Despite a severe ice storm that has coated the state of Kansas in a thick layer of ice, record numbers of cyclo-cross racers are ready to brave the wintry conditions in order to contend for the coveted stars and stripes jersey.
A record 2,045 entries over some 40 races were received for the 2007 USA Cycling Cyclo-cross National Championships in Kansas City, Kansas, which begins Thursday at the Wyandotte County Park. The entries topped last year's participation in Providence, Rhode Island by more than 100 entries.
"We've achieved our first goal - which was to better last year's total," said Race Director Bill Marshall of KLM Marketing Solutions. "Our next goal is to make sure that every racer comes away from the event with a positive experience."
Sean Weide, a media liason for the organization, told Cyclingnews that the weather will be cold but should remain dry for the races. While other cities in the region have had widespread power outages, Weide said the area of the hotels and the airport have not lost power.
"We had a crew out at the course in advance of freezing temperatures today in order to groom the course to make sure it's in good condition if the ground stays frozen," Weide explained. "The freezing rain is predicted to end at midnight Tuesday, and there is no more precipitation predicted through Sunday. It will be cold and the course will get muddy, but there shouldn't even be significant wind chill."
The athletes competing in this year's championships come from 45 states, plus the District of Columbia. California will have the most representatives - 109 - followed by Kansas with 80 and Missouri with 79.
The Masters Men's 35-39 category has the most entries - 171 - followed closely by Elite men, which has 167 athletes registered, and Masters Men's 40-44 division, which has 161.
Defending Elite Men's champion Ryan Trebon and Women's Elite champion Katie Compton are among the nation's best athletes ready to line up at this week's championships.
Compton, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, has won the past three Women's Elite titles and was the silver medalist at the 2007 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships. The 29-year-old is currently the number two-ranked female cyclo-cross racer in the world, according to the latest UCI ratings. Her strongest competition in the 98-rider Elite Women's field is expected to come from Georgia Gould (Ketchum, Idaho) and Kerry Barnholt (Boulder, Colorado).
Gould took four of six races and the overall series title at the 2007 U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclo-cross presented by Crank Brothers, and currently holds the 2007 USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Champion title. The 27-year-old finished second to Compton last year. Barnholt, 24, finished third last year at nationals and was 15th at the World Championships.
Trebon, a resident of Corvallis, Oregon, won the 2007 overall series title of the USGP. The 26-year-old is expected to be strongly challenged by a host of contenders that includes three-time national cyclo-cross champion Jonathan Page (Sunweb Pro Job), USGP series runner-up Tim Johnson (Leer/Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld), 2003 collegiate cyclo-cross champion Barry Wicks (Kona-YourKey), seven-time Junior and Under 23 cyclo-cross champion Jesse Anthony (Jamis), and 2006 U.S. Cyclo-cross World Championship team member Jeremy Powers (Cyclocrossworld).
In addition to Trebon and Compton, 13 others are defending their national titles in their category:
Junior Women 13-14: Elizabeth White (Bedford, N.H.)
Junior Women 15-16: Coryn Rivera (Tustin, Calif.)
Junior Women 17-18: Danielle Haulman (Denver, Colo.)
Under 23 Female: Amy Dombroski (Boulder, Colo.
Masters Men 35-39: Richard Feldman (Ketchum, Idaho)
Masters Men 45-49: Steve Tilford (Topeka, Kan.)
Masters Men 50-54: Ned Overend (Durango, Colo.)
Masters Men 55-59: Fred Wittwer (Charlottesville, Va.)
Masters Men 65-69: Rob Lea (Taneytown, Md.)
Masters Women 40-44: Sami Fournier (Bend, Ore.)
Masters Women 45-49: Catherine Walberg (Topeka, Kan.)
Masters Women 50-54: Kathy Sarvary (Lunenburg, Mass.)
Masters Women 60-64: Julie Lockhart (Dunstable, Mass.)
Tilford and Walberg are two "local" favorites who will be racing on what can be considered their "home turf." Tilford, 47, is a four-time cyclo-cross national champion who won the 2007 Oklahoma State Cyclo-cross Championship race Sunday. Walberg, 44, is a four-time Kansas State Cyclo-cross champion.
Admission is free and there is no charge for parking. The complete event schedule is available at www.kccrossnationals.com.