One week after the Olympic Games mountain bike races, the Subaru Cup will be run as the US Pro XCT final this weekend in Wisconsin. The five-race series, run by USA Cycling, wraps up on Saturday with the UCI category-1 cross country race. Non-UCI categorized short track and super D races will also happen on Sunday.
Outstanding spectator turnout and amateur participation are hallmarks of events hosted by the Wisconsin Off Road Series (WORS), and the Subaru Cup is no exception. Each year when the US Pro XCT Series stops at the Subaru Cup, hundreds of enthusiastic fans line the course, leading many pro racers to draw favorable comparisons to the atmosphere at a World Cup race.
Race conditions should be nice all weekend with temperatures in the 70s and no major rain forecasted.
The most popular spectator areas on the cross country course, including the Trek Fire Lane Drops and the Bontrager Boulder, will return in 2012. Based on the modern World Cup model, the Subaru Cup Pro XCT course is approximately four miles in length. Over an area of 60 acres, it winds in on itself several times to provide spectators convenient access and numerous viewing opportunities. With wooded singletrack, fast descents and short, steep climbs, the Subaru Cup will offer all racers a real taste of Midwest mountain biking.
Colin Cares (Kenda/Felt) leads the series by 10 points over Sam Schultz (Subaru-Trek) and by 20 points over Todd Wells (Specialized). Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski is just 70 points behind Cares in fourth in the standings. All top four men will be contesting the series this weekend.
"I happen to know that Todd and Sam are riding pretty fast these days, so I think it would require the ride of a lifetime to hold them off for the overall," said Cares to Cyclingnews. "Then again, I never thought I would be going into this final race with the lead. I'm just trying to stay positive and ride my fastest."
Wells and Schultz are both fresh off their top 10 and 15 (respectively) finishes at the Olympic Games on Sunday.
"Even though the travel isn't ideal and I'm pretty excited to get home, I wouldn't miss the Wisconsin Pro XCT," said US cross country national champion Schultz to Cyclingnews. "It is a great race, and I am happy that I can fit it in."
"The Olympic Games were an incredible experience and I am happy with how my race went. Of course, I always want to do better and I'm already thinking about Rio. I think having raced the Olympics last weekend are both good and bad for my chances at the Subaru Cup. The good thing is that I feel like I was on pretty good form for the Olympics and there is a good chance I can ride that out for another week. The bad thing is that the travel has been a bit weird and I haven't had a bike to ride all week." Schultz arrived in Madison on Wednesday night, but his luggage was lost and he has been feeling a bit under the weather.
Wells, too, didn't want to miss a good race in Wisconsin. "I'm excited to race in Wisconsin. The course is fun, the crowds are great and we have a three-way battle going for the Pro XCT overall with Schultz," he said to Cyclingnews. "Cares and myself all separated by 10 points so it should be exciting."
Wells' teammate Howard Grotts will be on hand to help out his senior teammate in the battle for the title. The U23 rider put in a strong ride at the last round in Missoula, Montana.
There is no word yet on whether Ryan Trebon will be racing. Though not a factor in the series, he could still show up and mix it up with the others. Another racer to watch is U23 cross country national champion Russell Finsterwald (Subaru-Trek). He is ranked fifth overall and is the top-ranked U23 racer in the series.
A strong Canadian contingent will be represented including Derek Zandstra (Scott/3Rox), Raphael Gagne (Rocky Mountain) and Peter Glassford (Trek Canada).
Others to watch include "locals" Brian Matter (Gear Grinder), Tristan Schouten (Rolf Prima/Giant) and Nathan Guerra (Vision / Wheel & Sprocket), and finally, you can't count out Sid Taberlay (Kenda/H2O), Jack Haig, Brendan Davids and Spencer Paxson (Kona).
In the women's Pro XCT series, Pua Mata (Sho-Air Specialized) and Heather Irmiger (Subaru-Trek) are separated by just 40 points, while Erin Huck (Tokyo Joe's) is only another 10 points off Irmiger.
Mata also won this year's US Pro Ultra Endurance Tour (UET). She will be coming off a third place finish in the Leadville 100 last weekend and has proven she can race fast over short and long distances.
Irmiger, on the other hand, will definitely be there to contest the series title. Already in Wisconsin a few days early for Trek World, she said, "I'm very excited for this weekend's event. I've always enjoyed the track here - its a perfect mix of fast twisty singletrack and variety of climbing and technical features. Of course, the fans and spectators that this event draws are some of the best we get!"
Irmiger will test out her brand new 2013 Superfly SL. "After a long period of development, this new race bike is the lightest and most responsive bike I've been on," she said of her new rig.
The Colorado racer will not get any help, other than some cheering, from her teammate Emily Batty, who will be in Wisconsin, but not racing. The Canadian broke her collarbone last week, yet still managed to race the Olympic Games mountain bike race and finish. She will limit her riding this weekend to being on the trainer, but she is expected to be at the race, cheering everyone on.
Others to watch include Judy Freeman (Crank Bro), Chloe Forsman (Crank Bros), Lisa Krayer (Adventure 212/Specialized), Sage Wilderman (Kenda Felt) and Krista Park (NoTubes/Cannondale).
There is also no word yet on whether Huck or US Olympian Lea Davison (Specialized) will be racing. Olympic bronze medallist and US national champion Georgia Gould (Luna) will definitely sit this one out as she recovers from her race last weekend.
A whole weekend of racing
The elite men and women will contest the cross country races on Saturday. Most of the pros said they will also race the short track on Sunday and a few are expected to jump into the super D on Sunday following the short track.
As part of the popular Wisconsin Off Road Series (WORS), the two-day Subaru Cup event also will include a full slate of amateur racing and serve as the third annual USA Cycling Midwest Regional Championships, which will crown champions in all age classes and ability categories as "Fastest in the Midwest".