U.S. Racing This Week: Date (non) conflict with Sunny King and Battenkill

When Tour of the Battenkill promoter Dieter Drake and USA Cycling staff traded barbs over rider invites in January, Mike Poe and the Sunny King Criterium were caught in the crossfire.

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When Tour of the Battenkill promoter Dieter Drake and USA Cycling staff traded barbs over rider invites in January, Mike Poe and the Sunny King Criterium were caught in the crossfire.

It appears as though Poe and the season’s first standalone National Racing Calendar criterium in Anniston, Alabama, have won out, at least at the elite level. The race will see a top field and will feature live video coverage on VeloNews.com. That’s not to say, however, that Battenkill is any worse off with thousands of amateurs set to take to the dirt roads around Cambridge, New York, this weekend.

When Drake ditched UCI status for the Tour of the Battenkill in January and moved his race to April 10, a day after Sunny King, Poe cried foul at the last-minute conflict. Drake and USA Cycling chief operating officer Sean Petty spoke out in the press about the issue. Drake’s attorney sent the governing body a letter insisting that legal action would follow if Pro Continental and ProTeams weren’t allowed to compete in the classics-style race around Cambridge, New York.

Fast-forward two months and it appears as though some fences are mended. Drake’s event kicks off Saturday and will see more than 2,500 mostly amateurs take part over two days. Poe’s NRC criterium is the first of the season, outside of the stage 2 crit at Redlands last weekend, and will see many of the country’s top sprinters.

Behind the scenes, Poe said he and Drake smoothed things over.

“There’s no animosity as far as I’m concerned,” Poe told VeloNews. “I called Dieter when it was going down and expressed that we had made a lot of calls to be sure we avoided scheduling conflicts. He understood that.”

As for his beef with USA Cycling, Drake said that he has not heard back from multiple inquiries by his attorneys. When contacted by VeloNews Wednesday, Drake was less heated about the conflict than earlier in the year and said he was focused on pulling off a great event. “Unfortunately they haven’t been responsive. I’ve had a number of attorneys try to contact them now with now response,” he said. “ I don’t know where it’s going to go.”

Petty countered that USAC attorneys have responded on multiple occasions to two different attorneys representing Anthem Sports.

“We had multiple conversations and a final discussion email on February 3 with one,” said Petty. “Another attorney contacted us in early March and our attorney responded to him as well… We have responded multiple times and that’s where we stand.”

Turning an eye back to the road, Battenkill’s Pro-1-2 fields are limited mostly to regional elite riders. Drake said there is “no question” he lost most of his top starters when he left the NRC. At the same time, most amateur categories nearly sold out in pre-registration. When asked if he feels like he’s set up for success in the long run, Drake said he wasn’t sure, but that he’s turning his focus to promoting participant-driven events based on the model of the U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross.

“The model is pro/am races,” he said. “I’m going to put on big races, interesting races people want to come to.”

Drake announced last week the formation of a new race series that includes the Tour of the Catskills, the new Tour of Washtenaw in Saline, Michigan, as well as a yet unannounced criterium in Vail, Colorado, on July 16.

The series opener at Battenkill will see pros like former criterium champ Shawn Milne (Kenda-5-hour Energy), Jason Donald and Jesse Anthony (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth) and Jamey Driscoll and Andrew Guptill (Jamis-Sutter Home).

In Anniston, Poe said he’s pleased with his field. Anniston will play host to riders that include defending champ Ben Kersten and his V Australia teammate Jonathan Cantwell, Redlands stage 2 and 3 winners Roman Van Uden (Pure Black) and Cole House (Realcyclist.com), 2010 USA CRITS champ Isaac Howe (Kenda) and Samantha Schneider (Tibco-To The Top) and Laura Van Gilder.

Catch a full day of live racing at Sunny King at Velonews.com/live.

Sunny King Criterium

Anniston, Alabama
*National Racing Calendar
April 9, 2011
6:20 p.m. (women) / 7:30 p.m. (men)
60 min. (women) / 60 laps (men)
$7,500 (women) / $15,000 (men)

Foothills Road Race

Piedmont, Alabama
April 10, 2011
8:00 a.m. (men) / 9:05 a.m. (women)
69 mi. (men) / 57 mi. (women)
$1,500 (men) / $1,000 (women)

Tour of the Battenkill

Cambridge, New York
April 10, 2011
11:30 a.m. (women) / 1:45 p.m. (men)
64 mi. (women) / 100 mi. (men)
$1,999 (women) / $15,000 (men)

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