Race Preview: USGP of Cyclocross Round 4

Tim Johnson on the front at last weekend's CXLA UCI race.
Photo: Christopher See.

Guess what, there are big cross races outside Belgium! No, I'm not talking about Igorre, Spain (besides, that was last weekend). I'm talking about the US Grand Prix (USGP) of Cyclocross series, by far the most prestigious series this side of the Atlantic. Think about it as America's version of the GVA or Superprestige series.

Anyway, the fourth and final round of the USGP is this weekend in Bend, Oregon. Unlike the European series, the USGP clusters its races into two-day weekends. Which means two days of great racing in the same venue, which is just awesome. Follow below the jump for a look at the course, the players, and where to follow the racing on the interwebs!

Where are we racing?

First, lets talk about the course. This stop of the series is sponsored by Deschutes Brewery, so naturally the race takes place on the Deschutes Brewery grounds. This is the same venue as the 2009 and 2010 National Championships, but the course layout is slightly different this time around. The only elevation change comes in the way of a few short up/down sections that gain a maximum of 3 meters, a flyover, and some steps. The course has a distinctly American flair, having a lot more tight twists and turns than your average World Cup / GVA / Superprestige race does. For a map, see below.

Bend-course_medium

Lot of squiggles, no? We like our turns! via www.usgpcyclocross.com

If you paid attention, last year's US Cross Nationals were a true mud fest. This is Oregon we're talking about, and in December no less, so the chances of melting snow or sheets of rain are high. Unfortunately, there won't be awesome puddles of standing water on the course this year. (Remember the huge puddle at the bottom of the run/ride up? That was fun!!!). No, mother nature has decided to give us a pretty dry set of races this weekend. No sense of fun there... No rain or snow in the past week plus temps in the 40s Saturday with sun means the races will be fast, though there is a chance of snow on Sunday that could make things a little slippery. Please, GS, do your rain dance for us too?

The Riders

On the men's side, the most talked about rider is conspicuously absent. Bend native Ryan Trebon (LTS-Felt) is out with a knee injury sustained at the last round of the USGP series in Louisville, KY, a few weeks ago. Though he can ride just fine, some tears to his quadriceps above the knee make it impossible for him to run. Trebon's absence is a double bummer because he was leading the USGP series by a wide margin until his wreck a few weeks ago. In Trebon's absence, the favorite for the weekend's races must be Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus), who came out on top both days in the last USGP stop and who skipped racing last weekend to train and ensure he came into these races fresh.

Teal Stetson-Lee (Cal Giant) in the mud
at the USGP New Belgium, Fort Collins.
Photo: Christopher See.

He can count on major competition from Tim Johnson (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com), a multi-time former national champion, who is just beginning to find his legs. One of the few Euro riders at the races will be Ben Berden (Ops-Ale), a Belgian crosser in the twilight stages of his career who swapped wins with Johnson last weekend in California. Johnson's teammates Jamey Driscoll and Christian Heule (Switzerland) are never far from the podium and both finished on the podium both days in New England's NECX UCI races last weekend. Power's teammate Chris Jones will be in the top 10, but he'll be wishing the course will magically turn into slop between now and Saturday.

For the women, keep an eye on Katarina Nash (Luna Chix, Czech Republic) and Kaitlin Antonneau (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com). With Katie Compton still in Europe, one of these two women are likely to take the top step of the podium. Nash's pedigree is well established, especially after taking a win at the World Cup race in Tabor earlier this season. Antonneau is on the rise, a young 19-year-old and reigning U-23 national champion who out-sprinted Nash for 2nd behind Katie Compton in the second day of USGP Louisville. (Sidenote - I was in the same field as Kaitlin a few weeks ago and she didn't pass me! But, she wasn't really riding nearly as hard as I was...)

Meredith Miller (Cal Giant - Specialized) is the rider most likely to challenge these two. Miller is on a run of form, winning 4/5 of her last UCI races. Behind Miller, a host of strong national regional riders like Laura van Gilder, Sue Butler, Nicole Duke, and Teal Stetson-Lee will be vying for a spot in the top 5.

Coverage!!!

So now that you are EXCITED!!!, how do you watch? Well, you're in luck in two ways. First, live coverage and commentary will be online at CyclingDirt. Second, this is American racing, so it'll come on hours after the Euro racing is done for the day. Two cross races in a day? YES PLEASE.

Here's your Time Schedule for both days:

2:00 PM Womens Preview
2:15 PM Elite Women's Race
3:15 PM Men's Preview
3:30 PM Elite Men's Race

Note, these times are Pacific Standard Time (PST). Start times are 17:00/18:30 EST and 23:00/24:30 Belgium Time

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