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USPRO Criterium Championship - 1.3
Chicago, USA, August 22, 2004
Top domestic racers make annual pilgrimage to Downers Grove
By Mark Zalewski in Downers Grove, Illinois
A lot has changed in the professional racing scene over the past year -- old teams dissolving, new ones forming -- but the one constant is the western suburb of Chicago, Downers Grove, IL. For more than a decade, the best and brightest professionals and elite amateurs have descended on this usually quiet suburb to tackle one of the more exciting criterium courses on the national calendar.
With defending two-time winner Kevin Monahan enjoying retirement, the race for the stars and stripes is wide open. Combined with the shuffling of teams and personnel that occurred in the off-season, the featured USPRO event should provide plenty of action. The Saturn alumni have all gone their separate ways -- last year's runner-up Chris Horner with Webcor, third place and former USPRO road champion Mark McCormack and Ivan Dominguez with Colavita/Bolla, former USPRO road champion Trent Klasna finding a home on Sierra Nevada... the list goes on. All have done well in Downers Grove, and all will have to fight each other this year for the win.
Health Net is another team that benefitted from the buyers market created after last year. Veteran domestic racer John Lieswyn will look to add this elusive race to his resume, as he has decided not to hang the bike up next year after all. Canadian Olympian Gord Fraser will be the team's sprinter, with Kiwis Greg Henderson and Hayden Godfrey pursuing gold on the track in Athens. Fraser has had a strong season with two second places in Philadelphia, and the one-two win with Henderson at the New York City Championships. Health Net's depth is evident with U.S. Olympian Jason McCartney, Danny Pate and Mike Sayers all having strong seasons.
Other teams to watch as usual are Navigators, with Vassilli Daivdenko and a host of other strong riders with international experience; and Jelly Belly, featuring the one-two punch of Alex Candelario and Jonas Carney, the bad-boy of U.S. criterium racing. With Carney announcing his retirement after this season, he is surely going to put everything into winning this race like he did in 1997. Might he postpone retirement to wear the jersey next year?
U.S. Postal will once again be trying to get local rider Robbie Ventura a win near his hometown of Kenosha, Wisconsin. A sixth place last year and a third the year before, the fast sprinter has always been close but never on top. Coming off a good performance in this year's Superweek series, look for the domestic Blue Train to be conducted by Ventura.
The two-day event is packed with action. Saturday features many USCF category races and two pro-am "warm-up" events where amateurs and pros battle for cash. These races give the pro team workers a chance for a win some moola before sacrificing themselves the next day in the championship races. It also gives the elite amateurs and not-quite-ready-for-prime-time amateurs an opportunity to mix it up with the pros.
Sunday morning begins early with an event almost as rare as hairy legs on a cyclist -- a separate category two men's race! After this Loch Ness Monster of a race, the elite amateurs get down to business, first with the women (elite and pros combined) and then the men. The women race for 50km and the men 80km, and each fighting for $5,000 and the stars and stripes jersey.
The final race is the $20,000 US Postal Service USPRO National Championship, a 100km race that always starts fast and finds a way to get faster. Plenty of good places to view the race exist on this challenging figure-eight course, with a nice little climb on the top end of the course that features a separate prime line and some good BBQ!
More information about the races can be found at www.dgnationalchampionships.com.
Men Women 2003 Kevin Monahan (7Up/Maxxis) Tina Mayolo-Pic (Diet Rite)