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U.S. Racing This Week: Hanson hitting out in Tulsa, Keough and crew to D.C.

It’s a double weekend for the National Racing Calendar with the U.S. Air Force Classic and Tulsa Tough and the top American sprinter in Philadelphia last weekend is headed west. Ken Hanson and Jelly Belly-Kenda appear to be coming around after a rough May; they’ll be hunting prize money and NRC points in Oklahoma starting Friday night and you can watch it live at VeloNews.com/live.

Jelly Belly has come on strong after an Amgen Tour of California that their director Danny Van Haute called “disappointing.” Between Alex Hagman’s $1,100 KOM prize and Ken Hanson’s fourth-place sprint finish, the beans were the top domestic team at the TD Bank International Championships in Philadelphia Sunday. A week earlier, Hanson returned from a hard crash coming off Paris Mountain in the first lap to finish seventh at the U.S. pro road championship.

“I had a tough start for the first couple sprint stages in California,” said Hanson. “I definitely came around and my fitness and form started really coming good.”

Hanson is one of eight new arrivals to the 15-man Jelly Belly roster in 2011. Despite solid results with Team Type 1 a year ago, including a stage win in the 95-mile Menomonie Road Race at the Nature Valley Grand Prix and a narrow miss in stage 2 of the Volta do Rio de Janeiro, the 29-year-old was on the outs last fall. At the U.S. pro championships in September he was disappointed to miss Team Type 1’s jump to Europe.

Nine months later that disappointment is gone and the taste of a new level of speed is left.

“It was just fast. The last 500 meters was fast. I was in my hardest gear and spun out,” said Hanson of his sprint against Alex Rasmussen, Peter Sagan, Robert Förster and others in Philadelphia. “It’s a little different speed you’re racing at with those guys.”

That little different speed was new to Hanson. He’s won the Roswell and Boise criteriums and a stage in the Tour of Korea, but Philadelphia was the first time Hanson was in position to truly go head-to-head with ProTeam sprinters for a win. He admitted a couple of mistakes in coming out of Sagan’s draft too early and not throwing his bike for third against Förster.

“That was the first time racing against those caliber guys where I’m in the position that if I execute right and have a really good sprint, the way things unfold I’ve got a shot at doing really well and possibly winning,” he said. “I have just a massive lack of experience (racing against ProTeam sprinters). It’s knowing how to play, how to time and position your sprint against them.”

With a thin summer of racing ahead for Hanson after next week’s Nature Valley Grand Prix, he’ll take confidence and motivation into Tulsa this weekend. The Santa Barbara, California, based rider will team up with three Jelly Bellies, including two-time defending Tulsa champ Brad Huff.

The Missourian sprinter has been in a tough spot since his win at the Dana Point Grand Prix. An intestinal issue has required two rounds of antibiotics. Side effects of the second round Ciproxin treatment have kept Huff sun sheltered in leg warmers and a hat riding near 100 degrees Fahrenheit in Missouri. According to Hanson, tendon rupture is a potential side effect and Huff has been keeping his training mellow. Still, Hanson’s first priority this weekend is guiding his teammate to his third straight Tulsa Tough title.

“I would love nothing more for him to win it again this year. If he’s on and feeling good and is the Brad Huff he can be, we want to get him that win,” said Hanson.

Van Haute said the Hanson/Huff combination would be potent, but race wins, not repeats, are what he is after. “The combination of Ken and Brad is going to be really awesome this year I think; both of them could do well there,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if Brad three-peats, but we want to win the race. They put on a great show, a great race, and that’s why we go there every year”

Saint Francis Tulsa Tough

Tulsa, Oklahoma
$50,000 purse (men) / $30,000 purse (women)
*Streaming live at VeloNews.com/live

Blue Dome Criterium
Friday June 10 7:10 p.m. (women) / 9:15 p.m. (men)
55 min. (women) / 70 min. (men)

Brady Village Criterium
Saturday June 11 6:35 p.m. (women) / 9:00 p.m. (men)
60 min. (women) / 80 min. (men)

Riverview Criterium
Sunday June 12 2:10 p.m. (women) / 4:25 p.m. (men)
60 min. (women) / 80 min. (men)

U.S. Air Force Cycling Classic

Arlington, Virginia
$25,000 purse (men) / $13,000 purse (women)

Clarendon Cup
Saturday June 11 9:55 a.m. (women) / 12:00 p.m. (men)
80 min. (women) / 135 min. (men)
*National Racing Calendar

Crystal Cup
Sunday June 12 11:40 a.m. (men) / 1:25 p.m. (women)
95 min. (men) / 75 min. (women)

While Jelly Belly will be mixing it up in Tulsa, the majority of the country’s top sprinters are headed for the nation’s capital. The two-day omnium will feature names that include second-place on the NRC Jake Keough (UnitedHealthcare), Jonathan Cantwell (V Australia) and U.S. criterium champ Daniel Holloway (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth).

2011 Air Force Cycling Classic – Start Lists