Preview & Schedule

First Union Invitational

Wilmington Classic

First Union Classic

Manayunk Wall Hill Climb

First Union USPRO Championships

First Union Liberty Classic




United States of America












First Union Series

USA, May 30-June 4, 2000

Preview    Schedule

First Union 2000 defines cycling in America

By Tim Maloney, correspondent

Threshold Sports, the organizer of the 2000 First Union Series calls the four races this week in and around Philadelphia, PA " the week that defines cycling in America." And with good reason, as the races sponsored by banking giant First Union are simply the only real international level road races run in America.

After 15 consecutive years, the First Union USPRO Championships has become a major event for the City Of Brotherly Love. Philadelphia wholeheartedly embraces the international flavor of the race, with 6 hours of live TV and over 300,000 spectators on the 14.4 mile circuit. On the 10 climbs of the famed Manayunk Wall, the steep, difficult 1km climb usually has over 30,000 spectators cheering on the dramatic attacks.

The week kicks off in Pennsylvania Dutch country of Lancaster on Tuesday with the First Union Invitational. This is a fast, tough Belgian style circuit race over 91 miles that always features constant attacks.

Wednesday is the First Union Wilmington Classic in Delaware's capital, one hour south of Philadelphia. The 75 mile race is over 20 laps on a shortened course from previous editions, and should feature a bunch sprint.

Thursday is the First Union Classic in Trenton, NJ, the capital of the Garden State. This is another rapid race, on a 91 mile kermesse style course that almost always has an average speed close to 30 miles per hour.

Teamwise, the 2000 First Union Series has the best field ever assembled, and the battle for North American cycling supremacy that's been shaping up all spring will finally be fought out on the roads in and around Philadelphia this week. Thats right, defending champions US Postal Service will go up against upstart Team Mercury and quite a battle it should be.

On paper, USPS looks exceedingly solid, even though much of their TDF bound squad is prepping for the Dauphiné Libere in France. Defending champ Marty Jemison will look to keep his Stars & Stripes for another season, while his teammate George Hincapie is certainly seeking another national title. Supporting players are Dylan Casey, Stefan Kjaeraard, Benoit Joachim and Levi Leipheimer. With the absence of rising USPS star Christian Vandevelde (sidelined with a broken collarbone last week while training on the track), my pick on USPS must be Frankie Andreu. He's had a great spring season and the experienced Andreu knows its now or never to win his first USPRO championships.

Team Mercury has had a great spring campaign with plenty of European wins, capped by Gord Fraser's victory in Stage One of Criterium International. Certainly the California based team is ambitious, witnessed by their rapid rise in the Division 2. But can Mercury rise to the occasion and win the big one on Sunday? Their top rider is Canadian sprinter Gord Fraser, quick and strong. But he can't win the Stars & Stripes jersey, and Fraser is suspect in a longer race over 200km. Chris Horner, winner of February's Tour Of Langkawi, is Mercury's top American rider, but he's been all but invisible since. So as always, Mercury team manager John Wordin will be trying to pull a rabbit out of a hat, but it won't be the first time that he's succeeded at that.

Supporting players from America will be Team Saturn, who will be looking to play a spoiler role this week. After speedy Saturn sprinter Tony Cruz unexpectedly won the USA Olympic Road Trials, his teammates like Bart Bowen, the McCormack brothers and Trent Klasna will be looking to show the world that there is a USA squad that can win besides Mercury. Navigators will try and get team leader Vassily Davidenko into key breaks, while their sprinter Todd Littlehales may suprise some with his excellent finishing speed.

The European contingent at First Union 2000 is led by World Pro Road Champion Oscar Freire and his Mapei-Quick Step squad. Freire is building back to form after a tough spring campaign, so it's hard to say how he'll do. while his American teammate Fred Rodriguez has had his best season ever and is looking for a Stars & Stripes jersey to take back to Italy. Don't be too suprised if fast Freddy pulls off his biggest win ever next Sunday in the USPRO Championships.

Saeco-Valli & Valli has brought Italian champion Salvatore Commesso to show off his tricolore jersey but the powerful fireplug of a rider has been sick and is still recovering from bronchial infection. Still, fiesty Commesso has always ridden well in the USPRO Championships so don't rule him out.

Watch out for Memorycard-Jack & Jones. This powerful Danish squad, winners of Div 2 in '99, looks better than ever. Memorycard-Jack & Jones is likely to ride the Tour De France this year as a wild card. With last years USPRO winner Jakob Piil, tough classics specialist Tristan Hoffmann and complete rider Michael Sandstod have come to Philly ready to race.

Alexia Alluminio is a sleeper squad from Italy making their First Union debut; with the experienced Dario Andriotto on board, strong youngsters like Oscar Cavagnis and Eddy Serri will get the kind of guidance it will take to get into the winning breaks. Watch for Alexia's fast finisher ex-World Track Champ Marco Villa in the fast, short races like Wilmington.

That old cliché, "when the going gets tough, the tough get going" applies to none other than Mroz, the little Polish team that could. Mroz is backing in-form 2000 Peace Race winner Piotr Wadecki. The dangerous Wadecki can win by himself or in a sprint so expect him to be around for the final moves all week.

Due to other commitments, Festina won't show up until the weekend's USPRO Championships, where cagey old sprinter Marcel Wüst will be looking for a Philly win.

The Races

  • May 30: First Union Invitational, 91 miles/147 km (1.3)
  • May 31: First Union Wilmington Classic, 74 miles/120 km (1.3)
  • June 1: First Union Classic, 91 miles/147 km (1.3)
  • June 2: Manayunk Wall Hill Climb, 1 mile/1.60 km (1.SC)
  • June 4: First Union USPRO Championships, 156 miles/250 km (1.2)
  • June 4: First Union Liberty Classic, 72 miles/116 km (CDM)
Numbers in brackets refer to the UCI Class. The lower the number after the decimal point, the higher the ranking of the race. CDM = Coupe du Monde (World Cup), SC = Special Category (no UCI points).

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