Housatonic Valley Classic ready to roll
After last year's successful debut, the Housatonic Valley Classic is backthis weekend for year two, and with the First Union cycling series loomingjust two weeks away, all of the top U.S. pro teams will be using Sunday's120-mile Connecticut race as one of the final tune-ups. Although shorterthan last year's edition, this year's race, which begins and ends in Danbury,should be just as difficult, with a little bit more climbing added to thelong hilly circuit in the southwest part of the state.In 2001, Saturn's Trent Klasna claimed the Housatonic victory as partof his red-hot spring campaign.
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By Bryan Jew, VeloNews Senior Writer
After last year’s successful debut, the Housatonic Valley Classic is backthis weekend for year two, and with the First Union cycling series loomingjust two weeks away, all of the top U.S. pro teams will be using Sunday’s120-mile Connecticut race as one of the final tune-ups. Although shorterthan last year’s edition, this year’s race, which begins and ends in Danbury,should be just as difficult, with a little bit more climbing added to thelong hilly circuit in the southwest part of the state.In 2001, Saturn’s Trent Klasna claimed the Housatonic victory as partof his red-hot spring campaign. This year, there should be plenty of challengers to Klasna’s title. The current hot hand belongs to Mercury, which has claimed victory in the last two National Calendar races — Athens Twilight Criteriumand the Tour of the Gila — and whose six-man squad will include potentialwinners Scott Moninger, Chris Wherry, Gord Fraser and Henk Vogels, as wellas Derek Bouchard-Hall and Plamen Stoyanov.Former Mercury man Chris Horner will be looking to get back on trackafter breaking his foot while riding his motocross bike in April. Hornerand his Prime Alliance team were unbeatable in March, with Horner winningRedlands, Sea Otter and Solano on consecutive weekends. Horner will bebacked by Danny Pate, who took third at Gila behind Wherry and Moninger.U.S. Postal’s George Hincapie had been slated to race Housatonic, butthe spring classics star withdrew recently citing fatigue. Postal willstill have a strong presence, including Christian Vande Velde, Dylan Caseyand Antonio Cruz.With teams limited to six riders, it may be difficult for any one squadto control the race over the narrow roads around Lake Candlewood and alongthe Housatonic River, which could lead to a wide-open affair and allowsome of the darkhorse teams to challenge for the win. Perhaps Navigators,racing in their own backyard and back from their long European campaign,will improve on Chris Baldwin’s second-place finish last year, possiblywith Kirk O’Bee, Mark Walters or Vassili Davidenko. Or 7UP-Nutra Fig, whowill pass by sponsor Cannondale’s headquarter in Bethel along the route,may be extra motivated to launch John Lieswyn into the final mix.Women’s race hits the roadWhile the men’s course has seen some changes, the women will get a raceof their own this year. Last year saw only a women’s criterium in conjunctionwith the Housatonic Valley Classic, but this year marks the introductionof the Saturn-Timex Classic, 70 miles beginning in New Milford and thentraversing most of the second half of the men’s course.With Saturn and Timex as title sponsors, the Saturn-Timex women’s teamwill be hungry to take the inaugural title and will send a strong teamthat includes Anna Millward, Kimberly Bruckner and Jessica Phillips.Saturn may find a tough challenge in the T-Mobile USA National team,which should include Mari Holden, Kim Anderson and Amber Neben, who recentlybroke through with a big European win at the Gracia Cez stage race in the CzechRepublic.Other challenges could come from Diet Rite (Tina Mayolo Pic or CybilDiguistini), Talgo America (Susy Pryde) or any of the strong East Coastregional teams present.Both races begin at 12:15 p.m. Eastern Time, with the men expected tohit Danbury and the 13 short finishing circuits some time around 4:15 p.m.VeloNews.com will have same-day race reports and photos on Sunday evening.