Though we're already one month into the North American cyclocross season - in the better late than never category - here's a little primer to keep track of the racers. (btw found out that primer in this case pronounced pr-ee-mer and not pr-i-mer because that's the stuff on the wall before you pain... but I digress)
The big story at the start of the season was the expected crossclash between Jeremy Powers and Tim Johnson. After years of racing on Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com team and simply dominating the last couple of years, Powers moved to headline the Rapha-Focus squad, and it's a big deal. Last year, we saw an inkling of what the racing could be like when the two really battled for the win, a nail-biting, on the edge of your seat racing.
Well, that clash hasn't happened – yet - as Johnson is having a very slow start to the season, but another battle did ensue. To the pleasure of the fans, the Ryan Trebon of old is back. Trebon who dominated the scene a couple of years ago decided to strike on out his own after many years of racing on KONA, creating his own team LTS/Felt – a team of one at the moment. The eponymous LTS is named for the two principles Dusty Labarr, the team manager & mechanic and Ryan Trebon.
It's been a no holds barred duel between Powers and Trebon with neither dominating. With the European season starting later, Belgians Bart Wellens and Rob Peeters (Telenet-Fidea) came over to check out the racing one year ahead of the 2013 World Championships to be held in Louisville, KY. Wellens came away with three wins and new few found respect for the extra hurdle the US racers face with all the traveling.
We still have three more months of racing, and I fully expect the Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com trio to come into their stride and start being players for the wins. And of course, there are a lot more racers, including the working men that often battle for the 5 to 10 positions, so here's brief who's who of North American cross racing, XY edition.
Note: having issue with image formatting - but will be adding some soon! I promise
Jamey Driscoll (24) Cannondale-cyclocrossworld.com
Driscoll is a diesel engine, he just keeps on going and going and has consistently finished in the top 10 this year at UCI races. His admitted weakness are slow starts.
His first national title was the 2003 Junior National cyclocross championships, followed by 2007 Collegiate Cyclocross National Championships and the 2009 Collegiate National Road Championships.
His first big win as an Elite rider was CrossVegas in 2009 when he solo'ed to the win. These past two years, he's also been racing with the Jamis/Sutter Home team during road season and also just graduated with a mechnical engineering degree from University of Vermont.
Christian Heule (36) Cannondale-cyclocrossworld.com
Six-time and reigning Swiss National Champion Heule brings tons of experience and top 10 finishes at the World Championships to the Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com team. He also finished 12th in last year UCI cross rankings.
In his last year of racing, Heule moved his family to Massachussetts to do a mostly US racing season with the team along with a few select World Cups. He won the first day of GP Gloucester this year but has to skip tomorrow's World Cup due to injured rib sustained in a crash during a race.
Tim Johnson (34) Cannondale-cyclocrossworld.com
So many titles under his belt, including six US National Cyclocross Championships in junior, U23 and Elite categories, Johnson is known as a mudder. He relishes the sloppy, slippery, muddy conditions. In 2011, the bronze medalist the U23 World Championships, changed everything with a focus on the 2013 Worlds. After years of racing and being the team captain of UnitedHealthcare, Johnson put the road racing aside and only did a few road and mountain bike races this year.
He knew that he would have a slow start to the season, his words to me were "I’ll call it right now. I’m going to suck." And well, lets be honest he was right. Though he showed glimpses of the old Johnson in GP Gloucester, he has no had a great start. But I would not count him out by any means, I fully expect Johnson to get better and better.
Chris Jones (32) Rapha-Focus
Though Jones is definitely a roadie, racing with the UnitedHealthcare, he has embraced cross racing. With his background, he does well in dry and fast conditions. He had to sit out the early races still nursing an injury sustained at the Tour of Britain, but he came back strong at USGP Ft Collins where he launched a solo move early forcing the others to chase him down.
With Jones racing in top form, the Rapha-Focus squad will be able to utilize some interesting race tactics the rest of the season.
Geoff Kabush (34) Maxxis-rocky mountain
Tough mountain biker, Kabush races cross for fun and fitness, he can not be discounted as a contender. He showed it clearly at USGP New Belgium Cup last weekend, where he finished second in cold, muddy conditions.
With his focus on the upcoming Olympic Games, the Canadian will contest some of the bigger cross races but will not racing in Europe.
Adam Myerson (39) SmartStop/MOB p/b Ridley
Myerson wears many hats. In addition to racing cross, he is also a race promoter, with the oldest UCI race in the country, the Cycle-Smart International in Northampton, MA; a series organizer with the Shimano New England Professional Cyclocross Series and Verge New England Championship Cyclocross Series; and coach with his company Cycle-Smart. Also, Myerson was the only American on the UCI cross commission until 2009.
A criterium specialist on the road, Myerson also races, and manages, the Team Mountain Khakis.
If you're on twitter, you know Myerson, who often shares his inner thoughts and feelings about his life.
Jonathan Page (35) Planet Bike/Blue
Page is also a multi-time US National Champion, in the junior, U23 and Elite categories. As an elite, he won the Stars & Stripes for three years in a row ending in 2004. Page chose a different road than many of the other US racers, he along with his family moved lock, stock & barrel to Belgium to pursue cross racing six years ago. Since then, he typically starts his racing season in the USA and does not return until Nationals. This year, he tallied three podiums in five races before returning to Europe.
Page will be racing the World Cups, Superprestige, GVA Trofee and the Fidea Cup, and he's hoping that the bad luck is behind him.
