Holy `cross racing. Late summer rolls out this weekend as the USA Cycling National Calendar spreads across the country with seven UCI race days between Saturday and Wednesday. Even with the fat(ter) tires showing up from Redmond, Washington, to Baltimore, Maryland, most of the top roadies in the States aren’t ready to transition onto the dirt and grass just yet. The road calendar this week is all about southern hospitality as the USA Crits men’s series closes out tonight at the Texas Tough in Dallas and the USA Cycling Professional Championships anchor the weekend in Greenville, South Carolina.
Texas Tough Grand Prix III – Dallas, Texas
September 16 6:40 p.m.
64 minutes + 10 laps
It all comes down to the third annual $20,000 Texas Tough for Isaac Howe (Mountain Khakis-Jittery Joe’s) and Clayton Barrows (AXA Equitable-CRCA), who are separated by just 13 points in the overall standings after eight USA Crits events. Howe took his narrow lead over Barrows at Chris Thater two weeks ago and will look to a six-man squad that includes Adam Myerson and Neil Bezdek to shepherd him to the line. Barrows on the other hand will make use of his AXA team that includes strongman Lisban Quintero and guest riding Jason Donald, who recently won at the Gateway Cup.
Many of the criterium big dogs will be on hand in Dallas. Hilton Clarke, Jake Keough and Karl Menzies will anchor the UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis squad against a Bissell crew that includes national champ Daniel Holloway, Cody O’Reilly and Kyle Wamsley. Rahsaan Bahati should be on hand as well, but two riders on the early startlist will not be. Giro d’Italia winner Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Doimo) is listed, but Cannondale USA confirmed that he will not be in Texas. Jonathan Cantwell (Fly V Australia) is also on the roster, but closed his U.S. season with a win at Chris Thater and won’t be in Dallas.
In the end, Howe and Barrows may or may not contend for the win against the Clarke, Holloway, Bahati crowd, but theirs is the story of the night and the overall series could give one of them the legs they need to steal a win from the big names.
USA Cycling Professional Championships – Greenville, South Carolina
September 18 11:30 a.m.
September 19 1:00 p.m.
The national professional championships return to Greenville for the fifth time in a row this weekend. The three-lap, 20.7-mile individual time trial kicks the championship events off at Clemson University’s automotive research center. The three-pronged circuit rolls through southeastern Greenville, delivering riders onto a mild false flat to the finish of each lap. The most technical aspect of the course is the chicane at Millenium Boulevard and Carolina Point Parkway, which riders will pass through twice per lap.
Three-time defending champ Dave Zabriskie won’t be among the 19 riders punching it up for the red, white and blue skinsuit in Greenville. While the national championship is extremely meaningful to the Garmin-Transitions rider, he decided earlier this year to focus on the Vuelta a Espana and world championships and will be a day away from finishing the former on Saturday.
The story of the day is which one of the Radioshack favorites will come through – the veteran Levi Leipheimer or the rookie Taylor Phinney. The course may not be technical or challenging enough for Leipheimer to get over on Phinney, who beat him at the Tour of Utah last month before winning the prologue at the Tour de l’Avenir. The long, gradual descents and false flats carrying riders around each lap should suit Phinney’s long frame and powerful legs, so long as he can get through the chicanes without incident.
Darkhorses for the win include 2009 runner-up Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies), Univest GP third-place Nick Frey (Jamis-Sutter Home) and Mike Friedman (Jelly Belly-Kenda). Though Friedman, who dates Zabriskie’s sister Aleeza, has focused on the nationals TT since May, he has battled a virus for three weeks and his hopes may have gone the way of his health after Utah.
The road race is one of a handful of real deal one-day races in the U.S. The 112-mile circuit race climbs Paris Mountain four times and finishes on a leg-breaking loop near downtown. The course is compounded by a peloton foaming at the mouth for stars and stripes jersey.
George Hincapie (BMC Racing) has won his hometown race twice in four tries. The defending champ missed 10 days after injuring his knee in a crash in Utah but rode well at the Canadian ProTour races last week. He acknowledged before his crash that 2010 may be the year he works to deliver one of his young teammates like Brent Bookwalter or veteran and 2009 third-place Jeff Louder to the jersey.
The smallest yet strongest field in a few years will take the road race start Sunday. Eighty-six riders are on the early startlist for the road race, including Andrew Bajadali (Kelly Benefit Strategies) who lost a two-up sprint to Hincapie last year, but has battled a knee injury all season.
