- Kirsten Frattini
Compton and Johnson aim to defend their stars and stripes
The United States’ competitive cyclo-cross racers will convene at the USA Cycling Cyclo-cross National Championships to be held on a brand new course from December 8-12 in the Old Mill District of Bend, Oregon. The five-day cyclo-cross weekend will conclude with the Elite men’s and women’s events where Tim Johnson (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com) and Katie Compton (Planet Bike) will no doubt put forth riveting performances in defense of their respective national titles.
Racers will be treated to a new course design that utilizes the most challenging terrain in the Old Mill District outside of the Deschutes Brewery located along the Deschutes River. The course will start on a paved start-finishing stretch before hooking a sharp left, bringing the racers passed the service pits and down along the river’s shoreline. Racers will loop back up through a grassy field, zig-zagging their way toward a staircase run-up. They will return through the service pits and drop down into the lower half of the course around the Deschutes Brewery. The circuit ends over a course bridge, forces riders to run up a second set of stairs before hooking a sharp right-hand turn back onto the paved finishing stretch.
“The course will not be drastically different from last year,” said Andrea Smith of USA Cycling. “I think the local organizer Brad Ross and our national events staff just saw a bit of room for improvement after last year and wanted to make it the best possible. Also, the lap times last year were a little quicker than anticipated so the designers wanted to add a little onto the course distance as well.”
Powers aims for first national title
Jeremy Powers (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com) has become the odds-on favorite to win the coveted national title. The New England native recently secured his first USGP overall title having won four events in the eight-round series. He also won the North American Cyclo-cross Trophy (NACT) eight-round series two weeks prior. He is hoping to round out a successful season by securing his first national title.
“It would be hard to pull off all three, that would be really hard to do,” Powers said. “The NACT win was awesome and the USGP is something that I really wanted to win from the get-go. I knew that I had a better shot at winning the USGP than a one day race like the nationals. It’s just one day and it’s hard to make that happen because a lot of things have to come together to make it work. But to win all three would be a blessing and the most amazing thing ever.”
“I’ve never won a national anything, never had a stars and bars jersey before,” Powers said. “It is definitely something that I want to get before I’m done but it’s more of a three-year plan. I’d like to have one within the next couple of years. Hopefully I can come prepared every year and then get lucky once.”
Powers’ teammate Johnson is not likely to hand over his national title without a fight. The three-time national champion recently concluded a successful overseas campaign competing in a mix of the European World-Cup and Superprestige events. He is also known as one of the best mud and cold weather competitors and the forecast is calling for chilly winter temperatures with possible snow or rain.
Bend native Ryan Trebon (Kona-FSA) will have the crowds on his side. The former national champion lost his title to Johnson last year on his own turf and will no doubt want to reclaim the stars and stripes jersey in front of his hometown fans. After a turbulent season of crashes and injury he recently found his winning form at the Jingle Cross in Iowa City two weeks ago.
Todd Wells (Specialized-Cal Giant) is always in the mix to win the national title. He is a former national champion in his own right and typically finds his fierce cyclo-cross form late in the season. The Durango native recently put together strong performances at the Jingle Cross and USGP’s Portland Cup.
Other riders who will be vying to secure a place on the podium include Jamey Driscoll (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com), Chris Jones and Zach McDonald (Rapha-Focus), Jesse Anthony (Cal Giant-Specialized), Adam Craig (Giant), Barry Wicks (Kona-FSA), Troy Wells (Clif Bar), Brian Matter (GearGrinder) and Alex Candelario (World Bicycle Relief).
“I think Todd Wells, Ryan Trebon and Tim are definitely on the radar,” Powers said. “But then there is Chris Jones who was riding well in Portland. I’m not sure where he’s at but I would not let him gain any time on Sunday. My teammate Jamey Driscoll is a dark horse because those kinds of conditions are perfect for him and he is a guy I’m looking out for.”
Compton eyes seventh stars and stripes jersey
Katie Compton is aiming to bring home a seventh consecutive national cyclo-cross title after a successful early season that includes two UCI World Cup victories in Aigle, Switzerland and more recently in Koksijde, Belgium. Her current form proves that she is on target to defend her stars and stripes jersey.
“Every one of them are special and I want to win a seventh,” Compton said. “I like being a national champion and want that to continue for another year, but I know I have to earn it and the race will be tough. There's always a little more pressure for nationals and I want to have a good day with a great result.”
“I'm finally feeling well after a long summer of struggling with energy levels and feeling off,” she added. “I've been able to get more training in and have been recovering from the travel much better this fall, so I am super excited to race every race right now and I feel like a little kid at Christmas as we get closer to nationals. I've been looking forward to visiting Bend again this year, I love the town and Brad Ross does a great job with course design, so I am curious to see how the course will be this year.”
Compton will have her work cut out for her with the emergence of quick-paced competitor Georgia Gould (Luna Pro), who recently solidified the US Grand Prix of Cyclo-cross (USGP) series title. Other rider capable of securing a podium place include Sue Butler and Nicole Duke (Hudz-Subaru), Meredith Miller (Cal Giant-Specialized) and Laura Van Gilder (C3-Athletes Serving Athletes).
“I think the US women plus Katerina Nash (I still put her in the North American category) have really stepped up this year,” Compton said. “We're getting better and stronger and the racing is getting more competitive and that shows when I go over to race the World Cups and have the strength and ability to really drive the pace and win.
“Georgia Gould is riding strong this year and I think she will be my biggest competitor for nationals,” she added. “I hope it will be an exciting race and that we both have our good legs so we can drill each other, that always makes things more exciting and fun. After Georgia and me, I think the next five to eight spots can go any way, it all depends on who is feeling better and has the better skills on Sunday.”
Registration is likely to cap last year’s 1,600 participants. The Junior categories aged 10-12, 13-14, 15-16 and 17-18 will kick off the weekend’s events on Friday, December 10. The racing will continue with a full day of Masters categories aged 30-34, 35-39, 40-45 and 50-54 on Saturday, December 11. The day will also include the Junior men (aged 17-18) and the Under 23 men’s races. The Collegiate Division 1/2 men and women will open the final day of racing followed by the marquee Elite women and Elite men categories on Sunday, December 12.