"I want my results to speak for themselves. Yeah, I could tell that I’m good all day long but until you get in the top, whatever, 10, 5, then it’s all talk. I don’t like talking." he told me.
With a few more years of racing left, Page is hoping to make it back onto the Worlds podium which he did in 2007 with a second place finish at Hooglede-Gits.
Jeremy Powers (28) Rapha-Focus
It's been said before, but Powers is the best US racer without a national title. He has had bad luck after bad luck at US Nationals including last year when he was in a front group of two vying for the win. The two riders tangled when Powers went down on a muddy corner, and the other rider had to put a foot down on Powers' wheel. The two got back up quickly but then Powers saw that his wheel wasn't moving and raised his fist in the air in pure raw emotion to see the title disappear from his grasp, again. The other rider was Todd Wells who went on to win the title.
After a tremendous season last year, which included winning the USGP overall, Powers moved on to headline the Rapha-Focus squad.
Known for his very fast starts and bunny hopping and riding over stairs and other difficulties, Powers likes to go off early and force the others to chase. Or as he told me, "I love to be able to win the race outright and just to blow it up right away, that’s something I’m strong at."
And let's not forget the fabulous Behind the Barriers series, where Powers provides an honest glimpse of his life as a pro cross racer.
Ryan Trebon (30) LTS/Felt
After somewhat lackluster couple of years compared to his own previous results, Trebon is strong, very very strong, this season. His form harkens back to the Trebon of old who dominated the cross scene, winning pretty much everything from 2006 to 2008. During that period, the 6.5 feet-tall rider won the USA National Cross Championships (in 2006 and 2008), the USA Mountain-Bike National Championships in cross-country (2006) and short track (2007). He also won the overall USGP four times, so far.
Trebon is another one that changed his approach this year. After years of cross and mountain-bike racing with KONA, as part of the 'Twin Pillars' with Barry Wicks, Trebon struck out on his own.
After admitting to maybe being complacent, it was just time for something new. "Why now? Now is as good a time as any right? Why wait for 3 years. Cyclocross is growing, Worlds coming here and it would bring more interest." he told me earlier this year about the move.
Known for his power, Trebon started the season strong, winning two USGPs races and showing that he is serious.
Todd Wells (35) Specialized
Wells had an amazing year in 2010, he did the trifecta, winning three National titles in one year with cross, cross-country and short track mountain biking. It was the third Cross National title for the mountain biker who had previously won in 2001 and 2005. He had another banner year in 2011 as the cross-country National Champ in 2011 and finished seventh at cross-country Worlds.
With his main focus on mountain-biking, Wells doesn't race that many cross races and has also announced that he will not be racing at the USA Cross Nationals in Madison in January.
The working men of cross. Most of the other riders that finish in the top 10 at the UCI races can be considered working men, they all hold 'real' jobs. Riders such as Ryan Knapp (27) Bob's Red Mill, Justin Lindine (27) bikereg.com/Joe’s Garage, Brian Matter (33) Geargrinder and Tristan Schouten (29) cyclocrossracing.com.
WorkIng man Lindine broke through in a big way last weekend when he swept Providence Cross Festival. He soloed on both days to claim his 1st & 2nd UCI wins of his elite career. He seems to be on a tear right now, and I'll be watching to see if he can keep it up for the rest of the season.
On the U23 front
Yannick Eckmann (17) Pear Izumi
On his first year as an espoir rider, Eckmann has been tearing it up on the USGP front, he won three races and finished second on the fourth one. Eckmann won the overall last year, sweeping all the races on his final year as a junior racer. In the past, Eckmann was better in dry, fast courses but this year, he has shown that he has improved his skills in the mud.
This year, he has won two of the USGP races and leads the overall in a tight race.
As a German-native but Boulder resident, Eckmann can't race in the USA Nationals and represents his home country when he goes to Worlds. Eckmann also raced on the road with the Hot Tubes Development squad this year. It will be interesting to see how Eckmann develops.
Cody Kaiser (19) California Giant/Specialized
Junior National Champion in 2009, Kaiser admits to not liking to run, you see he loves riding his bike over stairs and bunny-hopping barriers. He is one of the smoothest riders out there when it comes to riding over obstacles. On his second year as an espoir rider, Kaiser has been consistent this year, finishing third in the U23 at every USGP race.
Kaiser raced mountain-bike with teammate Nick Weighall during the spring and summer months to get ready for cross.
Luke Keough (20) Champion System – Keough Cyclocross
Keough is the middle son of the five Keough brothers that race in the USA. In 2006 he won the USA Jr National Championships and followed that up with a 10th place finish at the World Championships. Last year, he won the overall U23 at the USGP series.
Known for fast finishing speed, Keough had a breakout road season this year, winning the overall USA Crits Series with the Mt Khakis team. He then immediately went into the cross season and finished second in the Elite category and won the U23 at the Providence Cyclocross race. Due to his long road season, Keough has not raced against the other U23 riders, yet.
Zach Mcdonald (20) Rapha-Focus
Junior National Champion in 2008, he won the Collegiate National Cross Championship and finished second in the U23 race last year. Third member on the Rapha-Focus squad, McDonald is known for his technical skills and enjoys the mud. The sloppier it is, the better for him.
This year, he has already been on top of a few U23 podiums, sweeping the GP Gloucester and winning two of the USGP races.
McDonald is still in school, studying Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Washington.