By Ryan Newill, Special to VeloNews.com
When CSC took over the title sponsorship of the seven-year-old Clarendon Cup NRC race – now the CSC Invitational – the company was obviously hoping to gain a little extra exposure for the brand. That sponsorship paid off in spades on Sunday, when CSC’s Dane Lars Michaelsen, fresh from Europe, gave the company double exposure by just nipping Gord Fraser (HealthNet-Maxxis) in a photo-finish field sprint.
It was not a day for breakaways, with no move lasting longer than several laps around the flat, six-turn, 1 kilometer circuit in Arlington, Virginia. With 20 laps remaining, the Navigators squad emerged as the clear favorites, sending David McKenzie and Ciaran Power out on successive solo moves and forcing the race’s other two powerhouses – HealthNet, CSC, and Colavita-Bolla – to chase. Jelly Belly’s Earnie Lechuga, who raced aggressively throughout the day, bridged up to Power’s second solo attack with just nine laps remaining, but was brought back by Colavita, which was working to set up the sprint for Cuban sprinter Ivan Dominguez.
Once the catch was made, it was all Navigators on the front, and the stage looked set for Vasily Davidenko, the 2002 Clarendon champion, to take another win. But Fraser managed to work his way onto Davidenko’s wheel, only to lose it to Michaelsen in the last turn. Michaelson, who as the 1994 Superweek champion is no stranger to American criterium racing, timed his jump perfectly, holding off Fraser by just inches at the line, and forcing officials to go to the videotape to confirm his win. Davidenko rounded out the podium with a third place.
While the men’s race was decided by in its final milliseconds, much of the women’s contest was settled after just three laps, when a group of five, consisting of Shannon Hutchinson (Colavita-Bolla), Erin Carter (TDS-Schwalbe), Catherine Powers (LaGrange), and Gina Grain (Victory Brewing), and Leigh Valletti (Genesis Scuba), escaped after a prime. With the four of the strongest teams in the race represented and Powers riding solo for the day, the break quickly gained time, largely due to the tight grip the Colavita squad had on the peloton. Lone Quark rider Sarah Uhl tried several accelerations in an effort to reel in the break, but to no success.
With just three laps remaining, and after some dissent in the break, Hutchinson made a last strong effort to close the final gap and lap the field, reuniting the breakaways with their respective leadouts and setting up a classic – and confusing – criterium finish. After riding an aggressively race in spite of the odds, the lone Uhl, could find some comfort in crossing the line first to take sixth place, while Grain took the win ahead of Hutchinson and Carter. Powers took the fourth spot, and Valletti rounded out the early break’s sweep of the top five places.
CSC Invitational Arlington, VA
May 30, 2004
1. Lars Michaelsen (Den), CSC, 100km in 2:13:26
2. Gord Fraser (Can), Health Net-Maxxis
3. Vassili Davidenko (Rus), Navigators
4. Alex Candelario (USA), Jelly Belly-Aramark
5. Jonas Carney (USA), Jelly Belly-Aramark
6. Sebastian Alexandre (ARG), Colavita-Bolla
7. Robbie Ventura (USA), USPS
8. Chris Horner (USA), Webcor
9. Dave McCook (USA), McGuire
10. Ivan Dominguez (CUB), Colavita-Bolla, all s.t.Women
1. Gina Grain, Victory Brewing, 50km in 1:06:24
2. Shannon Hutchinson, Colavita-Bolla
3. Erin Carter, TDS-Schwalbe
4. Catherine Powers, LaGrange
5. Catherine Powers, Genesis Scuba
6. Sarah Uhl, Quark
7. Becky Conzelman, Frisco Cycling
8. Joanne Kiesanowski, Colavita-Bolla
9. Charm Breon, Colavita-Bolla
10. Melissa Sanborn, Wells Fargo-Ragatz, all s.t.