After years of defying the traditional European schedule, the US is finally holding its cross national championships in January. Races have been running since Wednesday, but things really reach a peak with U23 nationals on Saturday followed by Elite Men's and Women's races on Sunday. Links to coverage, course info, and more below!
As Lyne from -podiuminsight- put it, "this whole course is a power section." Constantly up and down and without a lot of technical sections, the course favors a rider who can put out a lot of watts over the course for an hour. But, don't let that deceive you - there are plenty of things to make the course challenging technically. First, even after a weekend of regional racing on the exact same loop, it is extremely bumpy. Pair that with a fast descent followed immediately by a hard right hander into a run/ride up with barriers at the top and you get a situation that will certainly test riders' mettle.
The bigger challenge is likely to come from the weather conditions. The course has been freezing every night and thawing as the day goes on. Renown American pro Adam Meyerson says "Course is plenty hard, much hillier than described, treacherous in spots, somewhat monotonous. Thin layer of mud on frozen ground now." It's not regular mud, though - according to Meyerson, typical mud tires (like a Challenge Limus) have too much traction, so a more all-conditions tire like a Challenge Grifo, run at super low pressures, will be best. On Sunday, temperatures will be a few degrees over freezing with a high chance of a hard freeze the preceding night, so conditions should be rather slippery. Yay mud! On ice!
Jeremy Powers, Ryan Trebon, Tim Johnson, Jamie Driscoll, Chris Jones... Familiar names if you've followed the US cross scene over the last few years, and all names you can expect to see in the top 10 come Sunday. BUT, Johnathan Page (remember him?) is coming across the pond to do a rare race stateside as well. Trebon and Powers have been head and shoulders above everyone else on the domestic circuit this year, with Tim Johnson beginning to find some legs at the last USGP races in Bend. But where do we factor Page in?
Page is an enigma. He's been pulling in good results for him - 10th to 20th in a number of World Cup, Superprestige, and GVA races. So how does that rank up against domestic big boys like Powers, Johnson, and Trebon? Well, Powers nabbed a 10th at the Plzen World Cup and Johnson has gone top-20 this year as well, so they're on the same page, especially when you factor in Powers and Johnson having to deal with travel to Europe. Page finished ahead of all the domestic guys in the second USGP race in Madison earlier, but behind them the day before. So, shall we consult our oracle?
@AdamMyerson I'd call it 1/2 Ryan, 1/2 Jeremy, something Page would crash out of, and Tim would win. Assuming all at full strength.
There. It should be an awesome throw down, period. My money is on Trebon, though the conditions should suit Johnson really well. Powers is coming in a little less fresh than possible because he's focusing also on Worlds and the last two World Cup races, though he doesn't think this will affect him much. FWIW, Trebon bested Powers twice last weekend...
On the women's side, it's hard to see beyond Katie Compton for the win. She's won the last 7 years straight, for goodness sake. But who will podium behind her? Nicole Duke (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) was on fire in the last USGP weekend in Bend, finishing 2nd one day and having a mechanical that cost her 2nd the day before. Duke's teammate Katie Antonneau will be good too - she finished a career-best 10th at the World Cup race in Namur a few weeks ago. Meredith Miller and Teal Stetson-Lee of Cal Giant - Specialized also performed strongly over the latter part of the season, so they should be in contention for a podium spot along with Mo Bruno-Roy of Bob's Red Mill.
As with the USGP series, Cyclingdirt will have live coverage and commentary on the website for the Elite Women's and Men's races on Sunday. Also, you should just check the site out for some cool pre-race interviews with Johnson, Trebon, and others.
Schedule for the events is below:
Elite Women 12:00PM CST (7:00PM CET)
Elite Men 2:15PM CST (9:15PM CET)