North American wrap: Anticipation builds ahead of inaugural La Course

After a second rest day at the Tour de France on Monday, the North American pros are facing the final week of racing that includes three stages through the Pyrenees and a lengthy time trial before finishing in Paris on Sunday. But before the men conclude the 101st edition of the French Grand Tour, the elite women’s field will race the inaugural La Course by Le Tour de France, run along the same finishing circuit that the Tour de France takes on, with a finish line on the Champs-Élysées. This week in the US, there were some notable performances at National Racing Calendar (NRC) Cascade Cycling Classic in Bend and the National Criterium Calendar (NCC) Intelligentsia Cup Prairie States Cycling Series in Lake Bluff.

North American women to race La Course by Le Tour de France

A hundred cyclists will participate in the inaugural La Course by Le Tour de France, a one-day circuit race that will start and finish along the Champs-Élysées, held in conjunction with the final stage of the men's Tour de France on July 27 in Paris. The unofficial start list includes four North American contenders, so far, and more are expected to compete in the event.

Canadian road, time trial and criterium champion Leah Kirchmann will lead her American team Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies in the race. Specialized-lululemon’s Evelyn Stevens, who just finished 17 days of racing in July, will also be on the start line alongside her teammate Carmen Small. Kathryn Bertine, who helped the race get off the ground, earned a spot on the Wiggle-Honda team for the event, and although she is American, she competes with a St. Kitts and Nevis licence.

The women will complete 13 laps of the circuit for a total of 90km that includes a prize purse of 22,500 Euro.

Tour de France: Van Garderen loses ground on Port de Balès

After a disappointing first week at the Tour de France, BMC’s team leader Tejay van Garderen was slowly moving up the ranks, and into fifth place during the second week of the Grand Tour. The American rider was 5:59 behind overall leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), and a smaller gap of 59 seconds to third placed Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) by the second rest day. A bad day on the bike during stage 16, the first day in the Pyrenees, however, saw him lose minutes in the overall and drop to sixth place.

He was hoping to have a successful jaunt through the Pyrenean stages, enough to be within striking distance of the overall podium heading into the penultimate time trial from Bergerac to Périgueux on Saturday. Whether or not he can pull time back on his rivals remains to be seen.

Chris Horner (Lampre-Merida) is the second-placed American in the Tour, sitting in 20th overall and 29:54 behind the race leader. Other North Americans still in the race are Peter Stetina (BMC), Ben King and Alex Howes (Garmin-Sharp), Matthew Busche (Trek Factory Racing), Christian Meier and Svein Tuft (Orica-GreenEdge) and Danny Pate (Team Sky).

Stevens wins Thüringen; American completes her own Grand Tour

Specialized-lululemon’s Evelyn Stevens triumphed on Sunday upon the conclusion of the Internationale Thüringen Rundfahrt der Frauen 2014, not only because she won the overall title but also because she completed 17 straight days of racing.

“I wasn’t sure how my body would respond to it but I actually felt like I got stronger and a little bit tougher as the time went on,” Stevens said. “Defending yellow was not something that I was expecting to do on day 17, but it made me dig a little bit deeper.”

Stevens finished 15th overall at the 10-day Giro d'Italia Internazionale Femminile held from July 4 to 13 in Italy and went straight into the seven-day Thüringen race held from July 14 to 20 in Germany. She placed 15th in the prologue in Gotha, secured a third place on the podium during stage 1 in Erfurt and won stage 4 from a breakaway where she took the overall race lead in Saalfeld. She held onto the lead through the stage 6 finale in Zeulenroda.

Guarnier and Kirchmann in the top 10 at BeNe Ladies Tour

American rider Megan Guarnier (Team USA) and Canadian rider Leah Kirchmann (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) took fifth and sixth overall at the BeNe Ladies Tour held from July 19 to 20 in the Netherlands. Kirchmann took fourth place in the opening stage in Sint-Laureins, and Guarnier was sixth. Kirchmann’s teammate Brianna Walle placed third in the stage 2a individual time trial in Philippine, while Guarnier was eighth and Kirchmann ninth. Gaurnier finished fourth in stage 2b also in Philippine, with her American teammate Ryan Kendell taking sixth and Kirchmann 10th on the day.

