Tired Luis Amaran celebrates his 2010 NRC title from home

Luis Amaran (Jamis-Sutter Home) had enough lead to coast across the finish line of the 2010 National Racing Calendar individual standings.

Luis Amaran
Luis Amaran, your new 2010 National Racing Calendar overall winner.

After the Chris Thater Memorial Criterium closed out the men’s National Racing Calendar Sunday afternoon in Binghamton, New York, Luis Amaran (Jamis-Sutter Home pb Colavita) took home his first individual title in the season-long points series. The Cuban-born all-rounder wasn’t on-hand for the podium, however. Instead he planned to follow the action from his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“Overall, I think I had a very good season from beginning to end,” Amaran told VeloNews. “After three years of racing in the States, this is the best form I’ve had here.”

Amaran built his fitness early in the year with an eye toward the Amgen Tour of California in May. “The Tour was my main goal this year,” he said. “I had a good race last year, but I crashed out when I was in the top 20. When we found out we weren’t going, we tried to focus on the NRC races.”

Team director Sebastian Alexandre learned in March that the team would not be at the start of the country’s biggest stage race. So from there, Amaran turned his legs to the national series, in which Jamis-Sutter Home (then Colavita-Sutter Home) won the team title tin 2009.

“For me, it was disappointing to not race Tour of California because it was my first and main goal for the season,” said Amaran. “But for the purpose of the American season, I kept going with the same motivation and focus to show what I was able to do.”

Amaran’s motivation — and fitness — showed at the Redlands Classic in March. He made the final breakaway in stage 1, finishing third to Jelly Belly-Kenda’s Will Routley and Bissell’s Ben Jacques-Maynes. Amaran finished seventh in the final general classification and moved on to the SRAM Tour of the Gila in late April.

At the Gila, the third-year U.S. pro created a split in the field with a late attack on the first day, but it was his stage 2 win in severe winds and ahead of Levi Leipheimer (Mellow Johnny’s) that confirmed his form and kickstarted his NRC title run.

From there, Amaran went on a tear. He racked up an overall win at the Joe Martin Stage Race and podiums at the Wilmington Grand Prix, Clarendon Cup, Presbyterian Invitational and the Stillwater Criterium at the Nature Valley Grand Prix.

Entering the Tour of Utah earlier this month, Amaran, who could feel fatigue setting in at the close of a long year, held a nearly insurmountable lead in the NRC race over Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis). Sutherland faltered with a stomach bug in the Wasatch Mountains and Amaran rode away with the NRC title, even after abandoning the Utah race on the last day.

“At Utah I found out I was super tired,” Amaran said. “I realized this year that I had a good peak of form, but I also believed I could hold my form for the entire season.”

While he came up one week short for the Jamis-Sutter Home’s run at the NRC team title, Amaran was satisfied with his season. “No, I’m not disappointed,” he said of his absence at Chris Thater. “I had a tremendous year, but I’m human and I’m tired. We wanted to win the team NRC, but after the last few races we realized our guys were only getting tired and I’ve been racing strong since March, same as Alejandro (Borrajo) and Tyler Wren, and we’re the top three guys on the standing for us.”

Amaran's attack on the Mogollon climb at the Tour of the Gila blew apart the front of the race.

Alexandre pulled the plug on the team’s NRC team run last week. “We tried to go the entire season, but with the way the guys were riding at Utah, I knew that they were tired and could not keep up with fresh Fly V Australia and UnitedHealthcare teams that have a crit squad,” he said. “We have one team that does all the races.”

While Jamis-Sutter Home will have to settle for third in the teams competition, Amaran looked at 2010 as an unmatched success, during which he stepped out of the shadow of the squad’s dominant sprinters. “From my point of view, the NRC shows that the rider who wins is a consistent rider, who can have a good form all year and go to the races trying to compete at every event he shows up to,” he said. “For me this year, (Alexandre) gave me a good opportunity to let me prepare and be focused on my personal goals. With such a strong team with great sprinters the last couple years, I ended working most of the time for them. This year I had the chance to chase and race more as a key guy in the team and the team ended helped me at races. So overall everything worked great.”