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Nearly 5,000 cyclo-cross racers and spectators will descend upon Roger Williams Park in Providence, Rhode Island this weekend for the UCI C1 and C2 Providence Cyclo-cross Festival. This weekend marks the second round of the Shimano New England Professional CX Series.
Big names expected to contest the men's events are Rapha-Focus teammates Jeremy Powers and Chris Jones, Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld teammates Tim Johnson, Ryan Trebon, and Jamey Driscoll, Ben Berden (Raleigh/Clement), Ian Field (Hargrove Cycles – Specialized), and Luke Keough (Keough Cyclocross).
In the women's events, racers will have to try their best to defeat Helen Wyman (Kona Factory Racing), hot off back to back wins in Gloucester. Looking to take the top step of the podium from Wyman will be the Rapha-Focus pair of Gabby Day and Julie Krasniak, Meredith Miller (Cal Giant/Specialized), Lea Davison (Specialized Racing), and an amateur who surprised many of the big names in Gloucester last weekend, Crystal Anthony (CyclocrossWorld).
There has been much talk of major course changes heading into this weekend, but according to race promoter and world-renowned race announcer Richard Fries, the courses will stay pretty true to the originals set by Tom Stevens. Fries did hire a new, young designer to assist in this year's layouts, though. At just 26 years old, course designer Patrick Goguen has added a few features this year.
"Patrick has brought in a European-style flyover," said Fries, "which is not that significant of a race feature, but it enhances the venue flow for mechanics and spectators. He has also added a feature he has coined ‘The Black Hole.'"
Professional racers Tim Johnson (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld) and Meredith Miller (Cal Giant/Specialized) both visited the venue this week and offered their feedback on the new courses.
"I haven't seen the entire course for either day, but Roger Williams Park is so big and has so much potential I am looking forward to what is new," said Johnson. "What I did see is a course that is technical and requires a lot of power."
Miller echoed Johnson's sentiments about the course, saying, "There are wide open sections where you can put down the power, but there are also tight, tricky, technical sections that are also steep and punchy."
One such section is a two-step run-up in a section of the course they call "The Bowl." In years past, the same section has had tightly-spaced steps that were impossible to ride, but this year, Goguen has opted for just two steps that will pay dividends to the riders capable of riding them instead of dismounting.
"It's like we saw in Madison a few weeks ago," said Miller, "those who were able to ride the two-step section were able to gain three to four seconds each lap. The same could happen here, and it won't matter if you're leading or chasing, you're still going to gain three to four seconds every time you can ride that section and that's a lot."
Adding to the mystery of the new course designs this weekend will be the weather. Consistent rain during the week leading to these events has already soaked a course that Miller called "soggy and heavy," and there are rumors of rain at least one day this weekend.
When asked how Johnson thought rain would affect the races in Providence, he said, "Mistakes will have major consequences and cause major separations. Either way, the rider who can put down the most power over the last twenty minutes is going to win."