Garmin-Transitions and Radioshack will start the strongest squads on paper. The latter brings Leipheimer, Matthew Busche, Chris Horner and Jason McCartney to Greenville, while Danny Pate continues his five-year search for a title in Greenville with Timmy Duggan, Peter Stetina and new addition Andrew Talansky.
In all likelihood, the fireworks will really kick on in the last two laps over Paris Mountain and the elite group that emerges should contain less than 10 riders. Some of the names to look for with dangerous finish speed over the undulating finish circuits include Ted King (Cervelo), Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell) and Kiel Reijnen (Jelly Belly-Kenda).
Charm City Cross – Baltimore, Maryland
2:30 p.m. (women) / 3:30 p.m. (men)
*UCI 2 / MAC
`cross racing returns to Druid Hill Park this weekend as Charm City Cross takes up the second stop in the Mid-Atlantic Cyclocross series. Sand, stairs, dirt, grass – Charm City has it all. Davide Frattini will make his Hudz-Subaru debut in Maryland alongside defending MAC champion Valentin Scherz (Cyfac-Champion Systems). Laura Van Gilder (C3-Athletes Serving Athletes) won the Nittany Lion Cross opener last weekend and will be at the start with third-place Kristin Gavin (Team CF).
Star Crossed and Rad Racing GP – Redmond and Issaquah, Washington
*UCI 2 / NACT
September 18 7:00 p.m. (women) / 8:00 p.m. (men)
September 19 3:00 p.m. (women) / 4:00 p.m. (men)
What’s that sound? It’s DJ’s spinning records and the Deschutes Brewery spraying beer at the North American Cyclocross Trophy kickoff at Star Crossed Saturday night. The lights at the soggy Marymoor Velodrome will shine on the first national level `cross race of the season in Redmond.
Sunday brings a new site for the ninth running of the Rad Racing GP. The second NACT event moves to the shores of Lake Sammamish this year, trading in the 80-meter Knapp-time Run-up for a sandy beach section that is just as long. The Cascade Mountains will watch over the lake as riders battle for NACT and UCI points.
Jonathan Page (Planet Bike), French national champion Francis Mourey (Française Des Jeux), Canadian champ Geoff Kabush (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain), Christian Heule, Ryan Trebon (Kona) and Adam Craig (Rabobank-Giant) headline the stacked men’s field. Czech champion Katerina Nash (Luna), Sue Butler (Hudz-Subaru), Wendy Simms (Kona) and 2009 NACT winner Natasha Elliot (Garneau Club Chaussure Ogilvy) are tops of the women’s roster.
It’s been raining this week in the Seattle area and it looks as though western Washington will be home to the first muddin’ of the season Saturday and Sunday.
Green Mountain Cyclo-Cross Weekend – Williston, Vermont
September 18 3:30 p.m. (women) / 4:30 p.m. (men)
September 19 2:00 p.m. (women) / 3:00 p.m. (men)
*UCI 2 / VERGE
The VERGE New England Championship series opens with the 12th annual Green Mountain Cyclo-cross Weekend. In the men’s races, veterans Tim Johnson (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) and Adam Myerson (Cycle-Smart) will face off against 2009 runner-up and Danish champ Joachim Parbo (KCH Leopard Cycles) and a busload of young Keough brothers – Jake, Jesse, Luke and Nicholas.
Maureen Bruno-Roy (MM Racing) finished second last week at Nittany Lion Cross and will take her show to Green Mountain where she should battle Rebecca Wellons (Pedro’s) and Andrea Smith (Ladies First).
CrossVegas – Las Vegas, Nevada
CrossVegas is set for Wednesday night and is the richest event of the young season, boasting UCI 1 level points and cash money. As has become custom, a number of European pros will make the trip to Las Vegas and next weekend’s Planet Bike Cup USGP opener. The grass at the Desert Breeze Soccer Complex will see nine elite national champions, including Johnson, Mouray, Parbo and Italian champ Marco Fontana (Cannondale Factory Racing). Nash and Katie Compton (Planet Bike) headline the women’s field.
Other than the national champions, the CrossVegas startlist reads like a who’s who of U.S. `cross racing: Frattini, Trebon, Georgia Gould (Luna), Meredith Miller (Cal Giant-Specialized), Chris Jones (Rapha-Focus), Jeremy Powers and Jamey Driscoll (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com).
This year’s event is potentially the last before a new look Interbike `cross race hits likely new host city Anaheim, California, in 2011. Promoter Brook Watts told VeloNews that he is currently weighing a number of options that include moving the late-September race to another city or shifting the date to February in order to host a world-class end-of-season showdown in the desert. With that in mind, the winners of Wednesday’s races will probably be the last to be celebrated by the industry in the Nevada desert.