The USA Cycling Cyclo-cross National Calendar (CXNC) is approaching its first C1 event - CrossVegas - on Wednesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. The twilight race will showcase many of the nation's top ten 'cross contenders, including last year's overall series winner Jeremy Powers (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com).
"It was awesome to go for the series but I don't think anyone starts out by saying they are going to target it," said Powers. "It is something people start to think about once the season gets underway. Last year I had a chance to do a couple of races that the other guys didn't. It shows consistency throughout the season from September all the way through December."
The CXNC's 53-round series kicked off at the Nittany Lion Cross in Trexlertown, Pennsylvania, on September 11 and will conclude at the USA Cycling Cyclo-cross National Championships in Bend, Oregon, on December 12. Cyclingnews looks at the top ten riders from last year's standings who are scheduled to contest many of the series' races across the country.
The Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com trio swept the top three positions in last year's series overall standings. The title went to Jeremy Powers, followed by US national champion and the North American Cyclo-cross Trophy (NACT) series winner Tim Johnson and Jamey Driscoll. Johnson had a good start to the season, winning back-to-back Green Mountain Cyclo-cross events in Vermont last weekend. Driscoll won Cross Vegas last year and all three New England natives are expected to deliver another strong showing on Wednesday.
"It would be great to win CrossVegas again but I haven't been training specifically for that," explained Driscoll. "It was such a good opportunity for me to win but this time I won't be an underdog or be able to slip away like I did last year. I'm not going into it expecting to win again because there are going to be a lot of fast European guys there. Our team is going to race as hard as we possibly can to get somebody a win there."
Ryan Trebon (KONA-FSA) is 6'5" and known as one his team's 'Twin Towers'. He landed in fourth place in the rankings last season and no doubt plans to spoil the Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com parade by moving into a top three position this year.
He represents the west coast, coming from Bend, Oregon, and is a former national champion and the current US Grand Prix of Cyclo-cross (USGP) title holder. He recently placed second in the first round of the NACT series, StarCrossed, in Washington. His favourite CXNC series event is Granogue Cross in Delaware.
"Not only is it where I had my first real break out race but it's one of the most scenic venues, one of the hardest, most physically and technical courses we race in the USA all year," said Trebon. "The race promoter Tom McDaniel does a great job and I am very grateful that the Dupont family [owners of the Dupont Estate grounds] lets us ruin their grass every year."
After placing fifth last year, Dan Timmerman will not be participating in cyclo-cross this year but the man who took sixth, Chris Jones (Rapha-Focus), will be one of the riders to look out for. Jones hails from the east coast but recently moved to Auburn, California, a city that has proclaimed itself as the endurance capital of the world. Time will tell if Jones can live up to his city's expectations during this year's lengthy national calendar of events.
Also a former national champion, Todd Wells (Specialized) ranked seventh place on the national calendar last year and is a one of the most talented cyclo-cross racers in the country. He spends most of his season competing on the international mountain bike circuit and typically gets a late but strong start to the 'cross season.
"I have a very hectic mountain bike season with lots of international travel and I need a break after that before I can really focus again on cross," Wells said. "That works out perfect for having good form later in the season."
Slotting into eighth place was Italian Davide Frattini (Hudz-Subaru), who is best known for winning the Girobio, or 'Baby giro' on the road. He migrated Stateside six years ago to compete in full-time road racing. He's also a member of the Italian national cyclo-cross team and is one of several foreigners to early jump start to the 'cross season in the US. He recently won back-to-back Charm City Cross races in Maryland last weekend.
"Well, I'm not American so I can't do US nationals but I will do my best to get as many points as possible in the races that I will attend this year," said Frattini. "If I have to choose one weekend to do well in it would be at the Boulder Cup races because that is where my new team is from."
New Hampshire native Jonathan Page (Planet Bike) was number nine and arguably the most prized cyclo-cross talent in the US. He is a three-time US national champion and was the first American man to stand on the podium at the UCI Elite Cyclo-cross World Championships, capturing a silver medal in 2007. Page now competes in a full European cyclo-cross schedule and resides in Oudenaarde, Belgium, with his family.
Barry Wicks (KONA-FSA) stands at 6'4" and is known as his team's other 'Twin Tower' and is a former USGP series winner. He rounded out the top 10 in the CXNC series despite taking on a more reduced schedule. Although it's not part of the national series, his favourite race is the Alpenrose Bike Challenge.
"My favourite 'cross race of all time is the Alpenrose in Portland," said Wicks. "It's where I did my first ever 'cross race and has been the site of Super Cup races, USGP events and countless Cross Crusade races.
The venue is very small and intimate. It almost always incorporates the legendary and fearsome 43 degree banked Alpenrose Velodrome and it is usually muddy as hell. All those things, combined with massive numbers of spectators, lots of beer and waffles and cut throat racing makes it my all time favourite cyclo-cross race."