By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor
In its third year, the US Grand Prix of Cyclo-cross returns as one of the highlights of the North American 'cross schedule, with three weekends of six UCI races – three of which are rated C1. The first stop is this weekend in Louisville, Kentucky on the site of an old golf course in the city's Champion's Park that makes for a challenging and spectator-friendly course. The festivities begin on Friday with an elite rider number pick-up ceremony as well as a kids' cyclo-cross clinic with riders from Team Clif Bar.
Last year's men's winners in Louisville, teammates Jeremy Powers and Tim Johnson (Cyclocrossworld-Cannondale) will be back to defend, but the series' defending champion Ryan Trebon (Kona) is rolling this season with a number of top wins. The first round of UCI points released this week, show that Powers has only a narrow lead on Trebon, with each taking wins last weekend in Delaware and Pennsylvania. These three have established themselves on top of the North American scene so far this season.
On the women's side, many of the top riders have shifted over to Europe for the UCI world cup series, with another race this weekend. The top UCI women from North America includes the top UCI rider overall – the now four-time Canadian champion Wendy Simms (Kona.) A pleasant surprise this season is Sue Butler (Monavie-Cannondale), who is the top American in ninth place. Outside of the top ten, and definitely not starting this weekend, is US champion Katie Compton (Spike) who pulled out of last weekend's world cup in the first lap with a leg injury.
As such, the top riders staying in North America include defending USGP Champion and local favorite Georgia Gould will be racing along with her Luna Chix teammate Katerina Nash as well as last weekend's winners Laura Van Gilder (C3 Sollay.com) and Deidre Winfield (Velo Bella-Kona).
Regardless of which riders start, the course is definitely a highlight of the weekend. The remnants of the former golf course are used within the course design, including the smooth and fast fairways countered with treacherous sand bunkers. There are also several run-ups and a fly-over. But making things even more interesting is the weather forecast, which is calling for rain.
8:00 am - Cat 4 Men
8:45 am - Junior 10-16, Cat 3/4 Women
9:30 am - Cat 2/3 Men
10:30 am- Masters 45+ / 55+
11:30 am - USGP Juniors 17-18
12:30 pm - USGP Masters 35+ (Cat. 1-3)
1:45 pm - USGP Elite Women (UCI Cat.2)
3:00 pm - USGP Elite Men (UCI Cat. 2)
Stay tuned for Cyclingnews' full coverage of the USGP opener.