The NRC continues, for both the men and the women, with two criteriums in North Carolina this weekend. First off on Saturday is the richest one-day crit, the Presbyterian Hospital Invitational Criterium (sometimes called Charlotte Crit) in Charlotte. Sunday brings the Hanes Park Classic in Winston-Salem. The Charlotte race is also part of the USA Crits Series currently led by Tom Soladay (Mt Khakis) and Laura van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom).
With big money, NRC points on the line, a who’s who of fast men and women are showing up in Charlotte for a shot at the $50,000.00 (+ lap primes) purse with $12,500 for the winner in the men’s race, and $25,000 (+ lap primes) with $7,500 for the winner in the women’s race.
The 1.25-mile course in the heart of downtown Charlotte is an interesting elongated figure-8 shape with two long straights going opposite directions and four quick turns at either side of the start/finish line. The women do 18 laps for 23 miles total starting at 5:30 pm and the men race starts at 7:00pm for 40 laps or 50 miles.
For the past two years, the winner in the men’s race came from a breakaway. Last year, as part of a 9-man break established in the last 15 laps of the 50-mile race, Alejandro Borrajo (Colavita/Sutter Home) took the win. In 2007, Frank Pipp then riding for Health Net-Maxxis won a 2-up sprint against his break-mate after the duo escaped the field with 5 laps to go. Three years ago in the pouring rain, Shawn Milne, then riding for Navigarors, escaped mid-race with two other riders to take the win barely ahead of a charging field.
Will history repeat itself or will the race end in a bunch kick?
Attacks were furious in last year’s women’s crit from the get-go and no break stuck until Kat Caroll, then riding for Aaron’s, jumped for a prime and just kept on going to a solo victory. In the two years prior, Tina Pic (Colavita/Sutter Home) won the race in a bunch sprint.
First held in 1977, the Hanes Park Classic race course is on a tree-lined 1.3-mile loop around a park in Winston-Salem’s Historic West End neighborhood. While the course is a bit less technical than the Charlotte crit, it is hillier and includes an uphill sprint to the finish line. The 50-minute women’s crit, with a purse of $7,500 starts at 1:45pm and the 90-minute men’s race starting 3:05pm offers up at $15,000 purse.
No start list is available at this point for the men’s race in Charlotte, but I am assuming that most if not all of the registered riders for the Winston-Salem race will also be participating in the crit on the day before. Colavita/Sutter Home’s Borrajo, BISSELL’s Pipp and Team Type 1′s Milne are all returning to fight it out but they will have their work cut out for them but can count on teammates such as Colavita’s Sebastian Haedo who just won stage 2 at Alexian Brothers Tour of Elk Grove and Team Type 1′s Aldo Ino Ilesic who just won two races at the Crossroads Classic. Other players include Elk Grove overall winner Karl Menzies and his OUCH p/b Maxxis team with Andrew Pinfold, the Kelly Benefit squad with Alex Candelario, Jake Keough and David Veilleux, Fly V Australia’s Jonathan Cantwell who’s been, well flying, in the past races winning the final race at Superweek and the last stage at Elk Grove, Jelly Belly’s Brad Huff who won the Chicago Crit in a solo flyer on the final lap, Rock Racing duo of USA Crit Champion Rahsaan Bahati and Ivan Dominguez and USA Crits leader Soladay and his Mt Khakis team.
In the women’s race, TIBCO is coming back to defend with Carroll and USA Crit Champion Brooke Miller who won the Hanes Park Classic last year. Colavita’s Pic is also returning with Superweek’s overall winner Nicky Wangsgard. Team Type 1 is bringing the new USA U23 crit champion Jackie Crowell along with Jen McRae and NRC leader Alison Powers, ValueAct’s Robin Farina is another one to watch, and of course Laura van Gilder of Mellow Mushroom. I am also curious to see what Kenda’s Joelle Numainville can do in NRC races as the newly minted Pan American Road Champion has just won the Chicago Crit and taken on van Gilder on sprints and won a few times.
See you at the races.