Tibco’s Lauren Stephens wins the NRC title after Cascade Cycling Classic glory

After winning the Cascade Cycling Classic this past week, Team Tibco and its race winner Lauren Stephens secured the overall team and individual titles in the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar (NRC) series.

“It’s an honor to win the NRC individual title, and even more so to help the team win the NRC overall in the process,” said Stephens, who also won the overall title at the Joe Martin Stage Race. “It’s impossible to earn individual honors without the support of the whole team. And that includes staff and sponsors. So winning the NRC is as much an achievement for my teammates as it is for me.”

The Cascade Cycling Classic was held from July 15-20 in Bend, Oregon. Stephens won the women’s title and Serghei Tvetcov (Jelly Belly-Maxxis) won the men’s title. It was the sixth round of the NRC series for the men’s field, and the seventh and final round for the women’s field.

For Tibco, it was the third time winning the NRC team title, also winning the it in 2009 and 2013. “Winning the overall NRC team title is always a goal for us” said Team founder and manager Linda Jackson. “We make it a priority to target the top NRC and NCC races. Our sponsors are headquartered here and having a visible, winning presence in North America is important to them.”
The NRC series will conclude for the men at the Bucks County Classic held September 13 in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.

Olejniczak and Allar win Intelligentsia Cup

The Intelligentsia Cup Prairie States Cycling Series hosted an NCC round for the elite men and women on July 19 in Lake Bluff, Illinois. The Northwestern Medicine Lake Bluff Criterium offered a 90-minute criterium for the men and a 60-minute criterium for the women.

Peter Olejniczak (St Paul Bicycle Racing Club) won the men’s race after out-sprinting NCC series leader Luke Keough (UnitedHealthcare). Race officials later relegated Keough to fifth place for dangerous sprinting. Hogan Sills (Astellas Cycling) moved up into second place and Chad Hartley (Athlete Octane) moved into third.

NCC series leader, Erica Allar (Team Colavita-Fine Cooking) won the women’s race ahead of Tina Pic (Fearless Femme) and Skylar Schneider (Tibco).

There were small changes to the men’s NCC standings as Keough continues to lead the series ahead of Daniel Holloway (Athlete Octane), who moved up to second, and Ken Hanson (UnitedHealthcare), who slipped into third. Allar continues to lead the women’s series ahead of Tina Pic (Fearless Femme) and Laura Van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom).

The NCC will continue at the Chris Thater Memorial from August 23-24 in Binghamton, New York.

Team SmartStop gets an invite to the USA Pro Cycling Challenge

Race organizers of the 2014 USA Pro Challenge announced the 16 teams that will compete in the seven-day race held from August 18 to 24, from Aspen to Denver, throughout the Colorado Rockies. Eleven of the 16 squads are US-based, notably, Continental Team SmartStop earned a spot on the line this year after a strong season that saw its rider Eric Marcotte win the US professional road title.

2014 USA Pro Challenge teams:

UCI ProTeams
• BMC Racing Team (USA)
• Cannondale Pro Cycling (Ita)
• Team Garmin-Sharp (USA)
• Tinkoff-Saxo (Rus)
• Trek Factory Racing (USA)
UCI Professional Continental Teams
• Drapac Professional Cycling (Aus)
• Team NetApp – Endura (Ger)
• Team Novo Nordisk (USA)
• UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team (USA)
UCI Continental Teams
• Bissell Development Team (USA)
• Hincapie Sportswear Development Team (USA)
• Jamis-Hagens Berman p/b Sutter Home (USA)
• Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis (USA)
• Optum Presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies (USA)
• Rapha Condor JLT (GBr)
• Team SmartStop (USA)

Stay tuned to Cyclingnews next Tuesday for our next weekly edition of race recaps and previews of what’s ahead in the North American road racing scene.

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