The 2006 Verge New England Championship Cyclo-cross Series, wraps up this weekend, and the race for elite championships are still wide open. Both races of the Rhode Island double header, Saturday’s W.E. Stedman Grand Prix in South Kingston and Sunday’s Caster’s cyclo-cross in Warwick, offer their own challenges to riders vying for the championship.
The W.E. Stedman course is a fast, open, and often blustery tour around the grounds at the Curtis Corner Middle School, which favors sheer power. Promoter Chris Milliman told Cyclingnews that the courses are expected to remain dry throughout the weekend, and the weather is predicted to be sunny and unusually warm.
"Saturday's race is in a field that is never very wet... I wouldn't describe it as a technical course - it's definitely is a power course, but there are a couple of sections where you have to watch yourself, or you could get into trouble coming into something too hot". The race on Sunday will be a different affair, offering up a long section of sand that will have the riders running more than they're accustomed to.
Last year's US national champion Todd Wells will get to wear the stars and stripes one last time at the W.E. Stedman GP, which will serve as a last chance tuning race for the GT rider before next week's national championships, but Wells will not compete in Sunday's race in Warwick.
Mark McCormack (Clif Bar) will have to be on top of his game to take his fifth series title, as he's coming into the final weekend just ten points over former jersey holder Matt White (FiordiFrutta) and a 60-point margin over defending Verge series champion Tim Johnson (Cannondale-cyclocrossworld.com).
In the women's races, Mackenzie Dickey (Verge) holds a tenuous 8-point lead over triple event winner Lyne Bessette (Cyclocrossworld.com) going into the Rhode Island showdown. Bessette needs to beat Dickey on both days to take the overall Verge NECCS Elite Women’s title, but Dickey will surely put in a challenge, having won on the South Kingston in 2005.
The series has been a testament to cyclo-cross' popularity in the US, extending the record breaking entries from the Pacific Northwest to the New England region. "The numbers have been huge this year", said Milliman, "we've broken all of our attendance records. It's definitely been a great series so far".