In less than two weeks the $6,000+ prize pool CRCA Grant's Tomb Criterium will serve as a challenging entree into the season for the New York bike racing community after a particularly tough winter which found most racers spending significantly more time indoors than they had hoped. Those that were lucky enough to spend some time training in warmer climates could have an advantage, but this early in the year the race is anyone's game, particularly on a course like Grant's Tomb that presents equal opportunity for sprinters and breakaway artists. With registration for the race closing in a matter of days and already 300 racers registered, we felt it was an appropriate time to roll out the Road Results race predictor to preview some of the action that we'll be seeing on March 8th in New York City.
Men's 5 presented by IRC Tires
The Men's 5 p/b IRC Tires is the most in demand field of the race thus far, with a sold out start list and a wait list already half full. As you would expect with a Men's 5 field most of the names are relatively new to the New York City peloton, but from a team perspective it looks to be shaping up to be a battle between CRCA/Lucarelli & Castaldi and CRCA/Dave Jordan, the two teams with the biggest squads. If these teams push the pace look for the field to split early and for a number of riders to be pulled - this course is no joke and no gentle introduction to crit racing with a few 90 degree corners leading into the short but steep climb. Riders who make the mistake of being at the back of the field going into that climb will pay the price of a harder effort up that hill on every lap and an increased risk of being dropped after each effort.
Men's 4 presented by IRC Tires
The Men's 4 p/b IRC Tires is another popular field with about 50 racers already registered. Look again for early separation between those who've trained all winter, and those who used the brutal weather as an excuse to pick up another, less uncomfortable hobby. There are a lot of squads present and accounted for in this field, the largest of which is the new 5th Floor NYC team, but when it comes down to the Road Results Race Predictor that team only cracks the top 10 with James Hyatt expected to finish 7th. In fact the predicted winner according to the Road Results super computers, Chris Williams, appears to be racing solo. Will he be able to stick the long false flat finish that defines Grant's Tomb without team support? Or could an early breakaway foil the sprinters day and generate an unexpected result? We'll see.
Men's 3/4 presented by MODSquad Cycles
For the past two year's the Men's 3 field has been the territory of breakaway artists - will we see the sprinters foiled once again in the 2014 Men's 3/4 p/b ModSquad? Look for this field to be a lively and an interesting spectacle when it comes to team tactics. Sixcycle-RK&O may try to control the field, but with just five riders in a field that already has 50 registrants, there are plenty of other squads capable of forcing some disruption. BOLD Racing, CRCA/TARGETRAINING, CRCA/e2Value, and CRCA/JVelo should all hope to make a statement as new teams, or teams with a revived racing presence - amongst these various squads who will come out on top? And can Joe Grgic of e2Value crack a result while also serving as a race director? We shall see. The Road Results computers favor Larry Uhlrass, who clearly knows something about early season form with a win in the 3/4 field at last year's Spring Series, but we actually like the computer's second pick - long-time CRCA racer Mihael Ginghina, who has the race experience and sprint finish to master a challenging Grant's Tomb finale.
A new field for 2014, the Men's 2/3 already has 40 racers registered. While this field shares some riders with the Men's 3/4 presented by MODSquad Cycles, the composition will be different enough (particularly with the addition of several Cat 2 riders racing on fresh legs) that it should be be fascinating to watch, if you're into watching a bunch of guys ride around in small circles. While a bunch of the "usual suspects" from the New York City Cat 2 peloton are missing from the registration list, CRCA/Sixcycle-RK&O will again have a big presence. That said Tomi Ketcham, new to CRCA/Blue Ribbon-Translations and fresh from training camp, is our pick for a rider to watch in this field. And if you're looking for a dark horse, Roger Montes from Brooklyn Velo Force hasn't raced much in New York but upgraded in Florida where the racing is year round. Those two aside, the odds on favorite according to Road Results is AJ Moran, of Greenline Velo, who is making the trip to NYC after closing out his 2013 season with a big win at the TD Mayors Cup.
Euris Vidal Memorial Elite Men's Championship Field
In the Men's Euris Vidal Memorial Elite race, look for another team battle as there are a number of squads with revamped rosters coming out to race on a big stage in New York City for the first time. Last year's elite race saw a three man break practically lap the field - while not an unlikely result on a course that often times favors those willing to wager on a long day in the breakaway, team dynamics could also lead to a sprint as squads like CRCA/Lupus Racing boast several riders with a capable finishing kick, including new team member Scott Savory. But we'd be remiss not to think that CRCA/Weather Channel, QCW, Stan's No Tubes or even the boys from up north at Greenline Velo might attempt to shake things up. This should be exciting and while we're not inclined to trust the computers on a field with this much fire power, if you want to know who the statisticians favorite is, its Mike Magarite of CRCA/Weather Channel.
Women's 4 presented by hatchMAP
On the women's side, let's start with the Women's 4's p/b hatchMAP as well. I don't see a clear sprinter in that fairly small field, but racers from CRCA/Stan's do tend to come out firing on all cylinders. Based on typical race dynamics it would be surprising to see a break established, so look for a field sprint here with the super computers showing a battle for the victory between Sara Yancovitz of CRCA/Stan's and Victoria Gochenour of the new CRCA/CityMD squad.
Women's 3/4 presented by Rockstar & Signature Cycles
In the Women's 3/4's p/b Rockstar & Signature Cycles there will very likely be an interesting three-way battle of the leadouts between CRCA/Stan's, CRCA/CityMD, and CRCA/Rockstar. In 2013, both Jen Nordhem or CRCA/Stan's and Anna Mumford of CRCA/Rockstar had breakout years and it wouldn't be surprising to see them trying to set the same tone for 2014. Based on the fact that Mumford's team is sponsoring this field we're going to nominate her as the favorite (a prediction mirrored by the Road Results Race Predictor), though the computers also suggest that Lisa Vandivort of the new CRCA/CityMD squad will be in the mix for the victory.
Women's Elite Championship
The elite women's field has been slowly gaining registrants, with women being notoriously late entrants, so the fabric of this race could change dramatically between now and March 8th. That being said, with 2013 Grant's Tomb Elite Women's Champion Amy Cutler already registered expect the pace to be fast and her sprint to be deadly, especially coming off a big block in California with Specialized-Lululemon. CRCA/Stan's should also have a big presence in this race with two sprinters - BrittLee Bowman and Camie Kornely - fresh from California as well, which raises the question of whether they are going to play for the field sprint against arguably the strongest sprinter in the region, or will they go for the breakaway win - the latter strategy worked well at last year's Lou Maltese Memorial when Anneliese Haines of CRCA/BH-CC snuck away solo for the win, knocking Cutler down to second overall. If the field races aggressively this could be the most exciting race of the day.
Make Sure to Register
Riding on a snow-covered Riverside Drive this morning, it was hard to believe that race season is almost upon us, but bring on the big city bike racing. And remember, there is absolutely no day of registration for CRCA open races, so if you want a shot at winning the $6,000 of cash and prizes that will be awarded at the CRCA Grant's Tomb Criterium, make sure to register today!