia stage winner Moreno DiBiase.

One notable absence from the week’s proceedings will be Gord Fraserand the Health Net squad. The winner in Trenton last year, the Canadianwill be unable to defend his title, because race organizer Threshold Sportshas apparently rescinded its invitation to the Health Net team due to anongoing lawsuit involving Fraser and Threshold. For more on this story,see “WhyGord Fraser and Health Net won’t be in Philly.”

VeloNews Picks for Wachovia Week

Lancaster
1. Chris Horner, Saturn
2. David Clinger, Prime Alliance
3. Fred Rodriguez, Vini Caldirola
4. Jakob Piil, CSC
5. Henk Vogels, Navigators
6. Michael Barry, U.S. Postal Service
7. Jason McCartney, 7UP-Maxxis
8. Zbigniew Piatek, Mroz
9. Tom Danielson, Saturn
10. Danny Pate, Prime Alliance

Trenton
1. Julian Dean, CSC
2. Oleg Grichkine, Navigators
3. Jonas Carney, Prime Alliance
4. Miguel Meza, Schroeder Iron
5. Charles Dionne, Saturn
6. Fred Rodriguez, Vini Caldirola
7. Antonio Cruz, U.S. Postal Service
8. Stefano Zanini, Saeco
9. Marty Nothstein, Navigators
10. David Clinger, Prime Alliance

 USPRO Championships
1. Fred Rodriguez, Vini Caldirola
2. Henk Vogels, Navigators
3. Chris Horner, Saturn
4. Jakob Piil, CSC
5. Michael Barry, U.S. Postal Service
6. Vassili Davidenko, Navigators
7. David Clinger, Prime Alliance
8. Danny Pate, Prime Alliance
9. Max Van Heeswijk, U.S. Postal Service
10. Chann McRae, Schroeder Iron