U.S. scene this week: Big time in Alabama, California & New York

U.S. scene this week: Big time in Alabama, California & New York

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The U.S. peloton will be spread thin across the country this week, as three marquee events will draw teams’ attention. This unfortunately means we will not see any single titanic battle on the road; however, race fans on the West Coast, in Upstate New York and in the Southeast are in for a treat as a bevy of top pros will contest events in each region.

The Sea Otter Classic kicks off Thursday in Monterey, California, and includes a criterium, road race and circuit race for the men and women. The National Racing Calendar moves on with the Sunny King Criterium in Anniston, Alabama, Saturday, followed by the non-NRC Foothills Road Race, in nearby Piedmont, Alabama. The weekend closes Sunday with the pro invitational event at the Tour of the Battenkill in Cambridge, New York.

Sea Otter Classic – Monterey, California
April 15-18
Sea Otter celebrates 20 years in 2010 and much of the rolling circus that surrounds American bike racing will pitch the big top near the Pacific Ocean Thursday through Sunday. While Sea Otter is largely known these days for its elite mountain bike races, the roadies will certainly not miss out.

The SRAM road events run as individual one-day races with the criterium Thursday, road race Friday and circuit race Saturday. The circuit race is a fan favorite and takes place on the Laguna Seca Raceway, which features a 300-foot climb and a sweeping descent down the Corkscrew hairpin every lap.

Bissell has pulled back from a planned appearance at Sunny King to focus on Sea Otter. The team will start the men’s races as heavy favorites, led by 2009 circuit race winner Andy Jacques-Maynes, as well as his brother Ben and Paul Mach, each of them podium finishers in 2009 at Sea Otter. Andy showed strong early season legs at the Redlands Classic in March, pulling the stage 3 breakaway over the Sunset Loop the final two laps before being caught on the closing circuit.

Former Bissell rider Burke Swindlehurst (teamgive.org-BlackBottoms) will make his multi-sport debut at Sea Otter, competing in both mountain and road events.

On the women’s side, Kelly Benjamin (Colavita-Baci) showed good form at San Dimas and Redlands, winning a stage at the former and driving the GC-altering breakaway in stage 2 of the latter. Meredith Miller and Rebecca Much will lead a solid TIBCO-To The Top squad, while Alison Powers and Alison Testroete will headline for Vera Bradley Foundation.

VeloNews.com’s sister site, Singletrack.com, is providing coverage of the Sea Otter’s mountain bike races and product expo.

Sunny King Criterium/Foothills Road Race – Anniston, Alabama
April 17-18
The most talked about domestic news of the week has been the run-in between UnitedHealthcare’s Jake Keough and Rahsaan Bahati (Bahati Foundation) at the Dana Point Grand Prix Sunday. All indications are that Bahati and Keough have smoothed things over and both teams will bring strong rosters to Alabama. An abbreviated squad from Jamis-Sutter Home, including Ivan Dominguez and Frank Travieso, and Fly V Australia with Ben Kersten, will also clip in at Sunny King.

Hilton Clarke (Bahati Foundation) is the favorite headed into the Saturday’s third round of the NRC, having won the criteriums at San Dimas and Redlands. Clarke’s brother Jonathan and his UHC teammates will arrive in Anniston without having satiated their hunger for a sprint win and we should see full sprint trains from Bahati and UHC duke it out, hopefully with the rubber side down this week.

The Colavita-Baci women will be the team to beat each day on the women’s side, with Redlands criterium winner Theresa Cliff-Ryan and Andrea Dvorak, who is fresh off a ride with the U.S. national team in the spring classics, as well as former Columbia-HTC rider Kate Bates, who will make her major U.S. debut Saturday.

In Sunday’s Foothills Road Race, Luis Amaran (Jamis-Sutter Home) is firing on all cylinders after his Beaumont win at Redlands, but the short 65-mile course should outweigh the punchy ramps that open and close the circuit and favor a fast closer like Karl Menzies (UnitedHealthcare) or Dominguez.

Live video of the Sunny King Criterium will be available online at www.sunnykingcriterium.com.

Tour of the Battenkill – Cambridge, New York
April 18
“America’s Queen of the Classics” rolls out Sunday under the most fevered energy of any race this weekend. The sixth edition of Battenkill closes Sunday with the pro invitational. Modeled after the European classics, the race takes place over 200 kilometers of rolling rural roads, approximately 25 percent of which are dirt.

Despite the growth in the excitement over Battenkill in just a few years, some top American teams, including the Bahati Foundation, Bissell and UHC, will not field teams this year.

More than 2200 participants registered for Battenkill over two weekends in 2010. The pro-am men’s and women’s races were held last weekend, and this weekend’s men’s pro invitational is part of the UCI America Tour this year.

Scott Nydam won the 2009 race solo, after escaping two-up breakaway partner Bobby Lea in the second 100k lap. Nydam will not be at the start Sunday, forced out of the sport by a brain injury suffered at the Tour of the Gila last year. Lea (Bahati Foundation) finished 10th in last week’s pro/am race and will ride with a local composite team Sunday.

Jamis-Sutter Home and Fly V Australia will bring top-flight squads with Alejandro Borrajo and Aaron Kemps both suited for the short, power climbs and rough terrain around Cambridge. Holowesko Partners and Trek-Livestrong will field teams as well in preparation for the Paris-Roubaix Espoirs in May.

With a stronger field than ever, the finale at Battenkill Sunday should come down to a very select group of riders like Alex Howes (Holowesko Partners) and Charles Dionne (Fly V Australia). If Borrajo is there, which he should be, barring mechanical disaster, he will be the prohibitive favorite to deliver the win.

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