U.S. Scene This Week: Road tripping to Gila; Cash and Call-ups in NW, SE

Climbers prep for the Gila at Bisbee and the Roadrunner, while the speedsters are at USA Crits Speedweek.

Bisbee has a long history
Bisbee has a long history

La Vuelta de Bisbee – Bisbee, AZ

April 23-25

The 32nd annual Vuelta de Bisbee is the predominant SRAM Tour of the Gila prep race for the men’s peloton and will see an accordingly strong field this weekend. While the race is far removed from its heyday with Greg Lemond and Alexi Grewal chasing early season form in the desert, the three-stage contest will see full squads from Fly V Australia and UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis.

The 1.8-mile Mule Pass prologue opens the action on Friday and though the steepest portion of the climb was washed out with road damage this spring, the opener should see the overall favorites near the top of the results sheet. Saturday is a brutal double day with the stage 2, 90-mile Sulphur Springs Road Race in the morning and the 7.2-mile Warren Time Trial in the afternoon. The 84-mile Tombstone Road Race, which features more than 6,000 feet of climbing, closes the race Sunday.

Phil Zajicek and his new Fly V Australia teammate – and defending Bisbee champ – Darren Lill have each won the race once. They will be back in Bisbee this weekend and will run up against a motivated UHC squad that includes Rory Sutherland. Lill is off to a late start after fracturing his wrist in a mountain bike crash in the off season and Zajicek had mixed results at Redlands, falling off the leaders on the Beaumont stage, but driving the chase for teammate Ben Day over the Sunset Loop on the last day. Sutherland is the early favorite on paper, but Zajicek is a 15-year veteran of Bisbee and a hometown favorite.

(Bisbee start list)

USA Crits Speed Week

Terrapin Twilight Criterium – Athens, GA

April 24

Historic Roswell Criterium – Roswell, GA

April 25

Ben Kersten (Fly V Australia) and Nichole Wangsgard (Roosters-Edge Composite) opened the southeast crit season last Saturday with wins at the Sunny King Criterium in Anniston, Alabama. Speed Week ramps up this weekend with two classics in Athens and Roswell.

The nation’s top speed teams will in Georgia chasing the series’ Most Consistent Rider purses of $13,500 for the men and $5,000 for the women and the $6,000/$4,000 purses for the series overall winners.

Bahati Foundation, Fly V Australia and Jamis-Sutter Home have each been able to close the deal with their fast men in 2010. 2009 series overall champ Mark Hekman (Mountain Khakis-Jittery Joe’s) will be back to defend his title, but will have to beat out 2008 champ Rahsaan Bahati and his resurgent teammate Hilton Clarke; Kersten and teammate Alessandro Bazzana; and the UHC threesome of Jake Keough, Karl Menzies and Andrew Pinfold. The men’s fields for Athens and Roswell are loaded and the racing should be top notch.

The start list is thinner on the women’s side. 2009 women’s overall winner Tina Pic is in the director’s seat for her Colavita-Baci team, who will send 2008 series runner-up Kelly Benjamin out west to prep for Tour of the Gila.

Last year’s Athens winner Brooke Miller is on European detail with her TIBCO-To the Top squad.

Colavita-Baci will send Redlands criterium winner Theresa Cliff-Ryan and track world champ Kate Bates to Georgia. Jacquelyn Crowell and Kori Seehafer of Team Type 1 and Erica Aller (Vera Bradley Foundation) will all be on hand as well and the racing should be wide open on the women’s side.

Cherry Blossom Cycling Classic – Mt. Hood, OR

April 23 – 25

In its second year, the Cherry Blossom Classic puts a sharp tip on the spring racing in the Pacific Northwest. The four-stage event opens with road stages Friday and Saturday before the Sunday double of the eight-mile stage 3 time trial and stage 4 criterium. The road courses follow rolling terrain with short, punchy climbs, while the TT is relatively flat. The fierce winds of the Columbia River Gorge area rake the courses and may be the most significant determiner.

A precursor to the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic, the Cherry Blossom is the third stop on the Nature Valley Pro Ride circuit in 2010. The top amateur in the men’s and women’s races will receive an invite to join the race-sponsored composite team for the Nature Valley Grand Prix in June.

Cherry Blossom will largely be a regional affair this year. Nick Clayville (Hagens Berman) will be back after finishing third in 2009 behind Bissell teammates Paul Mach and Jeremy Vennell. Kona teammates Ryan Trebon and Barry Wicks will be on the road as well as Jacob Rathe (Jelly Belly-Kenda) and former BMC pro Ian McKissick. 2009 champion Robin Secrist will be on hand to defend her inaugural title in the women’s contest.

Roadrunner Classic – Albuquerque, NM

April 24

Bisbee has competition as the Gila build-up event this weekend in the one-day, two-event Roadrunner Classic omnium in Albuquerque. The men and women will ride a 6.3-mile individual time trial in the morning, followed in the afternoon by a 63-mile road race for the men and a 38-mile road race for the women. The 6.3-mile, out-and-back Snake Course is the site for both events. The route features a seven-percent, .75-mile climb that leads to a flat run-in to the finish.

Holowesko Partners, Jamis-Sutter Home and Team Type 1 will each field men’s squads, while Colavita-Baci, Vera Bradley Foundation and Webcor Builders will start the women’s race. A strong time trialist like Nick Frey (Jamis-Sutter Home) or Alison Powers (Vera Bradley Foundation) will need to stay on the front of the road race to preserve their omnium position in what will likely come down to a bunch sprint in the finale. Luis Amaran (Jamis-Sutter Home) and Kelly Benjamin (Colavita-Baci) will be favorites for the road race.