After a long break following round 3 in Fontana, the USA Cycling US Cup presented by Sho-Air Cycling Group will reconvene in Colorado Springs this weekend for the fourth and final round and to crown overall men and women's champions. Once again, a strong international field will line up for the UCI categorized C1 race.
"This is a great venue to wrap up the series with," said Sho-Air President Scott Tedro. "The support from USA Cycling has been wonderful, so to crown our champions next door to the national headquarters is a fitting end to this year's event."
USA Cycling has been incorporated in Colorado since 1995. In 2009, USA Cycling secured office space on the north side of Colorado Springs. The 26,000-square-foot building on nearly two acres of land is less than a mile from the start of Saturday's US Cup Pro Series race.
"We are very excited to bring the fourth and final race of the US Cup to a great urban venue that will showcase world-class mountain biking in the heart of Colorado Springs," said USA Cycling CEO & President Steve Johnson. "The success of the series in our inaugural year of a great partnership with Sho-Air has wildly exceeded our expectations and we are already looking forward to next year!"
The Colorado Springs race will be a UCI-categorized C1 race.
Series standings going into final round
The makeup of the top five overall contenders in the US Cup represents some of the biggest names in North American and even World Cup mountain bike racing.
Geoff Kabush (Scott-3Rox Racing) leads the men's overall with 94 points ahead of Todd Wells (Specialized Racing) with 79 points. Canada's Max Plaxton (Cannondale Factory Racing) lies in third ahead of Trek's Sergio Mantecon Gutierrez (69 and 57 points, respectively). Cannondale's Marco Aurelio Fontana and Manuel Fumic are tied for fifth at 53 points heading into the final round.
In the women's field, Luna Pro's Katerina Nash leads the overall with 107 points ahead of teammate Catharine Pendrel (94 points) and Trek Factory Racing's Emily Batty (82 points). Luna's Georgia Gould lies in fourth (70 points) while Backcountry.com's Evelyn Dong rounds out the top five with 61 points.
The elite men's contenders
All the top contenders for the US Cup title are expected to line up in Colorado Springs; however, the almost three-month long break between rounds could certainly shake up the results. With many of the top contenders criss-crossing the globe in search of World Cup success, could the domestic riders take advantage of fresher legs and upset the established racers?
Last weekend's Missoula Pro XCT race produced strong performances by Howard Grotts and Stephen Ettinger, two names who could mix it up with the top men in Colorado Springs.
The elite women's contenders
On the women's side, the big question is if anyone can break the Luna Pro Team's stranglehold on the results. With three of the top five riders and wins in all three rounds, they continue to be the team to beat.
Trek's Emily Batty has been threatening to interrupt the Luna party, with a fourth and two third-placed finishes.
Another name to watch out for this weekend could be Evelyn Dong. The Backcountry.com rider has two fifth place finishes in the last two rounds, and finished second to Nash last weekend in Missoula.
Located in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies, Pulpit Rock Open Space features a start/finish on University of Colorado - Colorado Springs property. Located in the northern part of Colorado Springs, the venue is very near to USA Cycling's headquarters.
The 3.4-mile (5.5km) course is a mix of asphalt, doubletrack and singletrack. It winds through the western section of the park, and gains about a total of 385 feet (117m) per lap. While not as technical as some races, the main challenge here is altitude, with the start/finish at 6300 feet (1.1 miles / 1920m) of elevation - a worthy challenge for the series final.