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U.S. Scene This Week: NRC, USA Crits on the line at Chris Thater Memorial

The Chris Thater Memorial closes out the National Racing Calendar, while the Hotter 'n Hell and the Winters Road Race keep Texas and California racers busy.

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The country’s attention turns this weekend to Binghamton, New York, as the Chris Thater Memorial closes out the National Racing Calendar and the women’s USA Crits Series. Also on the calendar are a regional classic in Texas and a California Cup event in Winters.

A long U.S. season is drawing to a close — Chris Thater is the final national-level race for the women and only the Univest Grand Prix and USA Cycling Professional Championships remain on the calendar for most American pro men.

Chris Thater Memorial Criterium – Binghamton, New York
August 28 5:00 p.m. (women) / August 29 11:30 a.m. (men)
35 miles (women) / 50 miles (men)
*NRC finale men & women
*USA Crits men & finale women

The 27th annual Chris Thater Memorial is set to close out the NRC and the women’s USA Crits Series this weekend in New York. The two-day festival, which includes amateur and pro races, as well as a national level 5k running race, memorializes Thater, a cyclist who was killed by a drunk driver.

The women kick the elite action off Saturday night on the 0.8-mile, five-corner short course around Recreation Park. The men roll Sunday on an extended version, which runs 1.28 miles in length. The track is relatively flat, with a rise out Seminary Avenue from turn number one. The fast, non-technical nature of the course most often brings a bunch sprint to the line and this weekend will likely be no different.

The men’s NRC title is locked up for Luis Amaran (Jamis-Sutter Home). Amaran won’t be in Binghamton this weekend, but this season’s two most dominant U.S. sprinters will be. Two-time champ Hilton Clarke (UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis) and Superweek overall winner Jonathan Cantwell (Fly V Australia) lead the favorites on the early startlist.

While the individual race is over, the NRC team competition for men is the tightest of the series. Fly V Australia enter the weekend in first, ahead of Jamis-Sutter Home, but only 149 points separate them from third-place UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis. The three squads will not only be gunning for the top step of the podium, but as many places among the top-10 as possible. With sponsorship dollars and bragging rights on the line, the NRC team title should make for extremely aggressive racing this weekend.

“This is usually a very fast race,” said UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis director Mike Tamayo. “We want to do our part to animate it. If we can get a break off with the right mix then we’ll work with that. But if it comes down to a bunch sprint, we like our chances with our three guys (Clarke, Karl Menzies and Jake Keough) who have been successful in criteriums all season.

“It’s the last NRC race of the season, so everyone will be looking to finish off the season well,” Tamayo said. “We know it will be an aggressive race.”

Clayton Barrows (AXA Equitable-CRCA Foundation) leads Isaac Howe (Mountain Khakis-Jittery Joe’s) in the USA Crits series by just four points and both will be at the penultimate event. Just behind the two-man race sit three of Howe’s teammates: Mountain Khakis fills four of the top five places in the series.

The USA Crits women’s title is up for grabs this weekend. Erica Allar (Vera Bradley Foundation) will enter the event with a nearly unassailable advantage over Tiffany Pezzulo (Treads-DFT). Allar, who leads Pezzulo 906-796 after four events, needs to finish in the top 23 places, if Pezzulo wins, to secure her series overall title, one year after winning the best young rider crown.

Cath Cheatley (Colavita-Baci) appears to have the women’s NRC title locked up. Cheatley took the series lead from Alison Powers (Vera Bradley Foundation) at the Fitchburg-Longsjo Classic in July and leads Powers, who won’t be in Binghamton, by more than 200 points.

Defending champion Brooke Miller (Tibco-To The Top) is on the startlist for Chris Thater, which will be her NRC swan song. The prolific sprinter announced earlier this season that she will hang her bike up at the close of the year. Miller and Allar are the top favorites on the early startlist, but with the NRC team title in play, Colavita and Tibco should battle for top team points ahead of Allar, who is the lone Vera Bradley rider on the roster. The top two squads are separated by less than 250 points headed into the weekend and each should have full teams at the start on Saturday. Tibco will need to stack the podium to come around Colavita for the title.

Hotter’N Hell 100 – Wichita Falls, Texas
August 27 5:30 p.m. (women) / 6:30 p.m. (men)
Criterium 45min (women) / 75min (men)

August 28 6:45 a.m. (men) / 7:04 a.m. (women)
Road Race 100mi (men) / 100km (women)

August 29 11:00 a.m. (women) / 12:15 p.m. (men)
Criterium 35min (women) / 75min (men)

The 29th annual Hotter’N Hell takes place in Wichita Falls this weekend. One of the country’s largest recreational centuries is packed tightly with elite racing. Regional teams including Team Hotel San Jose and Metro Volkswagen will duke it out in the heat for three days.

Winters Road Race
August 28 8:00 a.m. (men) / 8:30 a.m. (women)
96 miles (men) / 72 miles (women)
*California Cup event

The Winters Road Race is the seventh entry in the 2010 California Cup series. A number of elite amateur teams, including Yahoo! and California Giant Berry Farms will line up Saturday morning just west of Davis.