All eyes will be on New England this weekend as the only UCI-sanctioned 'cross action in the US takes place at the Cycle-Smart International in Northampton, Massachusetts on November 7-8. In its 19th edition, the Cycle-Smart International is also the oldest UCI 'cross race in the country and veteran course designers JD Bilodeau and Adam Myerson have put together a fast, technical, traditionally New England-style course in the Look Park venue.
The hallmarks of this course - the steep run up and ride up - will make an appearance, as well as the drop off and several raised train track crossings. New for this year, the finish will be moved to the lower level, near the main parking, bringing the action into plain view and making the race much more spectator friendly.
"The venue is two-tiered where there are two plateaus with a steep change in elevation between them. We've moved more of the action, the expo area, the parking and the start-finish line all down on the lower plateau," Myerson told Cyclingnews. "It should be good for everybody because it makes everything more compact. It will be better for spectating as spectators can stand up on the upper plateau and be able to see all the action."
Unlike previous editions of the Cycle-Smart International, this year there are no other UCI races in the US to draw riders to other parts of the country. "Every weekend this year there's a conflict, there's a UCI race on the East coast and a UCI race on the West coast," said Myerson. "We moved one week later so we didn't conflict with Boulder, we've always conflicted with Boulder, and now that we don't conflict with Boulder we don't conflict with anyone.
"We're going to have a few more guys travelling from out of the region than we might normally. Adam Craig is going to show up and that's really good for us. We've had a situation where the Cyclocrossworld guys aren't racing in their home races because they're off somewhere else racing. We're really psyched that Jeremy Powers is going to be home, Jamey Driscoll is going to be home. We're actually going to have all of the best New England riders here racing."
The weather forecast for the weekend should create ideal conditions for the more than 1100 racers expected to participate in the weekend's full race schedule. "We're supposed to get a little bit of snow Thursday and Friday night but it looks like it's going to be great weather on the weekend with [temperatures in the] 50s and sunshine both days," said Myerson. "It's comfortable weather, good for spectating, good for racers and also I expect we'll have a really fast course. If we get a little bit of moisture and then warm weather it will pack down and make for a fast race."
With eight of the 14 races complete in the Verge New England Cyclo-cross Series, Dan Timmerman (Richard Sachs/RGM Watches/Radix) holds a commanding 116-point lead over Luke Keough (Team Champion System) in the Elite men's standings. Timmerman has won four of the eight races contested so far, including a sweep of the Downeast Cyclo-cross weekend in New Gloucester, Maine on October 24-25, and has earned 340 points in the series.
With a maximum of 120 points up for grabs, 60 points for winning each day, it's likely that Timmerman will retain his series into the next round on November 28-29, but he'll be facing some stiff competition each day from the Cyclocrossworld.com/Cannondale duo of Jamey Driscoll and Jeremy Powers. Driscoll, the defending champion from both days of last year's Cycle-Smart International, has yet to step on the top of the podium in any of the four Verge races he's contested, but the only riders to have bested him, Jonathan Page (Planet Bike) and teammate Tim Johnson (Cyclocrossworld.com/Cannondale) will be absent from the starting grid.
While Timmerman has some breathing room at the top of the standings, the riders in second through sixth overall all lie within 34 points of each other. Keough, with 224 points, holds only a one-point lead over third-placed Josh Dillon (Richard Sachs/RGM Watches/Radix) and a four-point advantage over Johnson in fourth. Jerome Townsend (Bikereg.com/Joe's Garage/IF) holds fifth, 19 points behind Keough while Driscoll enters the weekend in sixth overall, 34 points behind Keough.
In the Elite women's standings, Maureen Bruno Roy (MM Racing p/b Seven Cycles) leads the Verge series with 366 points. Bruno Roy has won three of the eight Verge races she's entered, including a sweep of the Downeast Cyclo-cross weekend in New Gloucester, Maine on October 24-25.
Bruno Roy will face a strong field in Northampton with Canada's Natasha Elliott (Garneau Club Chaussure Ogilvy) slated to compete, second overall, 46 points behind Bruno Roy, and a three-time Verge series winner this season. Elliott is the defending champion from the Cycle-Smart International's opening day last year, narrowly beating Laura Van Gilder, and finished second the following day to Van Gilder.
Laura Van Gilder (C3 Athletes Serving Athletes) once again returns to Northampton and should be a strong contender each day along with Andrea Smith (Minuteman Road Club) and Rebecca Wellon (Team Plan C), fourth and fifth overall respectively in the women's Verge series.