Fly V Australia sprinter Jonathan Cantwell put a stamp on his team's overall victory of the National Racing Calendar (NRC) series by winning the last round at the Chris Thater Memorial held on Sunday in Binghamton, New York.
"To win the NRC team title is a huge honour and it is very prestigious to be ranked the number one team in America," said Cantwell. "It's a huge feat and we were so consistent from the start to the end. This was very important to the team and very important to the sponsors."
Cuban all-rounder Luis Amaran (Jamis-Sutter Home p/b Colavita) was not present at the finale, having unofficially consolidated his first NRC's individual title the week prior.
"Winning the NRC was an important goal of mine this year," said Amaran. "It was the kind of achievement that shows your consistency as a rider."
May the best man win...
The NRC series was held over 21 rounds that began at the Redlands Bicycle Classic in California where Fly V Australia's Ben Day kicked off the season with a victory leading the team to the top spot in both the individual and team classifications.
"We started the season with the NRC not being a goal," said Fly V Australia's technical director Ed Beamon. "After the team came out with such a strong start at the beginning of the season we sort of let it get away. But, you start to get a taste for it and then you don't really want to let it get away.
"We felt very strongly about how good this team is and how consistent the team has been," he added. "We felt it was important to vindicate by winning the NRC team overall. We wanted to win for our own personal satisfaction of justifying how good our team is so it made sense to try and win it."
Last year's winning team, Jamis-Sutter Home p/b Colavita (formerly called Colavita-Sutter Home), took over the lead in the NRC team classification after the Wilmington Grand Prix in May.
Fly V Australia's strong sprint and stage racing team regained their top rank at the Tour of Somerville in June. Cantwell's end-of-season winning streak along with his teammates' strong performances at the Sunny King Criterium, Tour of Elk Grove, Tour of Utah and the Presbyterian Invitational Criterium, among others, helped the squad distance itself from its nearest competitors Jamis-Sutter p/b Colavita Home and UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis.
"The last few races have been difficult to manage from the points perspective but the guys did a good job of managing it," Beamon explained. "It was a tough battle in the last few weeks with Jamis-Sutter Home and UnitedHealthcare right there in the standings. The fortunate thing for us is that Jonathan was in such good form that he was almost unbeatable."
Amaran surpassed Day in the NRC's individual ranking following his win at the Joe Martin Stage Race and a strong performance at the Nature Valley Grand Prix in June. Other strong contenders included Cantwell, Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis) and David Veilleux (Kelly Benefit Strategies).
Amaran finished inside the top ten in a mixture of many of the scheduled stage races and criteriums including Redlands Bicycle Classic, Tour of the Gila and the Air Force Cycling Classic Clarendon Cup, Wilmington Grand Prix and the Presbyterian Invitational Criterium. He attributes his all-round ability to his recent move to the high deserts of New Mexico.
"This year I improved on my climbing and my time trialing," Amaran said. "I moved to Albuquerque which is at altitude and I can specifically train my climbing there. So I felt more prepared coming to the stage races, especially the ones with a lot of climbing."
Amaran's consistent performances earned him a commanding lead in the NRC individual standings before the Tour of Utah, the final stage race of the season. He didn't finish the six-day race but unofficially consolidated the victory. His highly accomplished season resulted in tired legs and he did not attend the Chris Thater Memorial.
"I had a good lead in the NRC before Tour of Utah," Amaran said. "I didn't feel too strong in Utah but I wanted to help my teammates there. So I didn't really have to worry about the NRC after that point."