The USA Cycling National Racing Calendar is in its final stretch as the professional men and women teams each embark on the last three events scheduled. Luis Amaran and his Jamis-Sutter Home squad lead both the men’s individual and team classifications, while Cath Cheatley and her Colavita-Baci team top the women’s ranking.
The next stop on the calendar for the men is the Alexian Brothers Tour of Elk Grove held this weekend outside of Chicago, Illinois. For the women it will be a criterium held in conjunction with the men at the Presbyterian Hospital Invitational on August 7 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“The Tour of Elk Grove is an important race for us because we had to skip Fitchburg,” said Jamis-Sutter Home directeur sportif Sebastian Alexandre. “The guys are excited to race again with the full team. The NRC is very interesting now with three teams inside 200 points. Any team can win it. I am confident that Luis will come back strong after his break. But he is still training and trying to come back 100 percent for Tour of Utah.”
Amaran leadings the individual NRC ranking by 191 points ahead of Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis), who recently moved into second place after winning both Nature Valley Grand Prix and Bend Memorial Clinic Cascade Cycling Classic. Third placed Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies) sits 417 points behind.
Jamis-Sutter Home’s team competition lead is a mere 90 points over UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis and 163 points ahead of the third placed team Kelly Benefit Strategies.
“The Tour of Elk Grove is important to us on several different levels,” said UnitedHealthcare directeur sportif Mike Tamayo. “One of the reasons is that there is 150,000 dollars up for grabs and is one of the most prize money races in the US and even in the world: that stood out in the riders minds. It has a deep NRC ranking and the points are a bonus.
“More importantly for us, UnitedHealthcare is one of the sponsors so this is a hometown race and we have to keep that in mind,” he added. “Whether we win it with Rory because he has NRC points or with Karl [Menzies] because he won it last year or with Hilton [Clarke] because he won it four years ago, it doesn’t matter as long as it is one of the guys on the team.”
Following the Tour of Elk Grove the professional men have several opportunities to move ahead in the NRC ranking at the Presbyterian Hospital Invitational, The Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah from August 17-23 in Salt Lake City and the Chris Thater Memorial Criterium on August 29 in Binghamton.
“The NRC hasn’t been a goal of ours and we haven’t been chasing points,” Tamayo said. “Our theory has been to win races. Is there enough racing left to move into the lead? Yes. Elk Grove and Utah are worth quite a bit of points and there is Thater so I think there will be some fun racing.”
Cheatley moved in to the lead of the women’s NRC individual classification following her win at the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic last month. She is positioned 150 points ahead of last year’s overall winner Alison Powers (Vera Bradley Foundation). US National Road Champion and recent Giro Donne winner Mara Abbott (Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12) leaped into third place, 245 points back, following her win at the Bend Memorial Clinic Cascade Cycling Classic, the final stage race scheduled for the women on the NRC.
“There is a fair gap between Cath and Alison and Cath is a good crit rider so we are confident that she can maintain the lead in that,” said Colavita-Baci directeur sportif Rachel Heal. “The team competition is really close and I think it is going to lead to some really exciting racing for the three races that are left. Even with three races there is a good chance the team competition could change hands.”
Colavita-Baci’s NRC women’s team classification lead is just 27 points over Vera Bradley Foundation. Tibco-To the Top sits in third place, 148 points behind. The women have three more opportunities to contest the NRC ranking at the Presbyterian Hospital Invitational, Chris Thater Memorial Criterium and the US 10K on September 6 in Atlanta.
“The whole team is on this huge high because Colavita, the women’s team and Jamis, the men’s team are leading the individual and the team standings so we are all very excited about that,” Heal said. “For us, the last two races at Fitchburg and Cascade have gone really well and the riders are all on a high at the moment. They want to continue that to the end of the season.”