Project Sport brings the Show
The Sacramento Grand Prix has been the most anticipated event of the 2010 NorCal schedule as it will be held in conjunction with this year’s internationally covered Tour of California. Ryan Dawkins founded Project Sport in 2002 and the organization has been stacking their palmares each year with bigger and better events ~ the prettiest feather in the cap thus far to be the soon to be world known Sacramento Grand Prix.
Began as a race to highlight women’s racing and continue the impetus for the Tour of California to include a women’s version, the SGP has grown to include what will arguably be the biggest, fastest, craziest Pro-Am criterium for men in the nation. With many thousands of dollars in prize money and international media exposure awaiting the top riders, both the men and women of the SGP will be throwing themselves around downtown Sacramento Sunday morning with hunger and abandon.
The women’s field has no clear cut favorite this year. With pristine weather forecast and a wide-open 1.4 mile circuit … this race will be one for the strong and the smart. US powerhouse and NorCal based professional squad, TIBCO, will be represented by national road champion Meredith Miller and 3 stalwart teammates in Alison Starnes, Devon Haskell, and Megan Guarnier. Both Haskell and Guarnier have returned from European stints in the spring, and Starnes has shown incredible form these past few weeks on the US National Racing Calendar circuit. However, with the Tour of California’s date change to May – TIBCO and many other professional teams have portions of their squad racing in Europe or around the US fighting for NRC points. So while the squads may be thinner, the talent is keenly quality for this first SGP.
Another NorCal based pro squad will be Team Vera Bradley Foundation, fielding their criterium specialists Erica Allar, Robin Farinha, and Alexis Rhodes. These three riders will make a serious impact on the tactics of the race, as each rider has been known to take a race by the neck and shake it like a rabid pitbull. And speaking of ferocious competitors, the Peanut Butter and Co women will be fielding a 6 rider strong contingent of their most talented crit riders, only missing Shelley Evans who is competing in the Pan American Games … recently winning a Gold Medal in the road race and Bronze in the time trial.
The PB&Jams will be lead by their uber-sprinter, Lauren Tamayo … but, also have the two talented youngsters Coryn Rivera and Ruth Winder able to strike lightning quick. And with experienced riders like Olivia Dillon, Cari Higgins and Sinead Miller filling out their squad ~ one could argue that the Peanut Butter team will be the best bets for finding themselves on top of the podium come Sunday afternoon.
The storied program of Webcor has made a huge acquisition in the past days of former world champion Amber Neben. She will join the squad for the SGP and will add a bit of swagger and confidence to their criterium riders. Colavita/Baci pro cycling has their speedy Lithuanian Modesta Vzesniauskaite to vie in the sprints, as well as New Zealand strongwoman Rushlee Buchanan ready to fire off the big hits at a moments notice. But there will also be very, very talented group of California-based amateur squads bringing the fight to Sacramento on Sunday.
Metromint, Touchstone, and Third Pillar bring the largest teams … with Touchstone’s Mary Maroon on hot form and Third Pillar adding in as guest-rider the legendary Laura Van Gilder ~ always a likely podium seeking missile. But there are are other squads in action for the Sacramento Grand Prix and you can view the entire start list here … so, get ready to place your bets.
My predictions are for an absurdly animated 60 minutes of racing for the women’s SGP. I believe the PB&Jams will be involved in every one of the 6-gazillion attacks off the front, but be confident in Tamayo to take the field sprint, or win out of a small group. I think the wild card might be HTC’s Kim Anderson. A late 3 mile solo-effort against the field may well be hidden in the cards by the big engine…and how glorious that would be to see, as Kim Anderson is one of the most respected and admired women ever to race a bike. But there are darkhorses on the horizon, as well ~ and the Wells Fargo sprinters Emily Kachorek and Beth Newell might be the swiftest of that herd. But look out for kickers Mary Ellen Ash of Los Gatos, Melissa Sanborn of Cyclepath, and Vanderkitten’s Jen Wilson … them girls got speed and always bring game.
Can’t wait to see how it shakes down.
Next up … the men ~ another all balls, no brains endeavor?
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