The first of the 2005 Verge New England Championship Cyclo-Cross Series kicks off this Saturday with the Downeast Cyclo-Cross in New Gloucester, Maine. All six Verge NECCS races boast prize lists of at least $5,000, with overall elite men's and women's series winners splitting a $1,000 payday.
In an effort to draw quality fields, this year's series offers two sets of "double dip weekends" with races on Saturday and Sunday: November 12-13 in Farmington, Conn. and Northampton, Mass., and December 3-4 in Rhode Island, the latter coming less than a week before and only a few miles away from the start of the National Cyclocross championships.
Four-time defending Elite Men's series champion Mark McCormack (Team Clif Bar) comes into 2005 with perhaps the best fitness of his career and seems on course to tally a fifth Verge crown. However, the return of local legend Tim Johnson (Cyclo-Crossworld-Louis Garneau) to the cyclo-cross fold after a three-year hiatus could provide a worthy challenge to McCormack. Adam Craig (Giant), series runner-up in 2004, will follow up his highly successful summer of World Cup mountain bike racing with another full slate of New England 'cross racing.
As for the out-of-town set, Todd Wells (GT-Hyundai), Ryan Trebon and Barry Wicks (Kona-Les Gets), Ben Turner (TIAA-CREF) and six-time Canadian cyclo-cross champion Peter Wedge (Kona-Les Gets) head the list of challengers. Six-time US national champion Jesse Anthony (Team Clif Bar) will try to defend his Under-23 national and Verge Series titles on home soil. Anthony figures to face challenges from Todd Wells (TIAA-CREF) and Tommy Magrath (Redline).
Canadian Lyne Bessette (Cyclo-Crossworld-Louis Garneau) figures to be the odds-on favorite for the entirety of the New England series. The only North American to win a cyclo-cross World Cup, Bessette figures to contest all six NECCS events after nearly three years out of the sport. Local and regional racers lining up to take their best shot at Bessette include 2004 Verge Series runner-up, Maureen Bruno Roy (Independent Fabrication), Anna Milkowski (Team Lipton), McKenzie Dickey (Bicycle Alley), Pauline Frascone (Independent Fabrication), Rebecca Wellons (Gearworks-Spin Arts), and Marianne Stover (Independent Fabrication). The wildcard in the Verge Series remains two-time defending series champion Mary McConneloug (Kenda-Seven Cycles), coming off the back of a fifth-place overall in this year's mountain bike World Cup.
More information: http://necyclocross.com/
Verge New England Championship Cyclo-Cross Series
October 15 - Downeast Cyclo-Cross, New Gloucester, ME
November 12 - ChainBiter 7.0 Cyclo-Cross, Farmington, CT
November 13 - Cycle-Smart International Cyclo-Cross, Northampton, MA
November 26 - Gearworks Bay State Cyclo-Cross, Sterling, MA
December 3 - W. E. Stedman Co. Grand Prix of Cyclo-Cross, S. Kingstown, RI
December 4 - Castor's Grand Prix, Warwick, RI