U.S. Scene This Week: Speed Week, Gila top the calendar

U.S. Scene This Week: Speed Week, Gila top the calendar

Springtime in the U.S. means two things: crit’ racing in the Southeast and stage racing in southwest New Mexico. USA Crits Speed Week continues through the weekend and the SRAM Tour of the Gila got underway Wednesday.

USA Crits Speed Week

  • April 27 – Beaufort Memorial Cycling Classic ­ Beaufort, South Carolina
  • April 28 – Downtown Walterboro Criterium ­ Walterboro, South Carolina
  • April 30 – Spartanburg Downtown Criterium ­ Spartanburg, South Carolina
  • May 1 – Dilworth Criterium ­ Charlotte, North Carolina
  • May 2 – Global BMW Sandy Springs Criterium ­ Sandy Springs, Georgia

Speed Week kicked off last weekend in Georgia with the Athens Twilight and Roswell Historic Criteriums. Karl Menzies broke UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis’ criterium drought with a win in torrential rains in Athens.

Ken Hanson (Team Type 1) ended a series of close calls of his own Sunday, taking home the Roswell title. Theresa Cliff-Ryan (Colavita-Baci) spoke the way she likes to ­ with her legs ­ pulling off the double in the series-opening weekend.

After Tuesday’s Beaufort Memorial Cycling Classic, Hilton Clarke (OUCH-Bahati Foundation) and Cliff-Ryan lead the individual overall standings with four events remaining.

April 28-May 2SRAM Tour of the Gila ­ Silver City, New Mexico

Gila this year is a contrast in priorities. Regional elite teams like Rio Grande Racing and Veloforma will be targeting the mountainous five-day race while the ProTour riders like Levi Leipheimer and Dave Zabriskie, as well as the continental squads like UnitedHealthcare and Fly V Australia, will use the race as preparation for the Amgen Tour of California.

The women’s race pulls double duty as the third round of the NRC and second round of the Women’s Prestige Series. GC riders like Mara Abbott (Peanut Butter & Co.-TWENTY12), Alison Powers (Vera Bradley Foundation) and Katheryn Mattis (Webcor Builders) face off for the first time since Redlands in March.

Powers finished second to Kristin Armstrong in the stage 3 time trial and eventually the overall in 2009, one step above Mattis. Armstrong and Leipheimer each led the GC from wire-to-wire in 2009. That said, while Wednesday’s Silver City to Mogollon Road Race shook the top of the GC out, Friday’s 16-mile time trial and Sunday’s Gila Monster Road Race are the key days at Gila. Leipheimer and Abbott won the opening stage and
both are obvious threats to run the table the rest of the week.

Sunday’s Gila Monster stage is the queen of the race. Burke Swindlehurst (<BlackBottoms) has won on the monster four times, though he’ll face a heavy task riding solo against the three-man ProTour and Pro Continental teams, as well as the full Continental outfits.

Phil Zajicek (Fly V Australia) took the stage ahead of Lance Armstrong (Mellow Johnny’s) in 2009 and climbed well Wednesday. Second overall Tom Danielson (DZNuts) and the resurgent Cesar Grajales (OUCH-Bahati Foundation) are also favorites in what will likely come down to the big GC dogs.

Cath Cheatley (Colavita-Baci), Powers and Mattis finished second, third and fourth to Armstrong on the monster in 2009 and will be back to duke it out against Abbott. Meredith Miller (TIBCO-To the Top) will want to run her starts and stripes kit up against the leaders on the big stage as well and could factor. has coverage of every SpeedWeek race and the SRAM Tour of the Gila this week. Stay tuned for all the latest from across U.S. racing as we get into the first meaty bit of the season.