The furious start to the US domestic race scene continued with Cross Vegas (now a C1) rolling last night. The Sweeck brothers rode away from the field and Laurens took the win over Diether. Jeremy Powers finished third, 15 seconds back. Most of the top cross talent currently within the United States decided to skip Vegas, with the Trek World Cup race coming up. But it was still a C1, which offers up a lot of UCI points, and it is surprising so few riders decided to race. CX Magazine has a good recap here, if you're interested.
The weekend of cross races at the Trek Bicycle Company world headquarters begin with Friday's C2 race, featuring a strong lineup for both men and women. In the men's race, Stephen Hyde, Kerry Werner, and Steve Chainel look to be favored. Gage Hecht and Spencer Petrov should turn in good performances as well.
In the women's race, Caroline Mani, Katie Keough, and Rebecca Fahringer headline. No European women have yet shown up on the start list, but if Helen Wyman or Ellen Van Loy show up, they will also be in the mix.
le Coupe du Monde #2
The 2017 version of the Trek World Cup basically runs in reverse of last year's course. The most noticeable changes come around the start/finish stretch, but shouldn't dictate the outcome of the race much. It's a more technical course than what the riders faced in Iowa, but it's also quite flat. Lap times were fast last year, and should be fast again. Trek Factory Hill could be the deciding obstacle in the race, with what was a steep plunge and a sharp right hand turn into an off camber climb becoming an off camber descent leading to a steep (but short) run up. Given the bone dry forecast, it should be rideable. Those that don't carry enough speed through the corner at the base might end up dismounting, but otherwise it's just difficult enough that a little faster ride over the top each lap could give someone a definite advantage.
Of course, this being a cyclocross race in weather conditions more commonly found in le Tour, the most likely scenario is that the run up doesn't matter at all and neither does the sand or the singletrack or the pit lanes. We'll instead see a long line of riders for ten laps and the strongest legs are first, the second strongest legs are second, the third strongest legs are third, and so on for fifty-ish riders.
That's prime beach weather. It's very much not prime race bikes in a field weather. We should see quite a few riders choosing to carry bottles.
Can Anyone Beat Nash and Van der Poel?
Well, yes and no.
I'm leaning heavily on Katie Keough to win the women's race on Sunday. She looked strong in Iowa, she scored a strong victory in Rochester a couple of weeks ago, and this course doesn't have a long climb or descent for Katerina Nash to get separation. Katie Compton is racing, but she's dealing with a "sternoclavicular joint sprain", per Mark Legg and it will likely hurt her chances of landing on the podium. Keough won on Sunday in Waterloo last year, and I think she does it again for the World Cup. She seems to be coming into form at the right time, and I'm rooting for a 50 minute battle between her and Nash. I give Nash a slight edge in the technical stuff, but Keough is strong enough to stay in contact and get separation when it matters: over the top of Trek Factory Hill and onto the finishing stretch.
Top five prediction:
- Katie Keough
- Katerina Nash
- Caroline Mani
- Ellen Noble
- Katie Compton
Noble is my podium dark horse. I think she'll have a little better showing than she had in Iowa, and if some things go right for her, or others make a mistake, she has the power to ride at the front of the race. It's only a matter of time for Noble to take over Compton's reign at the top of American cross. While it's quite unlikely it happens this season, it won't be surprising if we see flashes of her potential this year. She's still very young.
In the men's race, Mathieu Van Der Poel should grab an easy victory again. I did not expect him to run away with the Jingle Cross race like he did. Obviously he has good form and fitness coming off his mountain bike season, which plays well on the course at Jingle Cross. Though to see him ride away from the field basically as soon as the whistle blew was shocking. So too was the disappearance of Wout Van Aert. It's like the two were riding through different course conditions. If Van Der Poel had a tailwind and a dirt track, Van Aert looked like he was pedaling through mud.
Van Der Poel is the strongest right now, and it will be obvious again on Sunday. I think Van Aert gets his legs back, but it won't be enough to overcome Van Der Poel. The men's race will likely be very fast and more a race of attrition than anything else. Laurens Sweeck and Quinten Hermans were the only other riders to show much power last week, and it is unlikely much has changed.
Top five prediction:
- Mathieu Van Der Poel
- Laurens Sweeck
- Wout Van Aert
- Kevin Pauwels
- Quinten Hermans
As for the American men, I think Stephen Hyde can sneak into the top ten if he has a good day. Kerry Werner and Jeremy Powers will likely find themselves somewhere in the top 25.
Equal prize money!
It is great to see Trek step up and offer equal prize money for the men and women racers. There is no reason this can’t be standard, but until the UCI mandates equal payouts, it will be up to promoters to decide whether or not to put up an equal purse.
Schedule and Viewing
Trek is providing livestreams of the races free of charge, free of geographic restrictions, and in HD on any device. This is really the way it should be. Tune in if you get the chance so Trek knows it’s worth it.
14:00 local time (central)
15:30 local time (central)
Recommended food and drink
Wisconsin cuisine is about as American as it gets, and if you're looking for a culinary pairing to the afternoon racing, I recommend anything from Wisconsin's own New Glarus Brewing Company. If you're lucky enough to live within their distribution network, you can't go wrong.
For the main course, go for some cheese curds. You can't miss with the Midwest's squeakiest, most versatile food product. They're basically our poutine, and, in fact, would probably be quite good as a garnish on your poutine.